A Sweet Potato By Any Other Name…

Produce Buzz Veggie of the Week: Sweet Potatoes.

A tropical tuber’s name causes confusion for many of us, but one of its original names might be a clue to a historical puzzle.

Yams-vs-Sweet-PotatoesWintertime is a perfect time to indulge in the vast array of root vegetables that are available when many other fruits and veggies disappear or become too pricey because of the cold. If you have never put together a hearty soup featuring potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips and onions, then you have missed one of winter’s most satisfying and nourishing meals.

But there is one root vegetable that has to be the undisputed star of the winter table—the deliciously sweet and flavorful sweet potato. In the U.S. most of our orange-fleshed featured veggie of the week are grown in North Carolina, California and Louisiana. But they were not originally native to these places. Most food historians believe they originated somewhere in Central America, in the region between the Yucutan Peninsula and Venezuela. But traces of this tuber have been found in Peru dating back to 8000 B.C.!

The sweet potato is grown extensively all over Central and South America and the Caribbean. In the islands it is called “batata” but in the Americas it is known as “camote” derived from the Native Americans who lived there before the Spanish arrived.

But one tribe of native peoples of Peru called the vegetable “kumar” and that leads to an interesting theory about prehistoric international travel to and from the continent of South America. Sweet potatoes are also found extensively all over the Polynesian islands and have been dated back to 1000 A.D. in the South Pacific. In most of these islands the root is called “kumara” or “kumala,” words strikingly similar to that from the Peruvian tribe. When did sweet potatoes arrive in the South Pacific and how? The Polynesians were well known to be excellent sailors, but until recently few historians have believed they could have sailed as far as South America in their primitive boats. But does the sweet potato contradict this scholarship? We may never know for sure, but it seems very probable and scientists and historians are starting to come on board.

But on another level, the name of our beloved wintertime starch has caused some confusion. Walk into a grocery store and you will most likely see these displayed under the banner of “Yams” rather than “Sweet Potatoes.” But according to botanists, what many call “yams” are not so. Yams are usually not orange fleshed, but white like the regular potato you know. They are dark brown on the outside and usually very rough in appearance. They are not as sweet and moist as a sweet potato, but their nutritional value is about the same, minus the heft amounts of beta carotene you get from the orange flesh of the sweet potato. And even though they have a lot of similarities, such as being tubers and growing underground, sweet potatoes and yams are from different families of plants. And neither is a real potato.

So even though they are often marketed as “yams” and people in certain parts of the country will always call them so, growers and shippers of sweet potatoes are required by the USDA to label them on boxes and packaging as “sweet potatoes.” But you can’t regulate the common vernacular, so we are under no delusions that our little article here is going to change what people have grown up calling them. And, frankly, that’s OK with us. Because, “a sweet potato by any other name would still taste as sweet.” Oh, wow! What a poetic phrase we created!

Great recipes for Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato chili, sloppy joes or goat cheese anyone? Here are 36 delicious recipes that are a bit unusual from the usual sweet potato repertoire. But still most of them are almost dessert like, which is OK with us.

But the sweet potato is incredibly versatile and can do much more than desserts. So if you are looking for more savory options, this list of recipes should provide you with some great ones.

Check in with the Sweet Potato Experts

See what the sweet potato experts have to tell you about selecting and preparing this wonderful winter veggie.

And if you prefer a British accent to tell you all about sweet potatoes here’s Jamie Oliver’s love sonnet to the tuber.

Sweet Potato Nutrition

Here’s the amazing nutritional value of the almighty sweet potato!

Sweet-Potato-Nutrition-Chart-Fnl

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A Sweet Potato By Any Other Name…

The Orange So Nice They Named It Twice!

Produce Buzz Fruit/Veggie of the Week:
Cara Cara Oranges

Probably one of the few things that is really, really awesome about winter time is the marvelous variety of delicious citrus fruits that are in season, plentiful and inexpensive. There is nothing like a fresh cut orange adorning your breakfast plate, ready to explode with flavor across your palate, famished and dry from a long winter’s nap.

cara-cara-orange

There are so many different varieties of oranges that are exceptional in their own right, yet there is one that not only has exceptional flavor, but also delights visually. It is the Cara Cara orange and we think it is so nice they just had to name it twice!

