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Thursday, 06 July 2017 12:29

Mulberries: Now’s the time to enjoy them

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There are three types of mulberry: black (Morus nigra), red (Morus rubra) and white (Morus alba). The black mulberry tree originally is from Persia, which is found within the area of modern-day Iran. The red mulberry is native to North America.

I have the black mulberry.

The white mulberry is a native of China and is an important food for the silk worm. The silk industry still needs the leaves to feed its tiny workers.

The bark, berries and leaves of the various mulberry varieties have been used for centuries as medicinals. The black mulberry berries are a laxative, tonic for the blood and an anti-inflammatory. They also are an antioxidant and contain copious amounts of vitamins A, B and C.

Mulberry leaves are an antibacterial. A tree from the leaves can be used to induce sweating and end a fever, while encouraging the expulsion of congestion in the lungs.

Native Americans used the red mulberry as an anthelmintic, a natural wormer particularly effective on tape worms.

No matter the variety, the mulberry fruit is highly perishable, which is why you don’t find it on store shelves. It shows up at farmers markets once in awhile. The fruit doesn’t travel well, but mulberry jelly does,  and that’s what I like to make with my mulberries.

The jelly is one-fourth of my sweet and sour sauce, so I?often use it in Chinese dishes, a nod to the mulberry’s origins.

Thursday, 29 June 2017 12:55

Summer fruits: Pretty and good eating

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What do you like best about summer? One thing I absolutely love about summer is summer fruits. 

I love the look of them all lined up at summer markets. Plum skins shining purple black, fuzzy peaches blushing, blueberries twinkling, raspberries squeaking in the colander — there is not a summer fruit I don’t love, and that includes tomatoes (but that’s another story).

I love the way they smell, too.  Cantaloupe with its musky aroma, watermelon that is sweetly sticky.  And the way summer fruit tastes!  Now there’s something to write home about; ripe nectarines that ooze summer at its best, tart cherries that make your lips smack together. 

I love the way summer fruits snack — right in the hand. No preparation required. And I love to cook with them. They make wonderful light desserts, add pizzazz to entrees, liven up salads and add zing to summer coolers.

I simply cannot be talked out of my enthusiasm for summer fruits.  Now’s the time, people! Seize that summer fruit while it’s ripe! 

Get started with these fruits:

Thursday, 22 June 2017 11:11

Go wild or plant your own greens

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It’s easy to pick up a bag of prewashed and cleaned greens, but when you find out how easy they are to grow, you just might become a gardener without even trying. Take a look at the price you’re paying for that fancy bag and you’ll receive an extra dose of incentive for growing your own.

Start by adding a packet of mixed greens to your window boxes — lettuce comes up fast and you’ll have time to harvest it a couple of times before your ornamental plantings thicken up and push them out of the way. Potting up a patio container of greens is another easy way to have a salad at your fingertips.

No store can carry every variety you can plant easily. And lettuces make a pretty border that will be gone (and eaten) by the time those impatience and petunias climb over the edges of the garden.

If you enjoy indulging your wild side, try picking greens for free. Consider nettles (stinging nettles lose their sting when cooked like spinach), chickweed, dandelions, lamb’s quarters (also called wild spinach), shepherd’s purse and watercress, to name just a few. I can find all of these in my backyard, so they certainly are plentiful.

For seed-package mixes, try a mild mesclun mix for a complete salad from a single package. You’ll find a variety of color, textures and a mild taste. Spinach is very mild-tasting when picked before the heat hits or before it goes to seed. Other favorite greens include arugula, leaf lettuce, bibb, butter crunch, butterhead and oakleaf (available in red, curly and standard).

For hearty greens that hold up to steaming or stir-frying, try Swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, collard greens and kale.

Thursday, 15 June 2017 09:00

Dress it up: Sauces cover more than salad

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Salad dressings are not just for salads. Some varieties will double as marinades for meats on the grill, while others make a fine dipping sauce for everything from carrot sticks to chicken drummies. Making your own will save you money; that’s one benefit to be sure, but many times, it also can save on calories.

Thursday, 08 June 2017 09:59

Jell-O remains a staple summer treat

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It doesn’t matter if you are a child of the ’50s or a culinary junkie, it seems everyone loves Jell-O at some point in their culinary life.

I’ve been sorting through years of collecting cookbooks and came across a little gem called the “Joys of Jell-O.” First published by General Foods Kitchens, these little books were advertising marvels, espousing all kinds of uses for our favorite brand of gelatin.

If I’m in a fowl mood, I like to tell people how my grandma used to make gelatin by boiling down chicken feet, which she would snatch up after we butchered a flock of old hens. Nowadays, I stay away from such shenanigans and just explain, if asked, that all gelatin is made from collagen, collected as a byproduct of the butchering process.

Which means that true vegetarians do not eat gelatin products. And I don’t even want to get into what constitutes a kosher gelatin because that’s a convoluted process. Rabbis differ on what it means to have a food product so far changed from the original so as to render it acceptable.

Actually, the fact that gelatin is so different from anything else is what attracts and repels us at the same time. But the truth is, when Jell-O first came into being in 1897, it made the housewife’s job much easier once they caught on to the product. Previously, home cooks relied on sheets of prepared gelatin, which had to be clarified by boiling it with egg whites and shells and dripped through a jelly bag before the cook could turn it into shimmering molds — a time-consuming process.

Gelatin is a common ingredient in foods because it is so versatile. It can be used as a gelling agent (as in Jell-O), as a thickener, an emulsifier and a stabilizer. You’ll find it in a variety of foods, from yogurt and chewing gum to gummy bears and marshmallows.

General Foods Corp., the original distributor of Jell-O cookbooks, was bought by the Philip Morris Co., which also owned Kraft Inc. Today, Kraft Foods owns the brand. For more recipes and information on Jell-O, go to KraftFoods.com.

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