Category Archives: Food

Asparagus and Smelly Urine

Asparagus is very popular in Europe as a vegetable. People in some countries prefer white variety which is not different but lacks chlorophyll as it is grown in areas of very low light. Eating asparagus results in Smelly urine smell.

https://www.amazon.in/Super-Agri-Green-Asparagus-Seeds/dp/B01E2BJ1D4

Asparagus contains a non-toxic acid called Asparagusic acid. This acid contains sulphur element. When it is eaten, the acid in the stomach breaks down the Asparagusic acid into volatile sulphur compounds like mercaptan.

When a person who has consumed asparagus goes to urinate, the sulphur compounds evaporate very fast and get separated from urine and reach the nose giving rotten eggs or rotten cabbage like smell. Studies indicate that effect can be felt within 20 minutes after consumption of asparagus.

Mango : The King of Fruits

Hiuen Tsang, Chinese scholar after being in India is going back. Time AD 627-643, on the fabled Silk Route. Apart from his knowledge of Buddhism, his rucksack contains an extraordinary fruit called Mango.

The name in hindi AaM is derived from Sanskrit word AMRA which seems to be the loan word from Dravidian and is related to Tamil words for Mango like “mamaram”. Portuguese were responsible for transferring the name to the West. It is growing in India since 4000 years at least.

Moguls were great connoisseurs of the fruit. Akbar got 100000 mango trees planted in Lakhi Bagh (Lakhi: 100,000, Bagh means Garden) near Darbhanga Bihar India. Others who relished the fruit were Shahjahan and Noor Jehan, Aurangzeb, Sher Shah Suri. Raghunath Peshwa got large numbers planted all over Maharashtra.

Main Constituents:

Citric acid and related compounds are responsible for sour taste. Several terpenes have been found in unripe fruit..

Ripe mango contains volatile compounds like alpha terpineol, ocimene, limonene, 3-carene etc. Yellow colour is due to beta Carotene.

Nutrients

Mangoes are rich in potassium, about 8% carbohydrate with 1.6 % dietary fibre. Very rich in vitamin A , C, B-6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Some famous Indian Varieties:

1: Alphonso or Hapoos
King among the mangoes. Named after Portugal admiral D Afonso de Albuquerque. Deogad in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra has got the GI tag of genuineness.

IMG_6278

2: Dasehri
It is birth place is Malihabad in Lucknow. Soft, succulent and mild.

3: Banarasi Langda
It was born in an orchard belonging to a Langda (lame) fellow and thus got this name.

4: Himsagar
Fibre less, creamy and full of pulp. Pride of Murshidabad in West Bengal.

5: Fazli
Quite big in size, famous in Malda of West Bengal. Late maturing.

6: Chaunsa:
From Bihar. Full of Flavour. It is pressed into mouth and juice is sucked.

7: Gulab Khaas
Native of Jharkhand. It is graceful mango

8: Kesar

Aromatic fruit of Junagadh Gujarat. Giving a tough fight to Hapoos. Plantations are on foothills of mount Girnar.

IMG_6277

9: Bedmi:

Taste depends upon the plucking time.

10. Totapuri: it is abundant in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.

11: Sindoori: it gets its name from the vermillion colour of the skin.

12: Banganapalli/ Bagan Phali/ Safeda
From Andhra’s small town Banganapalli. Sweet, yellow and fibre less.

13: Himam Pasand/ Humayun Pasand
A cross made from Banganapalli and Malgoa. It is very popular in Deccan.

14: Chandrakaran: it is delicacy from Kerala. Sweet and sour. Quite costly.

Carotenoid Rich Cucumbers

Cucumber along with raw carrots, radish, and tomatoes has been a part of salad for the time immemorial. Cucumber is also consumed in cooked and pickled form in many parts of the world. People on diet for weight control eats this vegetable as it is often regarded as a health food because of its low calories and its high vitamins and minerals content.

Common cucumber varieties are white to greenish inside and are of low nutritional quality. On the other hand, orange fleshed cucumber is rich in carotenoids. India, being the center of origin for cucumbers, is known to be the treasure-house of cucumber diversity. Mostly the first variety is used as it is abundantly grown. caroteinoids are part of many fruits and vegetables like carrots, papaya, mangoes and autumn leaves.

But in the Mamit district of Mizoram, two varieties are found which are very rich in carotenoids as high as 6.5 μg/100 g as compared to 1.17 μg/100 g in the best check variety Himangi.. They have yellow to orange mesocarp and endocarp; an extremely rare trait.

cucumber

Previously orange-flesh cucumber was reported to be derived from a land race named Xishuangbanna Gourd from a Prefecture Xishuangbanna of the Yunnan Province in the South-west China, which is closer to north-eastern part of the India. Studies indicate that orange fleshed cucumber of China (Xishuangbanna Gourd) is closely related to Indian cucumber found in Mizoram. This suggests that orange-fleshed Indian cucumber might have migrated to China from northeastern parts of the country; which is the primary centre of its origin.

All this information is from ICAR.

