If 2017 was the year of fermented foods, 2018 is turning out to be the year of kombucha. While fermented foods, such as kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh and kefir, are considered gut-friendly and healthful, kombucha can be viewed as the ultimate fermented drink. Read on to discover everything you always wanted to know about kombucha – even if you never heard of it before.
Kombucha is an ancient fermented drink, sometimes referred to as mushroom tea. It has a mushroom color, tan and cloudy, with bits of something… well, weird, floating in it. That’s the “scoby,” and if anything will turn you off to kombucha before you even try it, it’s that. Once you get past the unattractive look of the scoby, you’ll find that kombucha is a sweet and tangy drink with a bit of fizz – a drink that is worth your while getting to know.
Kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods have long been part of diets in various parts of the world, but only now are they appearing in the West as the food of the hour. Kombucha is tea that has been fermented from 1 to 3 weeks; it consists of black tea and sugar (from various sources, including cane sugar, fruit or honey) and it is considered to be one of the most effective probiotic drinks out there. It contains an army of bacteria and yeast that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process once it is combined with sugar. The word “kombucha” means “kelp tea” in Japanese, though in Japan itself kombucha is a mild tea (rather than a fizzy, fermented beverage.) Some people call kombucha “booch,” and that’s the term that’s been catching on with those in the know.
The Wonders of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is an ancient spice that is widely used in modern times due to its amazing flavor. Today, cinnamon is one of the world’s most popular spices, sprinkled on lattes; indispensable at Thanksgiving; and awesome on French toast. Much like salt, cinnamon is an ingredient that, while often taken for granted, adds depth of flavor, inviting warmth, and multi-faceted dimension to our food. Cinnamon has a long history and an abundance of uses. Let’s learn more.
The website, Cinnamon Vogue, is a one-stop shop for information about the spice. The site explains that the cinnamon tree is a tropical evergreen, the parts of which can be broken down and used for an assortment of purposes. The bark from the tree can be rolled into sticks that can be used in stick form or ground into cinnamon powder – the most widely used form of cinnamon. The leaves of the cinnamon tree can be steamed and distilled into oil, and the bark can be further broken down into chips (to throw into a fireplace, for instance).
All cinnamon trees – and there are a number of species – are members of the genus Cinnamomum in the Lauraceae family, although not all of the species are grown commercially. Cinnamomum verum is sometimes referred to as “true cinnamon” (more on that controversy later), but most internationally produced cinnamon is called “cassia.” The world’s supply of cinnamon is largely provided by Indonesia and China, which together produce about 75% of the global supply of the spice.
The Wondrous Strawberry
As winter morphs into spring, it’s time for everyone’s favorite fruit to hit the marketplace: strawberries. Although strawberries are available in most places all year ‘round, their peak seasons – when they’re at their reddest, juiciest, and most delectable – are spring and summer. Their sweetness and juiciness have earned them a reputation of being nature’s candy, loved by children and adults alike. Whether you like your strawbs straight up, dipped in sugar, or smothered in whipped cream, now is the time to put them on your produce list and bring them home to enjoy.
A Few Strawberry Facts
Strawberries are members of the Rosaceae family, and they are known botanically as Fragaria ananassa. Technically and botanically speaking, strawberries, like raspberries, aren’t really berries. While true berries stem from one flower with one ovary and typically have several seeds, strawberries are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, making them what is known as an “aggregate” fruit, fruits that develop from multiple ovaries of a single fruit.
Real berries have seeds on the inside of the fruit, while a strawberry wears its seeds on its exterior. (The definition of a berry as something produced from one flower with one ovary containing seeds on the inside means that some of the lesser known berries are bananas, pumpkins, avocadoes, tomatoes, watermelons, and kiwis… strange but true.)
Dates: Sweet and Luscious Fruit
Dates – the dried yet succulent morsels of amber-brown deliciousness that, at the same time, are healthy and satisfy our craving for sweetness – are the fruit of a tree known as the date palm. Dates are among the oldest cultivated fruits in the world, first thriving in the Middle East and now grown all over the globe. There are over 2,000 varieties of dates, but the medjool date is the most common type of dates grown in the United States.
The name “date” is derived from the Greek word daktylos, which means finger, probably because dates are more or less shaped like the fingers of the hand. In the Middle East and Northern Africa, dates have been grown for thousands of years as a profitable agricultural product. (The date palm is the national symbol of both Israel and Saudi Arabia.) Date palms are found in abundance in the desert (one of the few crops that grow in such arid, hot, and challenging conditions) and many parts of the Middle East would be uninhabitable were it not for this type of tree.
Lemons are the Perfect Addition to a Summer Menu
As temperatures rise and the novelty of the summer heat starts to wear off, the search for lighter foods becomes all consuming. Cold soups and salads are summer staples but, for me, if a dish isn’t lemony, it isn’t summery. From lemonade to lemon meringue pie, from lemon-based salad dressing to lemon-flavored Italian ices, the tart, unique, refreshing taste of lemons is synonymous with summer, and a cooking prerequisite for the hot summer months.
The Amazing Chickpea
You may not realize it – certainly not just by looking at it – but the little chickpea (also known as the garbanzo bean) is pretty amazing. This legume has been around for hundreds of years, devoured through the ages for its health benefits and high nutrition level. Chickpeas are a mighty source of protein, favored in particular by vegans and eaten in great quantities around the world. The chickpea is loaded with dietary fiber – your colon will thank you; the equivalent of one cup of cooked chickpeas offers half the recommended amount of daily fiber.