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Category Archives: Fruits

Avocado Guacamole

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If you desperately want a break from the humdrum coconut, tomato, onion or roasted Bengal gram chutneys, here is something novel, prepared with quite an unusual core ingredient. Yes, it is the Avocado Guacamole. Don’t be dissuaded by the name – Avocado is nothing but our Butter fruit and guacamole (pronounced as gwak-a-molee) is just a thick paste of mashed avocado, often combined with citrus juice, onion and seasonings and usually served as a dip or in salads. You could simply rename it as Butter fruit chutney, if that suits you. Pick up some super duper tips as you learn this easy and exotic chutney recipe.

Avocado aka Butter Fruit

Avocado aka Butter Fruit

Cut Avocado exposing the stone inside.

Cut Avocado exposing the stone inside.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Ripe Avocados
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Onion
  • Green Chilies
  • 1-1  ½ tsp Cumin Powder
  • Few Cilantro Leaves
  • 1-2  tbsp Lime Juice
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)
  • A pinch of salt

 Method:

  • Cut ripe avocados into halves, discard the big stone and scoop the pulp – this is a step I enjoy – it is a pleasure to scoop out the creamy-green butter-like pulp. Transfer the scoops of pulp to a bowl. Tip: Unripe fruits are not palatable. Keep the unripe fruits at room temperature along with some apples. The ethylene gas from apples accelerates the ripening of avocados (The same technique works excellently for ripening chickoos) . When the fruits are slightly soft to touch, they are ready for use.  At this stage use them immediately or refrigerate them. If you delay using them, the pulp may discolour, loose its freshness and deteriorate.
  • Drizzle lime juice over the pulp to avoid enzymatic browning. More info on enzymatic browning: The enzyme Polyphenol Oxidase (PPO or Phenolase) acts on the phenolic compounds in the fruit (4-methyl catechol, dopamine, pyrogallol, catechol, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, DOPA), in the presence of atmospheric oxygen to form  a brown pigment called melanin.  A neutral pH is optimal for the browning reaction. By adding lime juice, we lower the pH and impede the rate at which the enzymatic browning occurs.
  • Too smooth a paste lacks textural interest. So, mash the pulp coarsely with a fork.
  • Add finely grated garlic, finely chopped onions, very fine rings of chilies, cumin powder, olive oil, salt, finely chopped cilantro leaves to the pulp and mix well.
  • The chutney/guacamole is ready to be served. Relish it with hot chapathis – it goes without saying that this is the step I enjoy the most :-D.Tip: Prepare only the quantity that is required, more importantly just before the meal time. It is not advisable to store and use this, because lime juice arrests enzymatic browning only temporarily. With passage of time the guacamole may progressively darken and become an unappetizing mass.

 Servings: 4

Avocado Guacamole or Butter Fruit Chutney

Avocado Guacamole or Butter Fruit Chutney

Now, isn’t that a pakka no-fuss, no-cook chutney? The guacamole has subtle flavours with a big punch offered by the finely chopped chilies – the chilies are meant to be eaten and not discarded. The guacamole tastes as good without the olive oil, so we may consider it as an optional ingredient. Deseeded and finely chopped tomatoes can also be added to give it some vibrancy. It goes beautifully well not only with chapathis but also with dosas and breads. If you are the type who savours dips like hummus (Arabic chickpeas dip) and moutabel (Arabic eggplant dip), then you will definitely love this dish. Try this recipe when avocados are still in season and let me know what you think about it.

 

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The Fruit With A Non-veg Prefix

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The oddity of a fruit’s name displayed in a stall perplexed me. It had a non-veg prefix attached to it and was labeled Egg fruit. I have come across star fruit, bread fruit, even dragon fruit; but this was something I had not heard of till now. I mused, “why this name?” Meanwhile my focus drifted away to other attractions showcased in the shop like cocoa fruit and vanilla beans. They proved to be brief diversions that reined in my soaring interest in that particular fruit and took my mind off it for quite some time. But before long, it was there again; my thoughts revolved around it until the line, “why this name?” became a loud refrain in my brain. I could not wait anymore to find out why. So, I held the fruit in my hand and lightly sniffed it; I observed that neither the shape nor the fragrance had anything to do with the background of its name. But luckily, as I got a view of its insides from another fruit which the customers had ravaged in the process of sampling, I knew that my quest was about to end. The mealy pulp was an exact replica of cooked yolk; even the texture matched; and the taste was reminiscent of cooked yolk mixed with sugar. So there it was – by virtue of its hue, tactility and taste, the fruit’s name was impeccably fitting and justified.