This fruit is an apparent mutation rather than a deliberate hybrid from a navel orange. It accidentally appeared on a tree of the Washington variety navel in Venezuela over 40 years ago. It’s other parent is not absolutely known but is believed to be the Brazilian Bahia Navel Orange. If so, that makes our fruit of the week a great example of international cooperation and a cross cultural success.

It made its way into the United States in the 1980’s but it’s only been recently that it has transcended from a rare specialty item to more of a mainstream variety. That means that you should not have too much trouble finding these delightfully sweet and colorful fruits. They begin harvesting in November and usually are around until April. But January through March are the peak shipping times and best for optimal flavor. They are grown in the usual areas for citrus in the U.S., California, Texas and Florida.

Many consider the Cara Cara to be the sweetest of all navel oranges. Others think their flavor is closer to a tangerine. And then those with really refined palates have identified notes of rose petal, cherry and even blackberry. But don’t despair if you can’t find those flavors when you try it. You are assured that your palate, no matter how refined, will be delighted. Visually they are just as delightful. Cut them open to reveal a deep pink or bright red color. They can’t be beat as a garnish on any plate with the reddish pink contrasting with the bright orange skin.

When you look for them in the grocery store, from the outside you will not be able to tell the difference between them and a regular navel. Look carefully for signage for them or ask your store’s produce manager. Or if you are into numbers, that little sticker on them will have a PLU number of 3110 and the organic version will be 93110. That same sticker should have the name on it too, but just remember you are not seeing double. It’s Cara Cara, and yes, it’s so nice they named it twice.

Here’s info on the delicious Cara Cara navel from the company best known for oranges, Sunkist.

Cara Cara Nutrition Info.jpg

Wikipedia on Cara Cara Oranges
Our friends at Specialty Produce in San Diego tell us about the Cara Cara

Here’s the video which won the Sunkist contest for best ad for Cara Cara oranges in 2013

Cara Cara Contest winner

The Orange So Nice They Named It Twice!

Here’s What You Need to Stave Off Colds and Flu This Winter

What Fruit or Veggie Has the Most Vitamin C Per Serving?
Hint: It’s Probably Not What you Think!

 

The cold and flu season is upon us and millions of people have already succumbed to these incurable viruses. The Center for Disease Control in the U.S. says this is shaping up to be one of the worst years for widespread and potentially deadly flu outbreaks. Already in early January, 36 states have reported very high numbers of flu cases. Arizona and Texas have been hit hard. Dallas health officials have said five people have died from flu-related illnesses.

That is why it is vitally important to get your vitamins and pay particularly close to what you are eating. But chances are if you diet is filled with lots of fruits and veggies, you will have a much better chance of fighting off sickness.

That is because fresh produce is filled with all kinds of nutrients that bolster your immune system. Of course we know how important Vitamin C is to fighting the cold and flu. Most all fruits and veggies are filled with it in every serving.

But which ones do you think are the best sources? If you said “oranges” or other citrus fruits, you are of course right. But only partially. Did you know that there are at least 18 other fruits and veggies that beat the almighty orange in Vitamin C per serving?!

There are many types of peppers that have lots more of the magic vitamin than an orange. And leafy greens, like spinach, kale and kohlrabi, pack a powerful punch of it too. And the color of the veggie can make a big difference. Red bell peppers have 50% more of it than green bell peppers and yellow ones have another 50% more than their red siblings! And if you like spicy food then bring on the hot peppers of all kinds. They are loaded.

Take a look at this video from Produce Buzz to see some of the most common fruits and veggies that have the highest Vitamin C per serving and find out which one tops the list. Keep all these in your diet this winter and you will minimize your risk of infection.

Produce Buzz wishes you a winter filled with lots of fruits and veggie. If our wish comes true, you will also most likely have a very healthy one too.

Video:
Which Fruits and Veggies Have the Most Vitamin C?

