Avocado

The avocado is a pear-shaped fruit with skin that can be thick or thin, green or purplish black, and smooth or bumpy, depending on the variety. The flesh of the avocado is pale yellow-green and has the consistency of firm butter and a faint nut-like flavor.

Family Lauraceae Scientific name Persea americana Common name avocado, alligator pear y Rich source of monounsaturated fat y Good source of fiber

VARIETIES

The two most commonly sold varieties of avocados in the United States are the Hass and Fuerte, both grown in California. The Guatemalan Hass avocado, the most popular variety, has a thick, pebble-textured and purplish skin and usually weighs no more than 12 ounces. The Fuerte avocado, a Guatemalan-Mexican hybrid, has a more pronounced pear shape and is slightly larger than the Hass. It has a shiny, thin, dark-green skin with small, raised, pale spots. Florida-grown varieties, which are Mexican in origin and include the Booth, Waldin, and Lula, are larger, less costly, and more perishable than California avocados. In addition, they contain less fat and fewer calories and lack the rich, creamy flavor of the California varieties.

ORIGIN & BOTANICAL FACTS

The avocado, native to the tropics and sub-tropics of Central America, was first cultivated in the United States in the mid-1800s in Florida and California. Ninety percent of today's domestic crop of avocados is grown in California. With a harvest of 168,000 tons, the United States is the second-largest grower of avocados in the world, behind Mexico at 718,000 tons.

The avocado tree, a popular shade tree in rural and suburban Hawaii, California, and Florida, is a dense evergreen that may reach a height of 80 feet.

Avocados do not ripen on the tree; ripening is inhibited by hormones produced by the leaves. This delay in ripening is a commercial advantage because the fruit may be left unharvested for long periods (up to 7 months). However, overripe avocados may seed internally and become moldy.

USES_

Avocados that are unblemished and heavy for their size are best. Ripe avocados yield slightly to finger pressure, but if the finger leaves a dent, the avocado may be overripe. Ripening can be hastened by enclosing the fruit in a paper bag and leaving at room temperature. Ripe avocados should be refrigerated and used within 1 to 2 days.

Because cooking destroys the flavor of avocados, it is not recommended. Fresh avocados can be sliced and added to cooked dishes just before serving. They can be diced and mixed into salads, mashed to use in toppings or dips, pureed to use in cold soups and desserts, or julienned to include in sushi rolls. When exposed to air, avocado flesh discolors quickly. Addition of lemon or lime juice to mashed or pureed avocados can delay discoloration. Placing an avocado pit in a bowl of mashed avocados will not prevent discoloration.

NUTRIENT COMPOSITION

Avocados are known for their high fat content; however, most is monounsaturated fat. They are low in saturated fat and are sodium- and cholesterol-free. Avocados are a good source of dietary fiber. They also contain lutein, one of the carotenes that is a phytochemical with antioxidant properties.

1 medium (200 g)

NUTRIENT CONTENT

Energy (kilocalories)

324

Water (%)

74

Dietary fiber (grams)

10

Fat (grams)

31

Carbohydrate (grams)

15

Protein (grams)

4

Minerals (mg)

Calcium

22

Iron

2

Zinc

1

Manganese

-

Potassium

1,204

Magnesium

78

Phosphorus

82

Vitamins (mg)

Vitamin A

123 RE

Vitamin C

16

Thiamin

0.2

Riboflavin

0.2

Niacin

3.8

Vitamin B6

0.5

Folate

124 Mg

Vitamin E

3

Note: A line (-) indicates that the nutrient value is not available.

158 Part II: Encyclopedia of Foods

Banana

The banana is an elongated, curved, tropical fruit with a smooth outer skin that peels off easily when the fruit is ripe. Bananas are harvested while still green but may be ripened under controlled conditions before being delivered to the grocery store. Yellow bananas are fully ripe when the skin has small flecks of brown. The flesh of the ripe banana has a distinct creamy texture and sweet fragrance.

Family Musaceae

Scientific name Musa paradisiaca L. Common name banana, plantain

^ High in vitamin B6

^ A good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber

Varieties

The familiar yellow banana sold in the United States is the Cavendish variety, which is 5 to 10 inches in length and available all year. Red bananas from Latin America are slightly wider and are heavier and sweeter than yellow bananas. Their red skin turns purple when ripe. Manzano bananas (also called finger or apple bananas) are short and chubby with a mild, strawberry-apple flavor. They turn fully black when ripe. Plantains (also called green or cooking bananas), thick-skinned bananas that range from green to yellow to brown-black, are a staple food in many parts of the world. When unripe plantains are cooked, they have no banana flavor; however, when cooked ripe, they have a sweet banana taste and a slightly chewy texture.

