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FareShare Fun Facts
To the best of our knowledge, information
contained in our "Fun Facts" at
the time of publication is accurate.
However, we cannot guarantee absolute
Other Food Information:
a poem by
Karen Shaw Matteson
FareShare Fun Fact 1: Walnuts
Walnuts contain a lot of omega-3 polyunsaturated lineolic acid; as a result they are nutritionally valuable but as with all nuts with a high oil content, they go rancid quickly so must be stored where it is cold and dark. There are 6 genera and 40 species in the walnut family; the one most commonly found on store shelves is the English or Persian walnut (Juglans regia L.). In Hawaii this walnut, along with several others, has been found to do well and bear nuts at altitudes of 3,000 to 5,000 feet but will not bear at lower altitudes.
The Greeks were familiar with it four centuries before Christ and near the end of the fourth century A.D. the Romans had cultivated it throughout Europe.
One ounce/28 grams (approximately 14 halves) of dried English walnuts contains 182 calories, 1 g water, 4.1 g protein, 5.2 g carbohydrate, 1.3 g dietary fiber, 17.6 g fat, 1.6 g saturated fatty acids, 4.0 g monounsaturated fatty acids, 11.1 g polyunsaturated fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol.
FareShare Fun Fact 2: Tree Sap (Syrups)
Some tropical palms yield a much higher source of sugar than other trees. The sap of the Asian sugar palm can contain 12% sucrose while the sap of the sugar maple may only yield 3% and the birch about 1%. Coconut, date, sago and oil palms are not as productive as the sugar palm but much more productive than maple and birch. The syrup from several species of agave can contain approximately 70% fructose and 20% glucose so this syrup tastes sweeter than most others.
FareShare Fun Fact 3: Potatoes
The potato belongs to the very large Solonaceae family which contains plants used for food, medicinal and ornamental purposes. Other members of the family include tomato, eggplant, peppers (hot and sweet), tomatillo, ground cherry (aka husk tomato or poha), belladonna, nightshade, mandrake as well as the familiar petunia. The potato we grow in our gardens and find on our grocery shelves is the Solanum tuberosum whose origins are South and Central America. Spanish explorers brought it to Europe around the middle of the 1500's. Since then it has become a very important food throughout many parts of the world. Jacques Pepin, in his " La Technique", suggests that potatoes were probably the greatest contribution the New World made to the Old. Delia Smith, in her book "Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course", suggests that learning to cook potatoes so that they really taste like potatoes is one of the most important lessons in cooking. The plant contains the toxic alkaloids solanine and chaconine and most parts of the plant are poisonous; only the tubers are eaten and even those become poisonous if exposed to light long enough for the chlorophyll to develop and they start to turn green which is an indication of higher levels of the alkaloids. Potatoes should be stored in the dark at temperatures of 45-50F (7-10C). Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin C.
Here is a brief rough nutritional analysis you might find interesting:
One RAW POTATO WITHOUT SKIN, weighing 112 grams contains: 88 calories, 88.4 g water, 2.3 g protein, 20.1 g carbohydrates, 1.8 g dietary fiber, 0.1 g fat, 0 saturated fat, 0 monounsaturated fat, 0 polyunsaturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 22 mg Vitamin C. One 202-gram potato,
BAKED WITH SKIN, contains: 220 calories, 4.7 g protein, 51 g carbohydrates, 26 mg Vitamin C.
One 156-gram potato, BAKED WITHOUT SKIN, contains: 145 calories, 3.1 g protein, 33.6 g carbohydrates, 2.3 g dietary fiber, 20 mg Vitamin C.
One 135-gram potato, BOILED WITHOUT SKIN, contains: 116 calories, 2.3 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 10 mg Vitamin C.
FareShare Fun Fact 4: Chocolate!
Some nutritional information (approximate):
28 grams (1 ounce) of unsweetened baking chocolate contains: 148 calories, 0.4g water, 2.9g protein, 8.0g carbohydrates, 4.4g dietary fiber, 15.7g fat, 9.2g saturated fat, 5.2g monounsaturated fat, 0.5g polyunsaturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 28IU Vitamin A, 1.4IU Vitamin E.
5 grams (1 tablespoon) of unsweetened dry cocoa powder contains: 11 calories, 0.2g water, 1g protein, 2.7g carbohydrates, 1.5g dietary fiber, 0.7g fat, 0.4g saturated fat, 0.2g monounsaturated fat, 0g polyunsaturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1IU Vitamin A.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. Theobromine is not as strong a stimulant as caffeine but it is toxic to dogs.
1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate contains about 30mg of caffeine which is about a third that contained in a cup of coffee. 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder contains about 20mg of caffeine.
Chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards in 1519. The word 'cocoa' comes from the Spanish word 'cacao' which is believed to be derived from 'kakawa', a word that may be about 3000 years old. The Aztec word for the chocolate drink they made was cacahuatl.
In 1564 Girolamo Benzoni stated in his 'History of the New World' that this drink was made by drying, roasting and grinding the cacao beans then mixing the resulting paste with water and occasionally flavoring it with chilli, flowers, vanilla, honey and achiote (aka annatto).
Linnaeus named the cacao tree 'Theobroma cacao'; the word theobroma is Greek for 'food of the gods'.
Natural cocoa powder, although having a strong chocolate taste, is also bitter, astringent and acid (about pH 5).
'Dutched' or alkalized cocoa comes from beans that have been treated with potassium carbonate which raises the pH from the acidic pH5 to either neutral (pH7) or alkaline (pH8).
This is important information for bakers because some recipes need the acid to react with baking soda and produce carbon dioxide for leavening and if you use dealkalized or Dutched cocoa in these recipes there will be no reaction with the baking soda and the taste will be alkaline and soapy. Cocoa beans also contain flavanols, which are an antioxidant that can increase blood flow to the brain, however the cocoa we normally find in stores has less flavanols as they were removed because they make the cocoa taste bitter.
Ian MacDonald of the University of Nottingham in England said that in tests given to women who were asked to do complex tasks, those who were given drinks of cocoa high in flavanols showed a significant increase in blood flow to the brain compared with those who did not drink the cocoa. Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School said he found similar health benefits in the Cuna Indian tribe in Panama who drink cocoa exclusively; he also says there are no reported cases of dementia among these people. Several major chocolate companies have started promoting the flavanol content of their dark chocolates.
Thanks to Bobbie for suggesting chocolate as this week's topic and for providing some of the information. There is a section devoted to chocolate on our fareshare website. Good stuff! <G>
FareShare Fun Fact 5: Tea
"You can taste and feel but not describe, the exquisite state of repose produced by tea, that precious drink which drives away the five causes of sorrow." - Emperor Chien Lung, Manchu Dynasty.
The tea family (Theaceae) includes 23 genera and 380 species of trees and shrubs, among which are the tea plant and the camellia. Tea, (Thea sinensis, syn. Camellia sinensis) is a native of Assam, India. There are about a thousand known varieties. Strictly speaking, only beverages made from this plant are called "tea"; all others, while often called herbal teas, are "tisanes".
Tea contains caffeine which, according to one source, may be the most widely consumed behaviour-modifying chemical in the world. Caffeine has different effects on the body; it stimulates the central nervous system, relieves drowsiness and fatigue, quickens reaction times and increases energy production in the muscles. No surprise then that in the 12th century, Buddhist monks in Japan valued tea as an aid to the long hours they spent in study. In the 17th century two Dutch physicians thought tea was an excellent medicine for practically every complaint; apparently one of them was so enthusiastic about the beverage he made his patients drink from 50 to 200 cups a day! On the negative side, high doses of caffeine can cause restlessness, nervousness, insomnia and can produce an abnormally fast heartbeat. BREWED tea contains less caffeine than BREWED coffee in spite of the fact that coffee beans have 1% to 2% and tea leaves have 2% to 3%, because a larger weight of coffee is extracted per cup. Tea contains approximately the same amount of caffeine as many cola beverages.
Wars have been fought over tea. The British were so desirous of the beverage that they paid the Chinese with opium in order to maintain a supply and when the Chinese rebelled against this practice the infamous Opium Wars erupted; eventually the British redirected their focus to tea production in their own colonies, particularly India.
Although fresh tea leaves taste bitter and astringent it is probable that originally the youngest and most tender leaves were chewed raw; however, about 2000 years ago people in China learned how to process tea in order to obtain a number of different flavours and colours. There are three major styles of tea: green tea, oolong tea and black tea. There are also other teas, much prized in many circles, such as: white tea; pu-erh (my husband calls this 'compost tea' because of its strong earthy flavour and aroma; one of our personal favourites when we can find good quality leaves); lapsang souchong (smoky); scented teas (scented with a variety of flower petals); gyokura, kabesucha and hoji-cha (specialty Japanese green teas).
When in Hong Kong a few years ago we found as many shops devoted to the sale of tea as we would to wines in North America; we also discovered that the prices and qualities of the product were every bit as wide-ranging. Fortunately we brought quite a bit back with us as we soon discovered it was extremely difficult to purchase an equivalent quality here (Canada and the U.S.). In fact, one Chinese friend told us that they generally consider the tea sold here, particularly that in tea bags, to be "floor sweepings". Wow!
For a more in depth look at tea you might wish to refer to one of my favourite foody reference books: On Food and Cooking, the science and lore of the kitchen, by Harold McGee.