Sources of Vitamin C Video Thmb Play Btn

 

OK. If you don’t have the patience to watch our very entertaining video, then here is our chart with the rankings:

Best Sources of Vitamin C Chart small

Source: USDA Nutritional Database​

Here’s What You Need to Stave Off Colds and Flu This Winter

Were You A Victim of BSA (Brussels Sprouts Abuse)?

Produce Buzz’ Fruit/Veggie of the Week:
Brussels Sprouts

brussels-sprouts-in-the-field
Brussels Sprouts in the field. Did you know the leaves on the top can also be eaten?

Do you gag at the thought of eating Brussels Sprouts? Then you may have been a victim of BSA (Brussels Sprouts Abuse) when you were served them years ago.

This week we highlight Brussels Sprouts on Produce Buzz. This time of year they are readily available and there’s something very satisfying about them when the weather turns cold. Also the colder weather tends to make them sweeter, so those that you will find on the grocery shelves now should be at their best for flavor.

And that might help you if you have always had a negative opinion of these little cabbages. They are not everyone’s favorite veggie. But we are certain that if everyone had tried them cooked right, they might very well be. Most people who don’t like them think their flavor is much too strong and bitter. They certainly can be bitter, but usually only if they are cooked too long or boiled down to a pulp. When they are roasted or sautéed you will get the opposite—a deliciously sweet taste—as the toasting activates the natural sugars in their leaves. Sprouts contain a substance called “sulphoraphane” which when they are overcooked begins to smell like rotten eggs and creates that bitter taste. This we proclaim as BSA and want to warn against it and help those who have been affected by it.

But first a little history of our veggie of the week. Why are they called “Brussels Sprouts?” Well the first records of them being grown in the western world were near Brussels, Belgium. Of course, the vegetable most likely existed well before they came to Belgium. Most experts believe they originated in and around the Mediterranean area thousands of years ago and were probably cultivated in Ancient Rome.  According to some food historians, the first mention of them was in the market regulations of Brussels in the 13th Century. But nothing else said of them has survived until two hundred years later when they begin to show up in accounts of royal French wedding celebrations. Gracing a royal table was certainly good for their rise in popularity. However, their real rise to fame didn’t occur until a few hundred years later. Brussels Sprouts became very popular in England in the 19th Century and are still today one of the primary dishes served on British tables at Christmas time. But their humble origins in the fields outside of Brussels was never lost as the name stuck and continues to remind us of that.

It was the French who cemented our association of the veggie to Brussels. The actual French word for them translates to “cabbage of Brussels,” and we can see why. They look like little cabbages. And they are closely related. Their little leaves peel off revealing layer after layer of them just like their bigger cousins. The sprouts grow on a long stalk that can get as tall as four feet. This feature was bred into the plants over time to make the production more efficient.

green and purple brussels sprouts-smallThere are over 100 varieties of Brussels Sprouts, but most consumers would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them in taste or appearance. Except for the purple varieties, which are great for balancing out the color on a plate for visual excitement at your next dinner party.

Brussels Sprouts are usually cooked and can be boiled, steamed, roasted, sautéed or grilled. As long as they are not overcooked and prepared with the right seasoning you will have a flavorful and delicious accompaniment to any meal. But they can also be eaten raw and are especially good shaved in a slaw or salad. Shred them up in a big bowl, add some Parmigiano cheese and some roasted chicken breast and you will have a meal all too itself.

These cancer fighting sprouts contain a hefty amount of Vitamins, A, C and K. They also are a great source of B Vitamins, which can help you deal with stress and anxiety. The high amount of dietary fiber they provide has been proven to ward off colon and stomach cancers. That same substance that can give them a bitter taste, sulphoraphane, also is a big part of their health benefit. It is a phytochemical that is believed to be a big cancer fighter. But again, if they are overcooked this substance gets cooked out, especially when boiled. Less so if they are roasted or sautéed.

So we hope that you are not one of those people subjected at an early age to the improper cooking of Brussels Sprouts, or BSA. If so, you may have been avoiding them and missing one of the greatest taste in the vegetable kingdom. We encourage you to try them again, with a great recipe like one of these we recommend below. It’s one of the best times of the year to try again to love these tasty little cabbages!