Origin & botanical fActs

Originating in the Malaysian region about 4,000 years ago, the banana was not introduced to the Americas until the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of1876. Today, the banana is the leading fresh fruit sold in the United States and the second leading fruit crop in the world. The United States grows about 4,000 tons of bananas annually and imports a total of1.6 million tons annually from South America. Worldwide, India is the largest banana grower, followed by Africa, where bananas are mostly kept for local use.

A banana tree is technically not a tree, but rather a tree-like herb that belongs to the grass family. It can attain a height of 10 to 40 feet when fully grown. The banana is actually a berry that has been cultivated to have no seeds. The non-woody banana stalk develops a flowering stem and seven to nine buds that each sustain one cluster (hand) of 10 to 20 bananas (fingers). The stalks are cut after producing the fruit, and new stems grow from buds in the rootstock.

Uses

Ripening of green bananas can be hastened by putting the fruit into a paper bag. Ripe bananas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; although the skin turns dark brown, the fruit remains edible. Unripe bananas should not be refrigerated. Bananas become sweeter as they ripen (as most of the starch converts to sugar) and are most often consumed raw or in desserts such as puddings, pies, and sweet breads. Banana slices should be dipped into acidulated water (dilute lemon juice) to prevent browning. Pureed banana can be added to pancake batter. Because they are rich in tannins, plantains are bitter and must be cooked to be palatable.

NutrieNt composition

Bananas are high in vitamin B6 and are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Red bananas and plantains are good sources of vitamin A. (See the Appendix, page 436, for the nutrient content of plantains.)

serving size:^^

serving size:^^

NutRient Content

Energy (kilocalories)

109

Water (%)

74

Dietary fiber (grams)

3

Fat (grams)

1

Carbohydrate (grams)

28

Protein (grams)

1

Minerals (mg)

Calcium

7

Iron

0

Zinc

0

Manganese

0

Potassium

467

Magnesium

34

Phosphorus

24

Vitamins (mg)

Vitamin A

9 RE

Vitamin C

11

Thiamin

0.1

Riboflavin

0.1

Niacin

1

Vitamin B6

0.7

Folate

23 Mg

Vitamin E

Berry is a general term for fruits that are usually small, rounded, and pulpy with seeds embedded in a juicy flesh. The term is loosely applied to a range of fruits belonging to vastly diverse botanical families. Aside from the more popular berries such as the blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, currant, raspberry, and strawberry, there are a host of less common species, each with its own distinctive shape, color, fragrance, and taste. Berries were a staple in the diets of our hunting-and-gathering ancestors and still play an important role in the culinary traditions of many peoples around the world. American Indians used various types of berries as food, medicine, dyes, and food preservatives. Early American settlers developed a taste for the many varieties growing wild in woods and fields of North America, and they learned to use the berries for food and medicine Research has shown that several berries have medicinal properties. (Cranberries and blueberries help prevent urinary tract infections.) Most berries contain generous amounts of vitamin C, and some are a good source of fiber because of the skin and seeds.

Blackberry

Family Rosaceae

Scientific name Rubusfructicosus

(European), Rubus villosus (American) Common name blackberry, bramble berry, dewberry, goutberry

Family Rosaceae

Scientific name Rubusfructicosus

(European), Rubus villosus (American) Common name blackberry, bramble berry, dewberry, goutberry

Also called bramble berries because they grow on thorny bushes (brambles), blackberries range from one-half to an inch long when mature and are purplish black. Like raspberries, to which they are related, blackberries are oblong and are made up of small edible seeds that are encased in juicy globules adjoining a fleshy base.

The most common varieties of blackberry are the Cherokee (a sweet variety) and the Marion (a tart variety). Boysenberries, loganberries, ollalaberries, sylvanberries, and tayberries are hybrids of blackberries and raspberries.

Blackberries are found throughout the temperate zones of the world, growing wild in meadows and at the edge of forests. The bushes flower in spring and bear fruit throughout the summer. Borne in loose clusters on stems that grow from the canes, the berries change from green to red and then to purplish black as they ripen. Blackberry bushes are so vigorously invasive that they are considered a weed in some areas.

Plump, deeply colored blackberries are the most delicious to eat, and immature red berries are tart. Blackberries are best used immediately, because they spoil quickly. They can be lightly covered and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. Blackberries can be eaten fresh; used as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, and pancakes; tossed into a fruit salad; pureed to make a dessert sauce; or made into blackberry pie. About 98 percent of commercially produced berries are processed into jams, fillings, juices, wines, and brandies.

Blackberries are high in vitamin C, are a good source of dietary fiber, and contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical that may help prevent cancer.

Blueberry

Family Ericaceae

Scientific name Vaccinium myrtillis Common name blueberry

Family Ericaceae

Scientific name Vaccinium myrtillis Common name blueberry

Blueberries, a species native to North America, grow in shades varying from light blue to dark purple. Round to oval, the berries have a smooth skin that is somewhat waxy and covered with a powdery silver film or "bloom." Blueberries were once called star berries because of the star-shaped calyx on the top of each fruit. Cultivated blueberries can be as large as 3/4 inch in diameter, although the "wild" varieties are only 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter.

