#GoodFoodSeries – Green Beans

“Green Beans,” watercolor.

The common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, is the ancestor that has given us green beans, kidney beans, and other bean varieties. Thousands of years ago, the common bean originated in what is now known as Central/South America. It spread across this region thanks to Indigenous people, and later C.Columbus spread it to Europe for trading during his “exploration” (re: study to prepare for conquest). This was a great crop to cultivate across the globe though since it can grow in a variety of climates.

Amongst the common bean–green beans in particular, they come in a variety of colors and types. Here’s what The Spruce Eats has to say about the varieties:

Hero Images / Getty Images

Green beans, string beans, wax beans, and snap beans are all, essentially, the same thing. Little differences, mainly in color and shape, separate one type from another.

[The types are as follows:]

  1. Green Beans (aka String Beans or Snap Beans)
  2. Haricots Verts (aka French Green Beans or Filet Beans)
  3. Long Beans
  4. Purple String Beans
  5. Romano Beans (aka Italian Green Beans or Flat Beans)
  6. Wax Beans [1]

Green Beans Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Green beans also offer many nutritional benefits to its consumers. They are considered a superfood because it supports cardiovascular health (thanks to its high fiber, folate, and mineral content). Also loaded with antioxidants, green beans are an aid to the immune system.

Get your bean fix asap! And remember: fresh green beans are always the best option. There’s added prep time with these since they’re not coming out of a frozen bag or can, but totally worth it when you can take the time to do it. And if you ask me, they taste better too. Check your local grocery store in the fresh produce section for loose green beans and bag ’em up to take home for an amazing dish.

Speaking of amazing dishes, check out this one that’s also featured in the cookbook Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family,” by mother-and-daughter pair Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams. What a neat way to honor the history of soul cuisine in a healthy manner. In the book, and also featured in Southern Living Mag is a recipe for Fiery Green Beans, credited to a Black Nashville, TN chef who inspired the authors to share this recipe with the world. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your green bean experience, get the recipe here.

Photo: Penny de los Santos

[1] “Guide to Beans from Green to Purple to Varieties,” The Spruce Eats.

#GoodFoodSeries – Papaya

“Papaya,” watercolor.

This tropical fruit originated in the Americas, specifically the South/Central region. Spanish conquistadors are the reason it was spread and cultivated in other tropical climates around the globe.

In the papaya’s reproduction stage, the flowering plants they come from are apart of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Plants are dioecious or hermaphroditic, with cultivars producing only female or bisexual (hermaphroditic) flowers preferred in cultivation… [and] since bisexual plants produce the most desirable fruit and are self-pollinating, they are preferred over female or male plants.[1]

Now in terms of the actual fruit, it has some special characteristics that make it a hit or miss amongst those who attempt to eat it. For some, like me, papaya smells and tastes bad. For others, it’s quite the contrary. It’s due to the enzyme papain. Papain has a “pungent, somewhat offensive” smell and “unpleasant” taste.[2]” Papain resembles the digestive enzymes humans have in their stomachs already and some people are very sensitive to it. Apparently the trick to making it smell and taste better is lime juice! It’s uncertain whether or not I’m willing to try that just to eat it.

There are two main types of papayas: Mexican and Hawaiian. From those types many varieties descend. Hawaiian varieties are what you’ll most commonly find in US grocery stores.

Papaya Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The nutritional benefits are also aplenty with this fruit. Its enzymes support the digestive system, its antioxidants ward of cancers and Alzheimer’s, and its high Vitamin C content support immune system health.

Ghanaian foodie and cinematographer Nino shows you how to make Stew with Pawpaw (Papaya). He refers to it as the Husband Keeper” as “no man will cheat on you after eating something like this.” Check out the video below.

[1] “Papaya – Carica papaya,” Mark’s Fruit Crops.

[2] “Think Papaya Smells Awful? There’s A Trick to Make It Taste Better,” Cooking Light.

#GoodFoodSeries – Peas

“Peas,” watercolor.

Six edible peas (technically seeds) in a pod. 😉 This legume originated in the Mediterranean. And of course, thanks to European colonization, it made its way across the globe. Now, there are 3 major types with numerous varieties among them. Here’s a breakdown of them as follows [1]:

English Peas | Botanical name: Pisum sativum

English peas, also known as shell peas and garden peas are the most common type of peas. Garden peas have smooth and fleshy, cylindrical green pods that are curved and plump. Since their pod is tough and fibrous, it cannot be digested and this variety of peas needs to be shelled. They contain plump, round, sweet-tasting seeds.

