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Category Archives: Veggies

A Toy Top, Miniature Flying Saucer or Veggie?

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Here I am again, with something interesting for you to identify in, “Guess What’s This”. Let me not beat about the bush but directly plunge into the topic. Look at the visual below:

Toy top vegetable

Toy tops, miniature flying saucers or veggies?

Have you seen them anywhere before? Do you know what they are?

I was awestruck by these vibrant yellow, shallow shaped things with scalloped edges in the ‘Exotic section’ of the supermarket. At first sight, I doubted if these even belonged there for they appeared more like play things than fruits or veggies. They resembled toy tops, miniature UFOs – flying saucers to be precise; or if they had been rightly placed there, could they be some kind of hybrid lemons or bell pepper variants? I did not fail to notice the striking similarity their shape bore to the moulds used for baking tarts, patties, pies and their sorts. Reading their label I was convinced that I had neither seen them nor heard of them before.

They are actually summer squashes. Just like cucumbers and tomatoes, though they are fruits they are always referred to as veggies because of the way they are used in our cooking. Their name is made of three words (5, 3, and 6 letters in order). The 1st word points to a food item usually fried or baked, the 2nd to a container and the 3rd to the veggie’s colour.

So, start guessing now. I know, the spur of the moment I gave the clue for the 3rd word, you were confidently out with its answer. Even if you have a faint idea about any of the 3 words, post it in the blog’s comments. If it is right, it may give a lead to the others guessing, if not it might at least succeed in confusing them ;-). What else! Team up with your friend to make the guessing game more fun.

Wait until tomorrow for the right answer.

Related Topics

Food Incognito

The Bitter-Sweet Pod

The Pricey Potato Look Alike

Patty Pan Yellow

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The vibrant yellow squashes with scalloped edges that resemble toy tops, miniature flying saucers are Patty Pan Yellows.

patty pan yellow

Patty Pan Yellow

They are native to S.America and are related to cucumber family. These squashes grow in summer and are also available in green and white varieties besides yellow.

patty pan green

Patty Pan Green seen along with Patty Pan Yellow

Patty Pans are tender when immature but become hard and tasteless as they mature and grow large. They are good sources of magnesium, niacin, vitamins A and C. They can be eaten raw or subjected to any form of cooking right from steaming to baking. At times, the inner flesh is scooped out and the outer rind used as serving bowl. Baby patty pans are also used in bouquets.

Patty pan squashes are known by a myriad of other names such as Scallop squash, Sunburst squash, Granny squash, Custard squash, Custard marrow, Button squash and Scallopini.

Related Topic:

A Toy Top, Miniature Flying Saucer or Veggie?

Desert Truffle

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The answer to “Guess what’s this – The Pricey Potato Look Alike” is Desert Truffle. Find more about it from the infographic presented below:

Desert Truffle Infographic

An infographic on Desert Truffle

Taming The Yam

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Mega-sized yam in the center

Mega-sized yam in the center

The waft of yam roast  (Senaikizhangu and Karunaikizhangu in Tamil) afloat in the air would kindle anybody’s appetite. Crisp yam roast goes as a good accompaniment with all three courses of the South Indian meal (Sāmbhar, Rasam and Curd rice). Its tendency to retain its form longer and not become mushy quickly, makes it suitable to be one among the many vegetables used for Avial or Vegetable Stew. But, the yam dish which is most endearing to everybody is undoubtedly the roast.

The procedure to prepare the roast is elementary. Just clean the dirt on the peel by showing it under a stream of running water, slice off the rough peel, wash again to get rid of the remnants of dirt and cut into slices; coat the slices with a  masala mix of turmeric, chili powder, ginger garlic paste, pepper powder, fennel seed powder, corn flour, salt and shallow fry them. Err… have you already sensed the bungling in the procedure? The critical pretreatment step of yam, which should have been flanked by cutting into slices and coating with the masala, is missing! This could be an unpardonable blunder. Treat yam just like any other vegetable, you would end up with an itchy tongue – Gosh! Of all parts, a tongue that is itchy – can’t even scratch. Sometimes it is an annoying itchy feeling and sometimes it is a pricking sensation, which is worse. Had been through this agonizing ordeal once, when a cook in all her ignorance prepared a colocasia curry (Sepangkizhangu in Tamil – another veggie that produces a similar after effect) without subjecting it to pretreatment. Guess I spent atleast an hour, gargling my mouth, eating spoons of sugar, to do away with that rankling sensation in the tongue. I do not want even my worst enemy to go through such a tormenting situation.

If you have observed your mom or granny prepare this tuber, you would have noticed how meticulously they go about taming the yam. After cutting the yam into slices, they soak them into a bowl of dilute tamarind extract or buttermilk and keep them aside for atleast half an hour. Then, they rinse the slices in water and continue with the rest of the preparation steps. What they attempt to do here is neutralize the fine calcium oxalate crystals (raphides) in the tuber that stab the sensitive tissues of the tongue, with an acid solution. Follow in their footsteps and don’t ever forget the neutralizing part. You could also half-cook the slices in boiling water with turmeric and salt, discard the water and proceed.

