The Foodie

null

What’s Fresh in Early October: Artichokes, Apples and Pumpkins

October 07, 2008
by Erin Harris
Sure, apples tumble off the shelves this time of year, but what about other fruits and vegetables? Take another look at those bright orange pumpkins—they’re not just for jack-o-lanterns. Artichokes, too, may seem an unlikely or hard-to-prepare food, but put in the effort and your taste buds (and health) will be rewarded.

Artichokes

facebook
Artichokes, which belong to the sunflower family, can actually grow to be six feet wide and four feet tall, although we typically eat only the flower bud of the plant. According to What’s Cooking America, artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac during the 16th century and only men were allowed to eat them. Thankfully, equal eating rights have prevailed in the present day. A fresh artichoke should feel heavy for its size, have tightly packed leaves and squeak when squeezed. If sprinkled with water and refrigerated in a plastic bag, a fresh ’choke should keep for a week.

High in fiber and full of antioxidants, artichokes are believed to help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels, particularly in people with diabetes. A chart from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also shows that artichokes contain more antioxidants per serving than cranberries, broccoli and red wine. While cooking can sometimes strip foods of nutrients, heat actually increases the antioxidant content of artichokes.

Artichoke rookies can start with Ocean Mist’s guide to preparing and cooking the vegetable, which includes instructions on how to steam, grill, braise, microwave, roast, deep fry, sauté and boil the edible flower buds as well as a video to guide you through prep steps. Once you’ve mastered the ’choke, fire up the grill for one last time and try out this recipe for Grilled Baby Artichokes with Caper-Mint Sauce.

Apples

A staple of the American diet, apples actually originated in Europe and were brought over by settlers. More than 7,000 known varieties exist worldwide, which can make choosing the right apple seem like quite the predicament.

The National Geographic Green Guide helpfully suggests which apples are best for eating, cooking or baking. Keep stored apples with broken skin away from other apples, as they emit an ethylene gas that can cause other fruit to ripen too quickly.

Everyone has heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but how about “an apple a day keeps old age away?” Apples can’t stop time, but studies suggest that the antioxidants in apples help prevent age-related mental deterioration, Alzheimer’s disease and even wrinkles. Royal Oak Farm Orchard has compiled research regarding the health benefits of apples, including evidence that eating apples may prevent certain types of cancers. One medium apple also contains as much soluble fiber as a bowl of bran fiber, aiding in digestion, as well as high levels of boron, which strengthens bones and wards off osteoporosis.

What better way to begin a lazy weekend morning than with a stack of hot, golden pancakes? Supper in Stereo’s Oatmeal and Apple Pancake recipe infuses a breakfast staple with the fresh flavors of fall. The batter is so hearty, you won’t need to eat a stack of ten before you’re full (although no one’s stopping you).

Pumpkins

The pumpkin, which is technically a fruit, not a vegetable, originated in the western hemisphere. It acquired its name from the Greek word “pepon,” meaning “large melon.” Native Americans used weave dried pumpkin strips into mats. Early colonial settlers believed that pumpkin could cure snake bites and make freckles disappear. They would hollow out the pumpkin, fill it with milk, honey and spices, and roast it in the fire. Today, most people prefer to use the gourds as festive autumn decoration or as a base for pie filling.

Delicious in soups, stews, or baked goods, there’s no reason to leave perfectly good pumpkins on the doorstep to be smashed by unruly trick-or-treaters. Bring a few inside for a healthy, nutrient-rich treat. A one-cup serving of pumpkin contains more than 100 percent of the daily requirement for Vitamin A, which keeps your eyes in good shape. The carotenoids in pumpkin may also lower the risk of lung cancer, and the pumpkin’s high-protein seeds support prostate health.

Sweet, earthy and nutty, pumpkin is one versatile vegetable (er, fruit). Blended into this Carmelised Roast Pumpkin Risotto recipe, its tender flesh is the perfect complement to creamy rice. A Life (Time) of Cooking adds dried peppers and red onion to the pot for a swirl of color and heat.
facebook

Most Recent Features