Revival of local rice varieties in India

In order to increase the yield of rice to meet the needs of food in the country, high yield laboratory engineered rice varieties also called hybrid varieties have replaced the local varieties which yield less all over the country. Many areas like Punjab and Haryana in North India which were not rice growing areas have become the major rice growers. This though has helped the Green Evolution and commercialised the farming, has played havoc by excessive water drainage from the underground and contamination of water by heavy metals present in the fertilisers and insecticides which cause many diseases. But the white or polished rice that whole of our country people have become accustomed to have less beneficial nutrients and more starch which increases the risk of diseases like diabetes.

Paddy crop plantation

Some farmers in the rice growing West Bengal are trying to reverse this trend by resorting to grow the local varieties which despite being low yielding have nutritional value which more than compensate the low yield. One such farmer is Bhairav Saini who lives in Bankura, about 200 km from Kolkata.

For several years now,  he and many farmers are engaged in this task in many districts of West Bengal. Growing the rice by traditional methods without use of fertilisers and insecticides, in fact this also lowers the cost of growing the crops.

Saini, and several others in Hooghly, Dinajpur and 24 South Parganas, in West Bengal, have been engaged in reviving lost, indigenous paddy varieties of Bengal, simply because they’re cognizant of the health benefits of grains grown the traditional way. Burdwan, the rice bowl of Bengal now grows organic Gobindobhog rice in over 30,000 hectares of land. Besides Gobindobhog, other old varieties of scented rice like Radhatilak, Kalonunia, Kalojeera, Tulsimukun etc are also gaining popularity slowly. These have a high mineral and vitamin content along with other health benefits.

Unlike his peers in North India, Saini is not driven by profit making but due to his concern for the health issues of the people. As the times are changing and organic products are a buzzword, the rice they are now growing have started fetching higher prices. Some of the local varieties they are reviving have names like Kala Bhaat, Bohurupee, Leelabati, Durga bhog, Oli, Radhunipagol, Kalo nunia, Katari bhog, Radha tilak, Kalash and so on. Setting up the seed banks is also an important endeavour.

Inputs from an article published in the Economics Times of India.

Why lobsters and Crabs turn red on cooking……..

Popular Food

Lobsters and Crabs are the two Sea foods are mouthwatering and popular all over the world. So much so that fairs are held to celebrate the lobster.  One such festival is held in Rockland, Maine which is attended by thousands.

lobster

Cooking Chemistry

When cooked these creatures turn coppery red. Although it is not necessary to become a chemist to become chefs but cooking is a science where chemistry takes place at each step. Some chemicals break down to get converted into edible and easily digestible form. Similarly in many foods there are color changes when cooked which is also due to chemical modification of ingredients. Here also, chemistry is occurring.

Normal lobster is of muddy color when alive. But the final color is dependent on the amounts of a pigment called astaxanthin which is also the pigment responsible for the red color of carrots, pink of flamingos, salmon and crabs. This pigment is red in color when free. It’s chemical structure is given below.

Due to the ketone and alcohol groups this compound is very active chemically easily binds other chemicals like proteins. Pigment is a powerful antioxidant. Lobsters ingest it to keep stress of survival under control has been found be beneficial human beings.

What happens in the lobster is that this pigment binds to the proteins in its skin. Due to this binding, it is forced to change its geometric structure and gets twisted to fit in. Depending on the type of protein it bonds to, there’s either what’s called a bathochromic shift, which turns the pigment blue, or a hypsochromic shift, to yellow. When you’re looking at a lobster, you’re seeing light reflecting through different layers of free and bonded astaxanthin–a lot of colors mixed together, hence the muddy brown.

So the final color is a combination of many colors like red, blue and amount and type  of proteins present in the body of lobster and the age . The muddy color is good for camouflaging from the predator because it becomes indistinguishable from the muddy water.

When the lobster is cooked the proteins are denatured and release the astaxanthin pigment turning the cooked meat into coppery red.

Leipziger Lerche or Songbird Pastry

While doing a crossword, I came across this word Leipziger. It is in Germany. Lerche actually means Lark in German language. The hint was the famed Pie which used actual Lark as one of the ingredients. It was a very popular delicacy. 

I was shocked that humans didn’t leave alone even the smaller birds for using them in their food. Man in his initial days was a hunter and hunted in groups the big game. Slowly he discovered that many plants- like grasses contain the seeds like precursors of wheat are edible. This diverted them from hunting towards farming but eating the animal flesh is a part of the food.

From the bird lists of Germany, three types of Larks are found there. These are Crested Lark, skylarks and one another variety but the most abundant is Crested Lark. The name Lark is given to this family of birds because they sing in very sweet voice. Here I am producing a picture of Crested Lark found in our area.

crested lark

The tradition of consuming Larks dates back to Middle Ages. Although it was consumed in France, Italy and Germany, but Leipzig was the foremost. References say that the Larks in this region were most perfect and succulent and needed no butter for cooking. Cookbooks say that these were cooked in many ways like pan fried with diced apples, ginger, peppers and sugar or simmered in beef stock with raisins and beer.