FareShare Fun Fact 6: Bananas and Plantains
Bananas and plantains (the 'funny looking' bananas; not the herb that belongs to a different family entirely) are members of the same family, Musaceae. This is a fairly large family of plants, some of which are strictly ornamental, like the Travellers Tree and the Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise), while others are an important food source. Varieties of Musa paradisiaca are the main edible bananas seen in most groceries. Musa nana or dwarf or Chinese banana is another one seen more often these days in North America markets than it used to be. Banana plants have been taken all over the world and while they are mainly grown in tropical regions there is at least one variety that has been grown as far north as southern British Columbia, Canada, (not in a hothouse; does bear fruit but is not grown commercially, at least as far as I know).
As with many plants that have become important to us, there is a large amount of folklore and numerous legends surrounding the banana. Many uses, aside from food, have been found for the various parts of the plant by people of many countries: roof material, containers for food and water, fibers for clothing, medicines, animal feed, decoration. One type of banana has starchy edible underground stems.
Bananas do not grow on trees; they grow on tall herbaceous plants, often in clumps. Each plant will have one flower stem, which slowly bends over and hangs down, from which it produces one stem which may contain as many as 300 individual bananas, after doing this that plant dies. Reproduction is by shoots that spring up around the base of the plant. Strictly speaking, bananas and plantains are seedless berries. The longer bananas are curved because the tip of the fruit grows upward against the force of gravity.
Both bananas and plantains store their energy as starch which is converted to sugar as they ripen. Bananas undergo quite an amazing change: the starch-to-sugar ratio of a mature but unripe banana is 25 to 1; this changes to 1-to-20 in the ripe fruit, meaning that their sugar content becomes about 20%. By comparison, the sugar content of a ripe plantain is about 6%. Although they are closely related and in fact, their names are often used interchangeably, the name banana is generally used to refer to the sweeter dessert variety. You may come across references to 'cooking' bananas which mostly means those that are not as sweet and are usually cooked before eating. Plantains keep their starchy nature and can be cooked in much the same manner as potatoes. Both have a defensive feature that causes them to produce brown spots in the unripe fruit but once ripe they can be stored in the refrigerator and although the skins will turn black the fruit inside will stay white.
One raw medium size banana weighing 114 grams contains approximately: 105 calories; 84.7 g water; 1.2 g protein; 26.7 g carbohydrates; 1.8 g dietary fiber; 0.6 g fat; 92 IU Vitamin A; 10 mg Vitamin C; 451 mg potassium; 22 mg phosphorus.
More Banana Monkey Business:
A professor at CCNY for a physiological
psych class told his class about bananas. He said the expression "going
bananas" is from the effects of bananas on the brain. Read on:
FareShare Fun Fact 7: Flavoured Alcohols
The chemistry of alcohol makes it suitable for flavouring with flowers, fruits, herbs, nuts and spices which can be either soaked in the alcohol or distilled with it. Here are some examples:
Abricot - apricots
FareShare Fun Fact 8: Papaya
Euell Gibbons, in his Beachcomber's Handbook (without which I would hate to be marooned on a desert island - the book, I mean <G>) wrote that he considered few fruits more delicious than a "firm but sweet papaya bathed lightly in lime juice".
This member of the Caricaceae family, Carica papaya, which is known by several different 'common' names including: papaya, pawpaw, mikana, milikana, papaia and he'i, is a native of tropical America. As an example of why common names can cause confusion, in the U.S. the name pawpaw refers to a different plant entirely, the Asimina triloba (which has small globular brownish fruits), while in several other countries the name 'pawpaw' refers to what the Americans call the 'papaya'. Yay for botanical names! All that having been said however, for the purposes of this article I will call a papaya a papaya (at least until one falls on my head).
A single tree may have as many as 50 fruit in different stages of growth, some 20 inches long and weighing as much as 20 pounds each. The papaya ripens from the center; as it ripens it gets softer. This change causes the fruit to become more aromatic; it also to tastes sweeter, even though the sugar content stays the same, because the sugars release more easily from the softer fruit. The dried seeds can be ground and used as a slightly mustardy seasoning.
Green papayas, which contain more of the protein-digesting enzyme papain than the ripe fruit, are used in salads and pickles. The presence of this enzyme also means that papaya can't be made into a jelly unless it is cooked. Centuries ago peoples in Latin America used to wrap bruised papaya leaves around meat in order to tenderize it.
There are other species of papaya that can be found in stores; two of them are: (a) Carica pubescens, which is larger and not as sweet but is richer in papain and carotenoid pigments; and (b) Carica pentagono (babaco) which is a hybrid with tart, cream-coloured, seedless flesh.