The varieties:
  • Spring Peas
  • Survivor Peas
  • Wando Peas
  • Garden Sweet
  • Thomas Laxton
  • Early Perfection
  • Lincoln Peas
  • Mr. Big Peas
  • Maestro
  • Little Marvel
  • Misty Shell

Snow Peas | Botanical name: Pisum sativum var. saccharatum

Snow peas are also known as Chinese peas because they are used in a lot of Chinese cuisines. They are also known by their French name “mangetout,” which means to eat it all. You can instantly recognize snow peas form garden peas as they have an almost flat shell with no distinct pea-shape inside. Unlike garden peas, these peas have edible pods and in fact, are grown for their pods rather than the seeds inside.

The varieties:
  • Snowbird
  • Sugar Daddy
  • Gray Sugar
  • Mammoth Melting Sugar
  • Oregon Sugar Pods
  • Oregon Sugar Pod #2
  • Avalanche Peas

Sugar Snap Peas | Botanical name: Pisum sativum var. marcrocarpon

At first glance, sugar snap peas look almost identical to the garden peas. However, the sugar snap can be differentiated by the shape of its pea pod, which is slightly more cylindrical than the garden pea variety. Sugar snap peas are a hybrid of snow peas and a mutant garden pea. Therefore, these peas contain properties of both of its parent pea varieties.

Like garden peas, the seeds are allowed to become round and plump before they are shelled. However, the pods of sugar snap peas are thick, crisp, and crunchy and can be eaten. These peas do not need to be shelled and are cooked with their pods, like snow peas.

Sugar snap peas are also more tolerant of hot weather than garden peas.

The varieties:
  • Sugar Bon
  • Sugar Snap
  • Super Snappy
  • Super Sugar Snap VP
  • Sugar Ann

Peas Nutrition Label

Although peas are known to generate mixed feelings regarding its taste and texture, one cannot deny the nutritional benefits. Check out the facts! It’s loaded, with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Enjoy peas raw, steamed, creamed into soup, combined with rice, etc. You can even enjoy it in a salad. Chef Renée‘s got a recipe for Sugar Snap Peas & Chicken Salad (she even shows how to make flavored salt!). Check it out below. The chef also caters and hosts a television show, “Simply Chef Renée” which airs in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

[1] “The 3 Main Types of Peas: English vs. Snow vs. Snap – Differences?,” Home Stratosphere.

#GoodFoodSeries – Plantain

“Plantain,” watercolor.

The banana plant has many varieties. Its origins have been traced to Southeast Asia (~500 B.C.) and was introduced to African countries via traders. From there its reach spread to Europe and then to the Caribbean via Portuguese Franciscan monk, Friar Tomàs de Berlanga [1].

Ripe Plantain Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

One variety of the banana is the plantain. Not to be confused with its “cousin,” the plantain is in a league of its own in terms of versatility. Plantains are usually larger than bananas with thicker skin, containing more starch and less sugar and water. And because they are edible (when cooked) during all stages of its maturation, they are enjoyed like vegetables and fruit. Here’s a breakdown of the stages:

PLATANO VERDE (Green Plantain)
When green, plantain is firm, very starchy, and has a texture and aroma that resembles the potato.

PLATANO PINTÓN (Half-Ripe Plantain)
At this point, the plantain is reaching ripeness, although not quite there yet and therefore still starchy. Its mostly yellow, may have brown spots, and its flesh remains firm.

PLATANO MADURO (Ripe Plantain)
When the plantain’s skin is dark yellow-brown, the ends are black and it feels soft to the touch when you squeeze it, it has ripened. This is when it will taste sweet and gives off a banana-like aroma.

PLATANO NEGRO (Blackened Plantain)
Here, the plantain’s skin is black, soft and tacky. Although it may look bad on the outside it’s still edible on the inside and has just reached the perfect stage for desserts.

Caribbean Stuffed Plantain Boat. Caribjournal / Caribbean Journal Staff.

Let’s presume you’ve experienced the plantain in many forms, but have you ever had it like this? A fancy way to enjoy plantain: as a Caribbean Stuffed Plantain Boat. The recipe (here) is provided by Chef Nigel Spence, owner and Executive Chef of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in Mt. Vernon, New York.

Unfortunately, the restaurant underwent safety measures to reopen during the pandemic, did so, and then was destroyed by a major fire. Chef Nigel is asking for community support by way of gift cards that can be redeemed when the restaurant reopens. They can be purchased here.

[1] “Banana (Musa sp.),” School of Integrative Biology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

#GoodFoodSeries – Potato

“Potato,” watercolor.

The potato: a global kitchen staple; an ancient, reliable food source. It is documented as being cultivated first by the Incas back in 8,000-5,000 B.C., in the region currently known as Peru/Bolivia.