But, what to do, if somebody has skipped the taming step by mistake? Alleviate the itchiness or prickliness with these tips:

  1. Rub ice gently on the tongue;
  2. Slurp a tablespoon of honey;
  3. Eat ice-cream – a plain one without any topping;
  4. Gargle with buttermilk at regular intervals till the irritating sensation subsides; follow it up with an iced buttermilk drink to soothe the affected tongue;
  5. Worried about the itchiness of skin (contact dermatitis), some suffer on direct contact with the raw vegetable? Wear gloves or apply coconut oil on hands before handling the raw vegetable.

Wish I had known these remedies, a few years ago.  In case the itchiness persists despite following the tips, please do not ignore. Consult a doctor, right away.

The Tear Gas Veggie in Kitchen

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Onions on a neutral, mostly white background

Image via Wikipedia

The crocodile tears shed over chopped onions has been used to evoke laughter in the audience in many movies. Comedy, it may be in movies but in reality it is a source of discomfort to the person slicing the onions. The stinging sensation in the eyes and the runny nose make one wonder if it is a veggie or some tear gas grenade in disguise. Some dismiss this topic as trivia, some submit to the suffering without much fuss thinking it is inevitable and still other smart ones delegate the troublesome task to others 😉 This problem can be easily resolved if we understand the science behind the smarting sensation. Here is what happens:

  1. When we cut an onion, its cell walls get torn and release an enzyme called Lachrymatory-factor synthase into the air.
  2. The synthase enzyme converts the sulfoxides (amino acids) of the onion into sulfenic acid.
  3. The unstable sulfenic acid rearranges itself into syn-propanethial-S-oxide.
  4. Syn-propanethial-S-oxide gets converted into sulphuric acid when exposed to oxygen in the air. Now, when the acid comes in contact with our eyes, the lachrymal glands get irritated and produce tears. 

So, the secret to a pleasant onion-chopping experience lies in reducing the amount of sulphurous gas released into air, either delaying its release or diluting it and protecting our eyes from its impact. Though there have been numerous methods revealed by experts around the world to combat this problem, I would like to state the most easy and practical ones here.

  • Leave the root end intact till the last cut as this is where the synthase enzyme is most concentrated.
  • Use a very sharp knife and cut quickly. This crushes less number of cell walls and causes a minimal amount of the gases in the onion to be released.
  • Chill the onion in the refrigerator for ½ -1 hour before you slice it. The cold temperature slows the movement of atoms in the gas so that they do not float up into the air so quickly.
  • Cut the onion into half, peel the outer skin, rinse it in running water and then cut. This dilutes the gas before it floats into the air. If they are shallots, soak them in a bowl of water for ½ hr and then cut them one by one.
Wave bye to tears caused by onions with any of the above methods. It is also a solace to know that even without taking all these precautions, some species of onions provide us with a tear-free cutting session!!! Yes, the Vidalia from Georgia, the Walla Walla from Washington and the Maui from Hawaii are mild varieties that have higher sugar content because of the soil and climate in which they grow. These varieties do not irritate our eyes and are user friendly.

 


Stress Struck Cucumbers Turn Bitter

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Cucumbers

Cucumbers (Image via Wikipedia)

The crunchy, water-laden cucumbers are hot favourites to beat the heat during summer. But it is a pity that at times our taste buds are disgusted with the bitterness in some of them that we do not hesitate to spit them out immediately.  The miscreant behind the bitterness is a compound called cucurbitacin. This compound is found mainly in the leaves, stems and roots of the plant. It spreads to the fruits occasionally and to a lesser degree. It does not accumulate evenly within each cucumber and can vary in concentration from one fruit to another. It is prevalent to a greater extent in the stem end rather than the blossom end of the fruit and also in the green peel.

Wild cucumbers contain relatively large concentrations of this compound and are unfit for consumption whereas commercially cultivated varieties contain such low concentrations that it does not affect the taste.

Studies have shown that cucumber leaves with a high total Nitrogen as well as amino acid content promote Nitrogen metabolism which in turn favours enzymatic synthesis of curcurbitacin, thus inducing bitterness into the leaves and fruits.

It is also interesting to know that stress triggers a higher concentration of cucurbitacin in cucumbers and turns them bitter. High temperatures, wide temperature swings, too little water, uneven watering practices (too wet followed by too dry), low soil fertility and low soil pH are possible stress factors. Over mature or improperly stored cucumbers may also develop a mild bitterness.

Cutting the ends of the cucumber and peeling the skin may help in reducing the bitterness. Salting the cucumber slices and draining off the juice that is exuded also helps in removing the bitterness. This works on the principle of osmosis. But some fruits may remain bitter all the way through, no matter what you do and they should be discarded. It all depends on the extent of stress to which they have been exposed.

To save yourself from the embarrassment of serving a bitter coleslaw or salad, always taste a little portion of the peeled cuke, ensure it is devoid of bitterness and then incorporate it into your preparation :-).

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