Capsicums are fruits and can be red, green, yellow, orange, white, purple, brown and lime green. Being riper, red capsicums are sweeter than green capsicums. Rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, they also supply potassium, folate and other B-group vitamins. Red capsicums contain nearly twice as much vitamin C, beta-carotene and folate than green ones and are an excellent source of antioxidants.
Provide protein needed for growth, development and repair. Low GI – helps to control appetite and blood glucose levels – important for people with diabetes. Out of all food groups a diet high in legumes is most closely linked to living a longer life. Eating legumes may also help improve the production of elastin in skin. Used extensively in the Middle East, Spain and France
Fresh coriander, also known as cilantro, is native to the Mediterranean region. It has a distinctive strong aromatic and spicy flavour and adds exotic freshness to food. Coriander leaves, stems, roots and seeds are used. The seeds may be used whole or ground and are one of the main ingredients of curry powder, hence, coriander is found in many Indian recipes.
Cumin is native to the Mediterranean region. Aromatic, earthy and slightly bitter tasting, cumin us widely used in Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Spanish food. When used as a whole seed, it is best to grind right before cooking, or it can become bitter and lose its aroma. Briefly toasting the whole seeds in a dry pan is essential to enhance the flavour. Cumin is frequently used in curries, masalas and grain dishes.
Several varieties of eggplant are available in New Zealand. Skin colours range from a deep purple, almost black, though to a light purple with creamy streaks to all white. Eggplants supply small amounts of a range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and B-group vitamins. The purple pigment in the skin contains high levels of antioxidants called anthocyanins.
Garlic contains allicin – a protective plant compound that inhibits the growth of many bacteria, moulds, yeasts and viruses. It can also help to improve heart health by lowering cholesterol. Garlic is a major ingredient of Mediterranean and Asian cooking. As long ago as 3,000 BC, garlic was consumed as a medicinal and revered by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Vikings and Chinese.
In comparison with other chili peppers, the Jalapeno (pronouced Hala’peno) has a heat level that varies from mild to hot depending on how it was grown and how it was prepared. The heat, is due to capsaicin (where the word Capsicum comes from) and is concentrated in the seeds and the veins. They are often used for medicinal purposes as an antiseptic or to numb pain. They are named after Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz.
Kumara is also known as the sweet potato. It has been grown and eaten in New Zealand since the tenth century. The orange variety is rich in Vitamin A, which helps to defend the body against infection. The carbohydrate in kumara has a low GI – so is broken down and digested slowly. This ensures the slow release of carbohydrate into the blood, making kumara a good food for people with diabetes, or those wanting to manage their appetite. Kumara is an excellent source of vitamin C and supplies a range of carotenoids as well as potassium and vitamin E. Kumara also supplies some B-group vitamins.
Lemons are high in pectin, a type of soluble fibre that helps to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Lemon juice is high in vitamin C and is an antioxidant, performing as a natural preservative.
Limes are a great source of vitamin C to assist with wound healing and iron absorption. Originally they were used to control scurvy in the British navy hence the nickname “Limey”. Mexico is the world’s biggest lime producer and exporter.
Mint has Mediterranean origins and has been used since ancient times. A frequent ingredient in Middle Eastern food, mint is great in soups, grain dishes and teas. Mint adds fantastic flavour and freshness to salads, dressings, sauces and soups. There are many varieties of mint available, including apple mint, pineapple mint, peppermint, spearmint.
Thought to have originated in South America and an excellent source of beta-carotene which, the body converts to vitamin A. They are also a source of vitamin C, A, folate, fibre and potassium.
Spinach originated in Asia and was introduced to Europe by Arab traders during the 13th century. Spinach is high in folate, which is necessary for healthy cell development. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, beta-carotene and folate, and also has a high level of fibre. It provides a small amount of some of the B group vitamins, potassium and calcium and offers a rich source of antioxidants.
Tahini is a paste made of sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are high in polyunsaturated fat, which provides benefits to the heart, blood vessels, skin and immune system. They are also high in dietary fibre and vitamin E. Sesame seeds are believed to be one of the first condiments as well as one of the first plants to be used for edible oil.