#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 – 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 – Strawberry

“Strawberry,” watercolor and acrylic.

Ahh, the strawberry. Did you know that it’s a member of the Rose family? It’s as sweet as it smells and a versatile “fruit” (technically not a fruit but instead an enlarged receptacle of the flower from which it grows [1]) that is native to North America and used in many dishes.

There are 3 main varieties of strawberries: June-bearing, everbearing, and day neutral. These classifications give farmers and gardeners alike insight on when to expect the fruit to flourish. Rumor has it June-bearing strawberries have the best flavor.

Strawberry Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The strawberry is loaded with Vitamin C & K and can support bone and cardiovascular health, regulate blood pressure, and reduce inflammation [2]. All the more reasons to enjoy it.

Strawberry Lemonade Cake

“Strawberry Lemonade Cake,” J. D. Adams.

And if you’re interested in indulging in the strawberry as a dessert, check out the recipe for a Strawberry Lemonade Cake from award-winning Baker Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes. It sounds absolutely delicious and I am going to test this one out.






[1] “Strawberry: A Brief History” Integrated Pest Management: University of Missouri

[2] “Promising Health Benefits of the Strawberry: A Focus on Clinical Studies” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

#GoodFoodSeries – Arugula

“Arugula,” watercolor and acrylic.

Happy National Culinary Arts Month! As someone who appreciates good food and the way it’s artfully prepared, I would like to present to you the #GoodFoodSeries. Every day this month will feature a painting I’ve done of a food item, its nutritional benefits, and a way to prepare it artfully. When possible, Black chefs and their restaurants will be highlighted as it relates to the food item of the day.

Arugula Nutrition Fact Label. Created by Keanna.

First up: Arugula! It is a peppery flavored leafy green (one of my favorites). Because arugula is loaded with antioxidants that ward off contaminants which could affect your libido and reproductive health, it is  historically considered an aphrodisiac. Arugula originates from the Mediterranean and is now commonly found on plates and in gardens and farms across the globe.

Haitian chef Sylva Senat is the executive chef of the Pyramid Club in Philadelphia, PA. Check out a recipe for a salad, Arugula, Spinach & Frisée, that includes baby arugula (and edible orchids!) here.