Craze for these innocent birds was such that over 404,000 larks!!! were sold in the year 1720 alone within Leipzig, with over 1 million more being caught in the surrounding area and sent to other German cities and towns or even as far as Spain and Russia

Practice went on till 1876, when the king Albert of Saxony made it illegal to hunt the birds as these were helpful to the farmers because these birds feed on the insects which harm the crops. 

The pastry is still made under this name but without the Larks. Instead other ingredients are used. 

Giloye or Tinospora cordifolia: A wonderful Herbal Vine!!

Giloye as its called in India is a vine. Its scientific name is “Tinospora cordifolia”. Common names are Heart-leaved moon seed, guduchi. It is an herbaceous vine of the family Menispermaceae indigenous to the tropical areas of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

Giloy vine : source wiki

If you happen to see a Giloye vine climbed on a tree and claiming the branches, you will think that ropes are entwined over the branches. No leaves. But these are beautiful ripe fruits on it. Most of the time it shows no leaves. Usually it entwines the trees and creeps up. It grows up abundantly in dry regions of North India. The berries are ripe in May June.

These is a forest near our home which has it growing abundantly. Parrots like its ripe berries. I think they know its benefits better than us.

Parakeets enjoying the berries

It is sometimes called Amrita which means “Forever Alive” because it can live for ever. Even if you think that the vine has dried up, it shows up leaves in a surprising manner.

This herb is of great medicinal value in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has been found very useful in the treatment of fevers, digestion and increases the platlets in the blood. It increases immunity and eases the respiration. More details of Its health benefits are highlighted in the auyurvedic website.

Note: First image is taken from Wikipedia. Rest of the images are my own

A Symbol of Hope

During intense winters, plants and trees go into a dormancy a period of stagnation. They withdraw the chlorophyll -a pigment responsible for green colour and a must for photosynthesis– from the leaves because they know that Sun is not going to come up strongly for photosynthesis to happen and food making process to start. The leaves change color to yellow, orange and mixture of these colors. Because besides chlorophyll which overpowers the colors of other pigments there are Xanthophylls which are yellow pigments, and carotenoids (the pigment which imparts the beautiful color to carrots, papaya, and mangoes and so on) which give leaves an orange color.

Slowly the leaves die and begin falling down. The tree branches become nude. But tree is not dead. It is waiting patiently for the tough time of winter to be over. As soon as the winter starts receding, the new leaves begin coming forth. The new beginning of life. At first, due to the absence of chlorophyll, the color of other pigments shine. Leaves are beautiful translucent. As the sun starts coming regularly with renewed force, chlorophyll starts building up masking the color of other pigments. Soon the leaves become intense green shade.

Thus the the new leaves are a symbol of Spring and new hope of brighter future. Let us hope and pray to God this also happens to the world….

Ashure or Noah’s Pudding

Every living things requires energy to be alive. Our bodies continuously spend energy to do work. Food which consists of carbohydrates, Oils and Fats, Proteins are primarily food classes. There are other categories of food like fruits and vegetables which provide micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. All of these are required for a normal body to be healthy.

When these items are available, human beings evolved recipes to make the food more tastier and delicious. Different regions of the world have produced different kinds of categories depending on the ingredients available there.

Those recipes are even better which contains maximum nutrients. These are wholesome foods. One such recipe is Ashure or Noah’s Pudding. It has its origin in Turkey. Noah’s name has a story related to it. It is said when Noah’s ship landed with survivors they didn’t have much left. They had some grains like whole wheat, chickpeas, and the like.

The recipe consists of boiling the whole wheat and keep it submerged in the boiled water. Wheat is rich in carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins, Legumes which are rich in proteins are soaked and then boiled. These are then mixed with the boiled wheat in water. A thick pudding results, sweetener like sugar or jaggery is added and then dry fruits and nuts are added. The finishing is also done by topping with dry nuts, coconut powder etc.

The ingredients like legumes and dry fruits and nuts can very depending upon the availability.

This dish is a specialty during Muharram and totally vegan. This pudding is distributed in the community and is considered auspicious.

Many videos are available on the YouTube for preparing this recipe. It is very nutritious.

It’s nutritional value is given in the link

Nutritional Value of Ashure

And here is one link of recipe on YouTube.

Note: The picture of dish and links are taken from Google and YouTube.

Drupe!!!!!

here are many fruits and nuts which have a stone or pit inside which has a hard shell and encloses the seed inside and fleshy outer part. Such fruits are known as Drupe. While in some of them we eat the fleshy part and discard the stone, while in others fleshy outer part is discarded and the seed is edible. This way the tree does not expose the seed to the world. Examples of the first category are avocados, mangoes, peaches, apricots, and plums, etc. Nuts fall In the second category called Nuts which the world loves for their nutritional value. They are full of energy and minerals. Examples are almonds and walnuts. Some pictures of Drupe. Please note that pictures have been saved from the Internet for illustration purposes.

Drupe Examples: We eat outer flesh.

Drupe: Of which we eat the seed or nuts