That’s a what?
Brad Farmerie, the New York City-based executive chef at AvroKO Hospitality Group, has worked with servers who best know scallops as “buttery,” “seared” or “delicate.” So one time when they saw a fresh delivery, some didn’t recognize the creatures hidden in their rustic shells, Farmerie recalls. Many Americans are arguably guiltier of not knowing what produce grows on bushes versus trees, or what
seasonings come from roots versus leaves. But learning the answers can boost your appreciation for what’s on your plate and help you make more informed grocery store decisions, which can improve your health, says Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist near Los Angeles. Here are a few to start with:
Pop quiz: Do peanuts grow on trees, underground or behind baseball stadium concession stands? The answer is underground, which may be surprising to many, since its brethren like walnuts and almonds do not. “Nutritionally, we put [peanuts] in a category of nuts,” Palmer says, but technically, they’re a legume, or a plant species that includes foods like peas, beans and lentils. When harvested fresh, peanuts — which are grown around the world — are soft and only faintly reminiscent of the dried and roasted variety most consumers know, Palmer says. A 1-ounce serving of peanuts delivers 166 calories, 6.7 grams of protein and 14.1 grams of (mostly unsaturated, aka healthy) fat. (Thinkstock)
Getty Images/iStockphoto/Nikhil Patil
Think the granulated sugar in your cabinet comes from sugar cane? Chances are, you’re mistaken. “Most people don’t know that more than half of the sugar used is from beets, not sugar cane,” Farmerie says. Specifically, the source is sugar beets, or a type of beet with a white root and high sucrose content. Unlike sugar cane, which only grows in tropical climates, sugar beets are hardy and easy to grow in temperate climates, Farmerie says, which makes them a more widespread sugar source in the U.S. Most molasses, too, he adds, comes from sugar beets.
If your experience with artichokes is limited to “spinach” dips that are really mostly cheese, you may be surprised to learn that in nature, the warm-weather plant is actually “a thistle flower that hasn’t bloomed yet,” Farmerie says. Once it does, it becomes “a really cool purple flower” with glossy leaves that almost look like they’re from prehistoric times, he adds. Eating properly harvested and cooked artichoke (sans cheese) will deliver a solid dose of fiber, as well as antioxidant compounds, Palmer says. Just don’t confuse artichokes with Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes or sunroot), which are really the root of a sunflower.
Getty Images/iStockphoto/Sara Edwards
No, vanilla is not just a flavor of ice cream or an ingredient in chocolate chip cookies. The bean comes from a pod that sprouts from a hot weather yellowish orchid, Farmerie explains. After it’s harvested, “it goes through a fermentation process where it develops all that flavor,” he says. And it’s not only flavor: Vanilla — like all plants — contains phytochemicals, which can act as antioxidants, Palmer says. (The specifics of many plants’ nutritional content isn’t well-studied, though, since there isn’t a lot of funding for the nitty-gritty details, she adds.) “It’s important to look for pure vanilla,” Palmer advises, “since much of the vanilla we use as flavorings is artificial.”
Lox bagel fanatics, listen up: Those little salty balls adorning your sandwich are actually unopened flower buds grown on bushes in hot, dry climates, according to Caperplants, a wholesale caper plant nursery in Australia. “A lot of people are scared of [cooking with] them,” Farmerie finds, but canned capers — including their juices — can actually be used just like lemon juice on, say, fish or in a vinaigrette. “To make it easier, think of any food of the Mediterranean like tomatoes and eggplants, and capers will go with it,” he says. While you won’t reap significant health benefits, you will get lots of flavor for very few calories.
From turmeric lattes to turmeric-spiced nuts, there’s no question the spice is enjoying a star turn thanks to its purported health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to cognitive enhancement. And yet, many people don’t think about what the root looks like beyond the dried spice bottle: a cross between a potato and a carrot, with striped skin. “The flesh is amazing — it’s bursting with flavor; it’s fruity and spicy. You can kind of taste India when you eat it,” Farmerie says. “Whereas the dried stuff smells like your grandma’s cupboard.” Try grating it onto sautes or into smoothies. “Once you use the fresh,” Farmerie says, “you’ll probably throw the dried ingredient away.”
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Bet You Never Knew What These Common Foods Look Like in Nature originally appeared on usnews.com
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