Egg Fruit aka Canistel

Egg Fruit aka Canistel

Later that day I gathered some more details about the fruit. Also known as Canistel, this tropical fruit belongs to the sapotaceae family. It is grown commonly in the Indian state of Kerala and also in Florida. It seldom hits the market. Its nutritional profile raves of excellent carotene (evident from its colour) and niacin content and a fairly good amount of ascorbic acid. It is used in recipes like ice-cream, custard, pudding, jam and milkshake or rather egg fruit nog.

Are you familiar with this fruit? Then tell us in what other ways its benefits could be exploited.


Dates – Iron, Energy and Weight Issues

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Price board showing date varieties and their cost

Price board showing date varieties and their cost

The listing on the price board is that of different varieties of dates!!! Are you amazed by the multitude of varieties? Believe it or not, that is not even an exhaustive list. Dates being the indigenous fruits of the Middle East, other cultivars like Amir Hajj, Barhi, Deglet Noor, Faisali, Halawy, Khadrawy, Madina, Medjool, Saidy, Zahidi and many others are also available. These fruits assume paramount importance in the Arabic culture – be it iftars, weddings or welcoming guests, dates are served. Products made from the fruits like dates syrup, Jallab (drink made of grape molasses, dates and rosewater), Rangina (dates in butter sauce), Ma’Amool (sweet cookies stuffed with dates), dates stuffed with nuts or stuffed dates dipped in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds are very popular here.

Shop selling dates

Shop selling dates

The assortment of dates in the shops would definitely overwhelm and confuse anybody in deciding his pick. But there is a convenient custom that makes the task easier-samples can be tasted before buying. What stands out among the manifold types and is the cynosure of all eyes, is undoubtedly the bright yellow, fresh date. This is a rarity in many parts of the world.

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Dates are renowned particularly for their rich iron content. The book, “Nutritive Value of Indian Foods”, shows the iron content of 100 g of fresh dates as 0.96 mg whereas that of their dried counterpart as 7.3 mg. What makes the dried variety richer in iron? Simple logic is all that is needed to answer it. On drying, the fruits lose moisture and therefore volume. Though the weight may be the same (100 g of fresh vs. 100 g of dried dates), the number of fruits in each case will vary. More number of dried fruits will be found in 100 g when compared to fresh ones in a similar weight – Greater the number of dried fruits, higher their iron value.

Diet recommendation of dates to beat anemia is common. But the practice of consuming it as milk shake (rich in calcium) may not yield satisfactory results. Studies have proved that calcium hinders the absorption of both haem and non-haem iron. So, the fruit should instead be eaten along with any vitamin C rich food for better assimilation of iron.

Dates milk shake is however not that bad an idea when taken for energy. The carbs in dates are present as dextrose and fructose and will serve as instant energisers. Moreover, the word “Milk shake” may just be the woo factor required to persuade a poor or finicky eater to consume it. But considering that dried dates are concentrated sources of sugar, we may have to omit the addition of sweeteners or be frugal with them.

Dates shake may be a good post-event drink to recharge an athlete’s body, whereas a mishmash of dried dates, other dried fruits and nuts (small quantity of each, please) may fit as a perfect pre-event snack for those engaged in weight-lifting exercises or strenuous activities. I deliberately did not mention the dates shake as a pre-event drink, for unless it is made isotonic or hypotonic it may cause stomach discomfort in some and may also dehydrate; one has to experiment with the amount of sugar, dates and pre-event time suitable for him before using it on a regular basis.

Dates are usually sought after by people who wish to gain weight and resisted by weight watchers. Such discrimination towards dates may not be necessary as long as they are consumed in moderation. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2004) conducted by Keast et al. in the USA has revealed that consumption of dried fruits is associated with improved diet quality and reduced obesity. Further more, a few dates (3-4) are way better intermediary snacks than chips, biscuits or chocolates that some binge on, because the dietary fibers in dates promote satiety and help to stave off hunger.