According to one of my favourite nutritional reference books: 1 medium raw papaya weighing 304 grams contains approximately: 117 calories, 270g water, 1.9g protein, 29.8g carbohydrates, 2.8g dietary fiber, 6122IU Vitamin A, 188mg Vitamin C, 72mg calcium, 780mg potassium.
FareShare Fun Fact 9: Yams or Sweet Potatoes?
I yam what I yam - or am I a sweet potato? Hmmmmmm.
Well it appears that if I am a member of the Dioscorea family I am a true yam; however, if I am an 'American' yam I am really a sweet potato and a member of the morning glory family (Ipomoea). Still confused? <G>
Yam; Dioscorea species; several members of this family have large edible starchy tubers which can weigh 100 pounds and there is some evidence that they may have been cultivated in Asia as long ago as 8000BCE.
Boiled or baked yam in the amount of 58 grams (1/2 cup of cubes) contains approximately: 79 calories; 47.7 g water; 1 g protein; 18.8 g carbohydrates; 0.1 g fat; no cholesterol; 0 Vitamin A; 8 mg Vitamin C.
Sweet potato; Ipomoea batata; incorrectly called a yam in a marketing campaign in the 1930's.
One sweet potato BAKED WITH SKIN in the amount of 114 grams contains approximately: 118 calories; 83 g water; 2 g protein; 27.7 g carbohydrates; 3.4 g dietary fiber; 0.1 g fat; 24877 IU Vitamin A; 28 mg Vitamin C.
One sweet potato BOILED WITHOUT SKIN in the amount of 164 grams (1/2 cup mashed) contains approximately: 172 calories; 119.5 g water; 2.7 g protein; 39.8 g carbohydrates; 0.5 g fat; 27968 IU Vitamin A; 28 mg Vitamin C.
Sweet potatoes should not be stored at temperatures below 55F (13C); when they are exposed to cold temperatures their centers may stay hard, even when cooked, so don't keep them in the refrigerator or a cold storage room. Most of them get sweeter during cooking. There are several varieties with some being dry and starchy and others being moist and sweet. The popular dark orange variety contains high quantities of beta-carotene.
FareShare Fun Fact 10: Sandwiches
The popular story about how a sandwich came to be called a sandwich is that the Earl of Sandwich got hungry while gambling but didn't want to interrupt his game so he told the server to bring him a couple of slices of bread and butter with something between them. The definition of a sandwich given in my copy of New Larousse Gastronomique is: foodstuff composed of two slices of buttered bread with some edible substance between. Doris McFerran Townsend in her "The 1,000 Fabulous Sandwiches Cookbook" (1965) says that there are two kinds of sandwiches - bad and good; according to her way of thinking the bad one consists of two slices of bread with a slab of meat or some leftovers slapped in between them while a good one is the product of time and effort as is all good cooking. (I reckon that might depend on how hungry you are, what ingredients are available, how much time you have and whether or not you just love a slab of cold roast whatever between two slices of buttered bread.) Larousse states that it has long been the custom in the French countryside to give workers in the fields meals consisting of meat between two pieces of wholemeal or black bread and in the southwest parts of France to provide people setting out on a journey with meat (mostly pork and veal) between two pieces of bread.
Then there is the definition in one of my dictionaries: sandwich - noun - [after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, (1718-1792), said to have eaten these in order not to leave the gaming table for meals] 1. two or more slices of bread with a filling of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables etc. between them. 2. anything like a sandwich in arrangement. verb form - to place or squeeze between two other persons, places or things.
There is an interesting paragraph at the beginning of the chapter on sandwiches in my old copy of 'The New Cook Book' of 1905 which I will quote here: "The good housekeeper is never at a loss for sandwich-filling. If her larder is depleted of meat, she turns to eggs; if the hens are not complaisant, there is still the worthy cheese, the goodly cucumber, the crisp lettuce, the homely cress. Marmalade jam and jelly are generally to be secured and honey is not always inaccessible. In short, the sandwich is a joy forever in the subtleness of its interior. Beautiful effects may be secured in coloring, pink, yellow, green and red sandwiches being very easily arranged. For a crimson sandwich there is mashed beetroot, for a vermilion shade tomato catsup, for a deep or lighter yellow, pounded cheese or egg yolks, and for green, lettuce, cress, parsley and pistachio nuts. Salmon sandwiches or minced ham are pink and cream cheese white. The lot may be combined in rainbow effect with great success. Of course one-day old bread of fine, firm texture is the first consideration. The best of butter, a little softened so as to spread perfectly, and the most careful cutting into shape and size exactly."
FareShare Fun Fact 11: The Amazing Cucumber
information was in The New York Times several weeks ago as part of their
"Spotlight on the Home" series that highlighted creative and fanciful
ways to solve common problems.
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Fun Facts: Herbs and Spices
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