Visit the Ocean Mist Farms Web Page– Grower and Shipper of Brussels Sprouts
16 Brussels Sprouts Recipes That Website Pure Wow Says Will Change Your Life
A Simple Recipe With Another Great Health Superstar Food – Garlic
To Really Guarantee No Bitterness, A recipe with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar
The Maven of Domesticity Proves Brussels Sprouts Are Versatile

Were You A Victim of BSA (Brussels Sprouts Abuse)?

Are Green Acres in Store for the Future of American Farms?

USDA Family Farm Report CoverIn the last few decades much has been said about the decline of small farmers and the belief that big corporations are gobbling up all the farmland, has become common. But the American family farm is still thriving in our modern age of technology. According to a recent report from the USDA, a stunning 99% of all farms in the United States are family farms. In fairness that percentage is based on the total number of farms regardless of size, but how much of the actual production do these farms account for? Surprisingly, they also are responsible for 90% of all the food grown in the nation.

And further to the surprise is that small family farms, those that earn under $350,000 per year, make up 90% of the total. And while those small farms only account for about one fourth of the total farm production, they are mostly well above the average household income and net worth levels. So most of them are doing well.

Of course that doesn’t mean that these families can rest easy. The report also assessed the financial risk these enterprises face and most of these small farms were at very high risk. Farming is always a risky venture with factors like weather and markets creating great uncertainty. That risk coupled with the fact that most small farms require year round work with long daily hours to keep them from failing, makes it clear that life on the farm is still a difficult one.

Perhaps that is why most of these farms do not rely solely on what they grow to survive. Interestingly many of these farms are dependent on off-farm income. In fact over 40% of them reported that they had a “major occupation” other than farming. The report doesn’t specify what that means in every case, but we assume it means these farmers are farming as a side profession or at least supplementing income with another profession. Oliver Douglas from the 1960’s hit TV show, “Green Acres,” would be very proud of today’s American farmer. Douglas was a New York City lawyer who grew tired of the rat race of the metropolis and decided to become a farmer instead.

There have been a lot of reports in the media over the past year about the growing number of millennial farmers. According to those news articles, the only age segment adding new farmers is the 25-34 year olds. But most farmers are still from the older generation. Almost two thirds of farmers are over 55 and over one third are over 65. And on the smaller farms there aren’t as many sons and daughters taking over for their parents. Only about 6% of farms are multi-generational according to the USDA report.

There is a sea change going on in America’s food supply as people demand organic, local and more environmentally friendly sources for what they eat. The tremendous rise in popularity of all things related to food has generated a fascination with how it is produced. This is especially true for millennials who mostly grew up only ever seeing their food in the supermarket and now want to remove the mystery and change problems they see in it. This all bodes well for the future of farming and farmers.

Take a look at the USDA Report
How Millennials Are Changing Farming
All About the Green Acres TV Show

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Are Green Acres in Store for the Future of American Farms?

This May Be Your Most Important New Year’s Resolution

Your Most Important ResolutionProduce Buzz kept on top of all the studies showing the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables during 2017. It was amazing how much your health can be improved by eating more fruits and vegetables. Check this video out and make a New Year’s resolution to eat more fresh produce in 2018. It may be the most important one you make for 2018.

Video: Your Most Important New Year’s Resolution

And below you can see a listing of all the studies Produce Buzz reported on in 2017 about what fresh fruits and veggies can do to improve your health and life.