Indigenous people went through a lot cultivating the potato during its formative years. Here’s what Smithsonian Magazine had to say:

Wild potatoes are laced with solanine and tomatine, toxic compounds believed to defend the plants against attacks from dangerous organisms like fungi, bacteria and human beings. Cooking often breaks down such chemical defenses, but solanine and tomatine are unaffected by heat. In the mountains, guanaco and vicuña (wild relatives of the llama) lick clay before eating poisonous plants. The toxins stick—more technically, “adsorb”—to the fine clay particles in the animals’ stomachs, passing through the digestive system without affecting it. Mimicking this process, mountain peoples apparently learned to dunk wild potatoes in a “gravy” made of clay and water. Eventually they bred less-toxic potatoes, though some of the old, poisonous varieties remain, favored for their resistance to frost. Clay dust is still sold in Peruvian and Bolivian markets to accompany them [1].

By the 1500s, like other foods, Spanish conquistadors took the potato back over to Europe where it took around 40 years for it to spread across the continent.

And then in much later years, the Colorado Potato Beetle began ravaging potato plants and affecting production. Their presence led to the creation of the first pesticide used by farmers: arsenic. Over time, alternative pesticides were used to ward off hungry critters that rendered the crops useless in markets and grocery stores.

Now, the potato is one of the top 5 most important crops in the world. There are more than 4,000 native varieties of it–most of which come out of Peru–and 180 wild varieties too. Among those varieties are different types that are commonly used in different ways for cooking and baking. From russet, to white, to red, to yellow, to purple, and fingerling, you’ll notice a difference in texture of flesh amongst the types.

Potato Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The potato is loaded with potassium (more than a banana even) and vitamin C. Cooking the vegetable lowers the amount you’d take in, however cooking them with the skin on decreases the amount of nutrition lost in the process.

Duck Fat Grilled Sweet Potatoes. Tanorria’s Table.

If you’re like me, love potatoes and want a new way to enjoy them, I think you’ll like trying this recipe from award-winning personal Chef Tanorria AskewDuck Fat Grilled Sweet Potatoes. Get the recipe here.

 

[1] “How the Potato Changed the World,” Mann, Charles C. Smithsonian Magazine.

#GoodFoodSeries – Cranberries

“Cranberries,” watercolor.

The cranberry is a fruit that’s native to the Americas (it’s one of the few fruits that is too). Indigenous peoples’ resourcefulness led them to use it in a myriad of ways hundreds of years ago. Here’s what the American Phytopathological Society says about it:

Although the native Americans did not cultivate it, they gathered berries and used them in pemmican, a mixture of dried meat or fish and berries that was pounded into a pulp, shaped into a cake and dried in the sun. They were the first to make it into a sweetened sauce using maple sugar. The berries were also eaten raw. Cranberries were used as a poultice for wounds and when it was mixed with cornmeal it was an excellent cure for blood poisoning. The juice was used as a dye to brighten the colors of their blankets and rugs [1].

Cranberries Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Cranberries have been dubbed a “superfood” due to them being nutrient-rich. They offer a good amount of vitamins and they are high in antioxidants, which ward off cancers. They are also beneficial for urinary tract health because of the proanthocyanidins compound that prevents harmful bacteria from clinging to the bladder[2].

In popular American customs, cranberries are associated with Thanksgiving and have been a consistent hit its sauce form for dinners on the national holiday.

But it doesn’t only have to be consumed the fourth week of November either! Check out this twist on a brunch favorite by Chef Camerron Dangerfield of Atlanta, GA: Cranberry Chicken & Waffles (plus an Apple Cider Mimosa) below.

[1] “Cranberries: The Most Intriguing Native North American Fruit,” American Phytopathological Society.

[2] “What are Proanthocyanidins (PACs)?,” The Cranberry Institute.

#GoodFoodSeries – Corn

 

“Corn,” watercolor.

I love this vegetable/grain (and also the band). Corn. Maize. This ancient food has been around for over 10,000 years. It was originally cultivated by Indigenous peoples in the Americas. And surprise, surprise… that popular colonizer and Indigenous terrorist C. Columbus (among others like him) had a hand in expanding the grain to Europe.

Corn’s expansion across land masses have resulted in varieties and corn of different classifications (i.e. popcorn, dent corn, flint corn, flour corn, sweet corn [1]). The classifications determine the actual texture and colors of the kernels.

Corn Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Corn is loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and also plant compounds that support eye health. On the flip side, it is also a starch that can cause blood sugar to go up due to natural sugars levels. The fiber amount can counteract the starch amounts so as not to do much bodily harm, but be mindful. And be careful: you’d think with this ancient food lasting so long there’d be no need to mess with it, but in the name of profit and maintaining pest resistance, corn has become a largely genetically modified food in this day-and-age.

From corn chips, to cornmeal, to cornflour, to grits, to cornbread, to corn on the cob, among so much more, the options are grand regarding corn and corn-based dishes. Today’s meal is presented to you by ‘Soul Fusion” Chef Danielle Saunders who makes Mixed Kale/Collard Chicken Caesar Salad with CORNBREAD CROUTONS! Check it out. Be blessed.