Most often, iron and carbs in the dried dates steal the limelight sidelining all other nutrients. But the fruits in fact are treasure troves of other nutrients as well and possess multifarious health benefits. So pop a few dates from time to time.

Reference:

Gopalan, C., Rama Shastri, B.V., Balasubramanian, S.C., 1989. Revised and updated by Narasinga Rao, B.S., Deosthale, Y.G., Pant, K.C. Nutritive Value of Indian Foods, 2004 Reprint. National Institute of Nutrition, ICMR, Hyderabad, p 53.

Related Post:

Jallab – A Dates Syrup Summer Cooler

Nectarines – The Shaved Peaches

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Nectarines

Nectarines

Does this fruit look like an apple? The red blush spread in the golden yellow hue may create such an optical illusion. But, it is more of a peach without fuzz on its skin. It is called Nectarine (meaning as sweet as nectar) or fittingly as “Shaved peach”. The most intriguing fact about it is that there is no separate nectarine tree. It is just a peach tree with genetic mutation. The same tree may bear both nectarines as well as peaches. A seed from a peach may grow to produce nectarines and vice versa!!!

It is usually smaller (the hybrid one is as big as a peach), sweeter, has a pulp firmer and skin brighter than peach. Unlike most fruits nectarine’s colour is not a determinant of its ripeness, but the texture and fragrance are. Its nutritional profile boasts of a high value of vitamin-A, beta-carotene, vitamin-C and potassium; nil sodium content; considerable amounts of fiber and protein. It is abundant in the phytochemical lutein, which is responsible for its colour. A study conducted on fruit flies showed that nectarine extracts promoted longevity in female flies by increasing the reproductive capacity, modulating glucose metabolism and by reducing oxidative damage. Though it is ambiguous if the results can be extended to human beings in totality, by virtue of its nutrients, nectarine offers us benefits like fostering healthy skin, maintaining colon function, boosting immune system, protecting against free radical damage and certain types of cancer.

Warning about amygdalin in the seed, that gets converted to cyanide inside the human body is common. Nobody could possibly swallow the pit by mistake as it is big enough. I pondered if anybody would bother to crack open the nut to eat the seed? Even if they did so, how many seeds would be required to produce the lethal dose of cyanide (roughly 1.5 mg per kg body weight)? Were there any deaths reported due to the consumption of nectarine seeds? I just thought that this was much ado about nothing. This being on one side, there are controversies that amygdalin is nothing but vitamin B17 that has anti-neoplastic activity. The claim of amygdalin being panacea for pathological conditions is again regarded by many as marketing gimmicks of pharmaceutical companies. There is no concrete proof for all these proclamations.

Nectarine is usually used in making jams, jellies, preserves, mixed fruit desserts, ice-creams, pies, cobblers and cakes. I was neither in the mood of cooking nor do I like to consume a fruit cooked, unless it is unpalatable otherwise. I usually prefer to eat any fruit as a whole or include it in salads. But guess the surfing for recipes had its impact on me.  I mixed few pieces of nectarine, kiwi and a cherry with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream and merried my way through it. For those who are calorie conscious (avoid flipping through fat and sugar laden recipes before preparing any dish – you will be smitten by a desire to eat such foods), skip the ice-cream and retain the fruits or it would be even better to just bite through the nectarine and relish its taste and flavour in all its freshness.

Pieces of nectarine, kiwi and cherry in a dollop of vanilla ice-cream

Pieces of nectarine, kiwi and cherry in a dollop of vanilla ice-cream

Related Pages:

Fresh Nectarine Recipes

How Poisonous Are Peach Seeds?

Nectarine Health Benefits

Seed And Pit Edibility: Please Dispel Myths From My Childhood…

What Are Nectarines?

What’s in a Name

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Español: Morinda citrifolia. El noni, aal, fru...

Image via Wikipedia

If you are one of those who say, “What’s in a name”, read this… I was eager to know about an uncommon fruit NONI that my friend was researching on. The cartons labelled “Divine Noni” in a juice shop only kindled my curiosity further. Surfed the Net to gather more info about it – was glad to know that it claimed to offer an endless list of health benefits. But my happiness persisted only till I found that the fruit had as awful a name as “VOMIT FRUIT”. This was not music to my ears and my effervescing enthusiasm fizzled out.

I would never again say, “What’s in a name” … Though it is just an identity, it is always nice to hear something pleasant for a name.

 

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