At least 50 species of blueberries, both cultivated and wild, have been identified. The two types of cultivated blueberries are highbrush and rabbiteye. Highbrush blueberries, V corymbosum L., are grown throughout North America, whereas the rabbiteye varieties, V ashei Reade, are better adapted to southern regions of the United States. Lowbush (wild) blueberries, V angustifolium Ait., grow naturally in Maine, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. These plants produce blueberries that are prized for their intense flavor. The lowbush (wild) blueberry varieties grow to about 3 feet in height, whereas the highbush and rabbiteye cultivars can grow to more than 10 feet if not pruned. The desirable flavor, color, and texture of today's cultivars are the result of nearly 100 years of hybridization.

Blueberries have been used as a source of food and folk medicine for thousands of years. Early explorers of North America, such as Lewis and Clark, noted that American Indians smoked the berries to preserve them for winter and pounded the berries with beefto make a jerky called pem-mican. Blueberries were also appreciated by the early American settlers as both a food and a medicine.

The blueberry plant is a compact, woody shrub that is related to the bilberry, cranberry, and huckleberry. Blueberries grow in clusters, but because the berries ripen at different times, they must be handpicked to harvest the best of the early fruit. Later, a harvesting machine is used to gently shake each bush so that only the ripe berries fall off. The blueberry season lasts only from mid-April to late September, beginning in the southern states and moving north as the season progresses. The berries are very perishable and easily damaged by improper handling and extreme temperatures.

Blueberries are one of the most popular berries in the United States, second only to strawberries. They can be eaten dried or fresh as a snack food; added to cereals, salads, yogurt, or ice cream; used as an ingredient in pancakes, muffins, pies, breads, or sauces or as cake topping; or pureed to make jam or jelly. Although the blueberry season is short, berries can be bought in the off-season in frozen, canned, or dried form.

Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C.

Recent research has shown that blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infection by increasing the acidity of urine, which helps destroy bacteria, and by preventing bacteria from colonizing on the bladder walls.

Cranberry

Family Ericaceae

Scientific name Vaccinium macrocarpon,

Vaccinium oxycoccus Common name cranberry, bounceberry, lingonberry

Family Ericaceae

Scientific name Vaccinium macrocarpon,

Vaccinium oxycoccus Common name cranberry, bounceberry, lingonberry

Cranberries, which are native to North America, are small, smooth-skinned, round berries that are glossy deep red to red-

maroon. About one-third of an inch in diameter and half-inch to an inch long, the cranberry has seeds that are attached to the center of the fruit and are surrounded by a tart white pulp. Also called bounceberries, because they bounce when ripe, cranberries belong to the same family as blueberries and huckleberries; but unlike these fruits, cranberries are too tart to eat raw.

Cranberries are divided into three types. The most common is the large Vaccinium macrocarpon, grown for commercial purposes. Vaccinium oxycoccus, commonly called the mossberry or small cranberry, is found wild in some areas. Vaccinium vitis-idaea, or the lingonberry, grows well in very cold climates and is currently being developed as a crop in several eastern European countries.

Cranberries grow on a flat, woody, evergreen "vine" that thrives in acidic soil. Cranberry vines are planted in peat bogs prepared in a way that allows the plants to be covered with water to protect them from cold damage. The pink or purple cranberry flowers can be self-pollinated, but crop yield is much greater when bees are used to facilitate pollination. The berries are borne on short uprights 6 to 8 inches in length that rise from a dense mass of stems on the soil surface.

Cranberries are extensively cultivated for commercial use in the northern states. Massachusetts is the largest producer, followed by Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington, and Oregon. Cranberry cultivation is also common throughout Canada. Harvested between Labor Day and Halloween, cranberries enjoy their peak market season from October through December.

The Pilgrims dined on cranberry dishes at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Once only a traditional holiday food, cranberries are now consumed throughout the year as juice drinks, dried snacks, sauces, and relishes. Because of their sour taste, they must be combined with sweet foods such as sugar or orange juice to make them palatable. Only about 10 percent of the commercial crop is sold fresh; the rest is processed into juice or canned cranberry sauce.

Cranberry juice cocktail is considered effective for preventing or treating urinary tract infections, in part because of its high acidity and its ability to inhibit bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract.

Fresh cranberries are a good source of vitamin C. In addition, they contain bioflavonoids, plant pigments with antioxi-dant properties.

Currant

Family Saxifragaceae Scientific name Ribes rubrum, Ribes vulgare, Ribespetraeum, Ribes sativum, Ribes nigrum, Ribes ussuriense Common name currant (red, pink, white, black, and Asian)

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