“Good Food,” 17′ x 12′ watercolor and acrylic.

The #GoodFoodSeries finished last month in conjunction with National Culinary Arts Month! Here’s the finalized painting. 🙂 All write-ups on the majority of the food items can be read here. Life happened and the bottom row of food items didn’t get individual blog posts sharing their health benefits along with a recipe from a Black chef, but I encourage you to take the initiative and find out more about these (along with other foods) for yourself!

Hoping you learned some things along the way. I know I did in the process of working on this.

With love,


#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 – Banana

“Banana,” watercolor.

Time to show the cousin of the plantain some love! The banana. Did you know that it’s considered a “high herb” that’s also related to ginger?! The banana plant’s stem is a succulent rather than wooden so that’s why it’s not really a fruit. Originally, the banana peel would have allowed it to be considered a fruit since it houses the seeds of the plant, but due to commercial farming a lot of banana plants’ seeds are so tiny it causes the plants to be sterile, negating its fruit property[1].

Here’s a recap of the banana’s origins from The Plantain post:

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 [2].

More than 1000 varieties of bananas exist today that have been divided into ~50 groups. The most common and commercially produced one is the Cavendish banana (see my painting above). Other types you might find in markets or internationally (like the apple banana, lady’s finger banana, red bananas, cooking bananas *these are really similar to plantain,* etc.).

Banana Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Bananas have many nutritional benefits as well. Here’s a little of what Live Science has to say about the herb:

Depression and mood
Bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression “due to high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter,” Flores said. Plus, vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles. Additionally, the tryptophan in bananas is well known for its sleep-inducing properties.

Digestion and weight loss
Bananas are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against Type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss, according to Flores. In general, bananas are a great weight loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings.

Bananas are particularly high in resistant starch, a form of dietary fiber in which researchers have recently become interested. A 2017 review published in Nutrition Bulletin found that the resistant starch in bananas may support gut health and control blood sugar. Resistant starch increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, which are necessary to gut health[3].

Lastly, I couldn’t not get to this portion of the post and put a recipe for a banana dish that wasn’t banana pudding! It’s my personal favorite dessert ever. This version is caramelized and done by Chef Millie Peartree of Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food in the Bronx, NY. Check out how to make Caramelized Banana Pudding here or in the video below.

[1] “8 Things You Didn’t Know About Bananas,” PBS News Hour. M., Andrew. R., Carey.

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

[3] “Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts,” Live Science. S., Jessie.

#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 – 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.

#GoodFoodSeries – Watermelon

“Watermelon,” watercolor.

“I’ve been drankin… watermelon!” When you’re in the grocery store and can’t keep your eyes off that phatty… >. Nothing like a perfectly sweet watermelon. It’s a refreshing summer delight that will satiate both hunger and thirst simultaneously! The watermelon originated in Africa and has made its way to farms and gardens all across the globe in the form of over 1,200 varieties [1].

Watermelon Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Did you know watermelon can technically be considered a fruit and a vegetable? When consumed as a fruit, its flesh is often “cubed, balled, sliced and enjoyed fresh.” When consumed as a vegetable, the rind can be “stir-fried, stewed and often pickled [1].” What an elite food!

Even with all of that in mind, there are minimal carbs, vitamins and minerals in watermelon. It is comprised of over 90% water though, so eat your water! 🙂

Rather than share a recipe here, I wanted to highlight social work done through culinary experience at Indigo in Houston, TX. Chef and owner Jonathan Rhodes created a multi-course meal entitled “Descendants of Igbo.” Per an article on the experience as featured in the Houston Chronicle, watermelon was on the menu. “…a bracing watermelon soup course called Affirmation of a Stereotype… serves as an indictment against the notion that all [B]lack people like watermelon [2].” All Black people definitely don’t.

Historically, racist images of Black people in America with a watermelon slice in-hand perpetuated that stereotype. A comedian even joked about not eating watermelon in front of white people because of the weight of that stereotype. An article in the Atlantic explains this in great detail. Here’s a excerpt:

Free [B]lack people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by [B]lacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of [B]lack people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure.” [3]

Remember the symbol. Remember the origins. I’d like to challenge you to find a new way to use watermelon if you like it. I hope you enjoy!

[1] Watermelon Facts,” The National Watermelon Promotion Board.

[2] “Restaurant Indigo serves up neo-soul food with a side of history,” Morago, G. Houston Chronicle. 2019.

[3] “How Watermelons Became a Racist Trope,” Black, W. The Atlantic. 2014.