[1] “Corn | History, Cultivation, Uses, & Description,” Brittanica.

#GoodFoodSeries – Garlic

“Garlic,” watercolor.

Garlic has been revered as an offering fit for the gods and despised as a substance suitable only to be fed to hogs. For over 5,000 years garlic has been used as food, medicine, an aphrodisiac, money, and magic potions.

Garlic warded off the evil eye, was hung over doors to protect medieval occupants from evil, gave strength and courage to Greek athletes and warriors, protected maidens and pregnant ladies from evil nymphs, and was rubbed on door frames to keep out blood thirsty vampires. Garlic clove pendants hung around the neck protected you from the sharp horns of a bull, warded off local witches, kept away the black plague, and even prevented others from passing you (or your horse) in a race.[1]

Garlic is resilient and long-standing; a pungent member of the lily family that deserves respect! Garlic is one of those staples that always stays in your kitchen. I personally keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge as well as a fresh bulb on the counter. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.

Because of garlic’s wondrous flavor and medicinal value, there has been controversy surrounding where it originates from. I guess different regions of the world want bragging rights. Several different sources say it originated in Central Asia though.

Garlic varieties. the accidental smallholder.

Throughout its journey across the world, dozens of varieties and types are currently cultivated. From Bogatyr to Unadilla, from hardneck to softneck, your garlic options are aplenty. The variations will give you subtle flavor differences and color differences.

Regardless which type of garlic you come across or cultivate, you’re pretty much guaranteed medicinal benefits from this glorious bulb. It’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, helps regulate cholesterol, purifies the blood, fights off colds, etc [2].

Garlic Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The Nutrition Facts are according to one clove. There’s actually about 4.47kCal in one, but I’m assuming that since that count is so low it doesn’t register. -shrug-

And for my favorite portion of these posts: the recipes! This one’s a savory brunch dish from Chef Courtnee Futch. Chef Courtnee uses fresh garlic in her Moroccan Spiced Meatballs & Buttermilk Parm Grits. I was sold by every word in the title of this dish. Check out the video below on how to make.

[1]”Origin and History of Garlic,” Grey Duck Garlic.

[2]”7 Surprising Health Benefits of Garlic,” NDTV Food.

#GoodFoodSeries – Tomatoes

“Tomatoes,” watercolor.

Tomati. Tomatl. Tumatle. Tomatas. ToMAYto. ToMAHto. In prehistoric times, the Indigenous peoples of the Andes (Peru, Bolivia area) were the first to discover this fruit and therefore name it. The present-day names for it in English and Spanish remain similar to the original.

Interestingly enough, people didn’t start consuming it until the 1800s because it was originally thought to be poisonous. Evidently, the aroma from the leaves and stems of tomatoes caused people to believe they were not suitable for consumption [1].

Now, people across the globe enjoy over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes. Tomatoes have are now used in countless ways. Sliced and consumed raw on burgers and sandwiches; diced and consumed in salads; diced and/or blended for salsas and pico de gallo; blanched and converted into purees, sauces, and pastes; etc. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Tomato Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Tomatoes are a good source of Potassium and Vitamin C, however as with many things be wary of the amount you consume at one time. The acidity levels can cause heartburn or acid reflux as it counteracts with the acidity levels in the stomach.

Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Pearl Jones. Epicurious.

Chef Kwame Onwuachi of Washington, D.C. shares a savory recipe for Market Suya (Nigerian Skewers) that uses a tomato soubise. Check it out here.

[1] “The Tomato Had to Go Abroad to Make Good,” Texas A&M Horticulture

#GoodFoodSeries – Onion

“Onion,” watercolor.

“Banish (the onion) from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and the dinner to despair.” – Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, columnist

The onion is a staple in many dishes of many cultures and offers tremendous flavor to whatever it comes into contact with. From sweet onions to white, red, yellow, green, leek and shallot ones, the flavor possibilities are virtually endless.

Onion Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

There is conflicting research regarding where this tear-inducing vegetable originated. Some say central Asia, others say the Middle East (Iran/western Pakistan). Regardless, onions have been used medicinally and even for mummification practices over 5000 years ago. Onions were found in the body cavities of mummies and seen as a representation of eternal life due to the seemingly infinite nesting of circles in its anatomy [1].

Onions, also referred to as “Nature’s Ninja,” contains many nutrients essential to building immunity, warding off diseases and cancers. It is also a source of prebiotics–essential for a healthy gut.

Today’s meal is courtesy of award-winning Chef Jernard Wells, also known as the The Chef of Love,  who will show you how to prepare Shallow Fried Catfish with Vidalia Onions and Hot Water Cornbread. He hosts New Soul Kitchen on CleoTV. Check out a clip from the show on how to prepare the meal below:

 

[1] “Onion History,” National Onion Association.