1 Slows Effects of ALS
2 Gives You Clearer Skin
3 Give You Shinier Hair
4 Gives You More Energy
5 Prevents Brain from Shrinking
6 Prevents dementia
7 Makes Kids Happier
8 Makes Your Bones Stronger
9 Reduces risk of PAD Peripheal Artery Disease
10 Lowers Blood Pressure
11 Reduces Chronic Inflammation
12 Improves Cognitive Function
13 Repairs Damage From Smoking
14 Make You More Attractive
15 Improve Your Mood
16 Keeps Kids Out of Legal Trouble
17 Lowers Risk of Endometriosis
18 Reduces Risk of COPD
19 Reduces Pain from Pancreatitis
20 Prevents and Controls Gout
21 Improves Your Mental Health
22 Suppresses Colon Cancer Tumor Growth
23 Reduces Risk of Gallbladder Surgery
24 Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
25 Reduces Risk of Dementia
26 Increases Collagen Levels for Healthier Skin, Hair and Nails
27 Turns Off Bad Genes That Cause Disease
28 Reduces Risk of Cancer
29 Reduces Clogging of Arteries
30 Reduces Joint Pain
31 Fights Off Colon Cancer
32 Reduces Risk of Diabetes
33 Reduces Effects of MLS
34 Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s
35 Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
36 Improves Digestive Health
37 Reduces Risk of Ulcers
38 Improves Vision and Health of Eyes
39 Reduces Risk of Chronic Diseases
40 Makes You Smell Better

 

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This May Be Your Most Important New Year’s Resolution

The Multi-Eyed, No Horn, Non Flying, Purple Cancer Eater

A new international study shows purple potatoes may help prevent colon cancer

Pigs eating colorful veggies
Pigs “Eating the Rainbow!” Pigs were used in this new study because their digestive systems are very similar to human’s. They were fed purple potatoes only but the researchers say it was the phytonutrients in the potatoes that did the work and those can be found in other colorful veggies.
Potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables in the world. They are the go-to side veggie for most meals in the western world, from fast food lunches to five-star exotic suppers at the world’s top restaurants. One billion people consume potatoes every day amounting to a total worldwide consumption of well over a half a trillion pounds per year. Not all of these potatoes are served up in the most healthy way, A good amount of them are deep fried, lathered with fatty sauces and cheese or in the form of a chip or crisp. As a result the potato has gotten a bad rap from health enthusiasts and fitness freaks.

But the utilitarian potato is, in its basic form, an incredibly healthy food. Baked or boiled, grilled or steamed with some light seasoning and you’ve got a side dish that is packed with a lot of nutrition. A serving of potato will give you half your daily allowance of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana. And if that potato is purple, you are going to get some added benefits that may help you fight off cancer.

A recent study of international researchers led by scholars at Penn State University found that the various micronutrients in purple potatoes go after and destroy stem cells associated with colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States according to statistics from Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The researchers on the study fed pigs baked purple potatoes (they wanted to make sure the beneficial nutrients were not destroyed during cooking) in a relatively high fat diet and compared that to pigs with similar diets without the potatoes. The pigs that got the potatoes had six times lower level of an inflammatory protein that is associated with promoting the growth and spread of cancer cells. This protein is known as IL-6 and there are very expensive drugs being used to suppress it.

But the researchers in this latest study hope that thier work will add to growing mountain of evidence that fresh fruits and veggies are the best antidote to the diseases that plague our modern world.

“Instead of promoting a pill, we can promote fruits and vegetables that are very rich in anti-inflammatory compounds to counter the growing problem of chronic disease,” said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences, Penn State and one of the authors of the report.

The researchers were also quick to point out that it’s not just purple potatoes that can have this effect, but rather those anti-oxidants and phytonutrients that make them purple. Jairam Vanamala suggests eating a wide-variety of colorful vegetables and fruits may help treat chronic diseases such as colon cancer and type-2 diabetes. These plants, including the purple potato, contain bioactive compounds, such as anthocyanins and phenolic acids, that have been linked to cancer prevention.

“When you eat from the rainbow…,” Vanamala says, “we are not providing just one compound, we are providing a wide variety of compounds, thousands of them, that work on multiple pathways and causes self destruction of cancer stem cells.”

The authors of the study feel their work is another piece of evidence that a diet that is rich in plant-based foods and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is the critically important in preventing cancer.

So “Eat the Rainbow!” Fill you plate with ½ to ¾ vegetables at every meal and see how much better you feel while you extend your long healthy life.

Article on Penn State University Website about this study
Video about “Eating the Rainbow”
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The Multi-Eyed, No Horn, Non Flying, Purple Cancer Eater