Food facts: Bananas - Buckwheat

Facts and quirky pieces of information about the food we eat always interest me, both from an historical and a nutritional point of view.

Did you know that people who eat a fair amount of fish have lower chances of depression? Or that Australians on average eat 8 - 9 times more salt per day than is required by our bodies.

Up until just over 100 years ago Americans didn't eat tomatoes - they thought they were poisonous! I'm including lots of these food facts on each of the recipe pages on this web site. More are listed here on this page:



Bananas are the largest member of the herb family. Banana plants are the largest plants on earth without a woody stem. They are thought to have originated in Malaysia but the word "banana" is African. They are rich in dietary fibre and potassium. Ripe bananas soothe the stomach. They have a high starch content which means they give us energy and they also work well as laxatives. They are the world's most popular fruit. Australia neither imports or exports bananas.


Barley is a basic food item in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe and in parts of Asia. Barley's primary uses are also for animal feed and to make malt. It is believed to be one of the oldest cultivated grains and is grown in over 100 countries. Barley belongs to the grass family. Because it is a grain food it is high in soluble fibre. It is a good source of calcium, selenium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, and Vitamin B. Barley is sold in various forms depending on how processed it is. Pearled barley is the most common type consumed. It has been processed by being husked, steamed and polished. It is commonly consumed in soups and stews and is used to make lemon barley water. Barley is also sold in its flaked form, to be used as a porridge-like cereal. Barley flour is also available.


The name Basil comes from the Greek word for King - Basilius. It is thought to have originated in Iran and in India but has spread throughout Asia and also to the Mediterranean, where it is particularly popular in Italian cuisine. It is also a prominent ingredient in Thai cooking. This herb has leaves that can be green, purple or variegated, depending on its variety. Basil is said to have a calming affect on the body, particularly on the digestive system. It is also said to be good for the heart. It improves inflammation and is anti bacterial. Basil is still considered, by prominent chefs and cookery authors, to be the King of Herbs.

Bay Leaves

Bay leaves come from several species of the Laurel family. The leaves are used in cooking in both their fresh and dried form. They have a distinctive flavour and fragrance. In culinary usage the fragrance is generally more noticeable than the flavour. Bay leaves are a popular ingredient in European and North American cuisines. They are used in pantries as a moth deterrent. The bay leaves' main medicinal use is to aid digestion.


A good source of protein and fibre. They also contain vitamin C, iron, thiamine, folate, phosphorus and potassium. They have been shown to aid in reducing cholesterol. Most beans contain only 2-3% fat. Beans were among the first cultivated crops in the world. Evidence has shown that beans were cultivated as far back as 7000 BC in Peru and Mexico. When they are combined with nuts, seeds or grains, they form a complete high-fiber vegetable protein. Dried beans are a staple food in many countries of the world.


Beetroot is regarded as a general tonic. It can help with blood disorders, particularly anaemia. It has a high fibre content so is good for those suffering constipation. Beetroot contains calcium, iron and vitamins A and C.


There is evidence that blackberries were eaten in Britain in Neolithic times and were surrounded by superstitions. blackberry leaf was once used as a hair dye to "make the hair black". They are one of the best low fat sources of vitamin E. They are used to ease stomach complaints and treat menstrual cramps.

Black currants

Black, red and white currants were cultivated in the sixteenth century in Holland, Denmark and around the Baltic Sea. They contain three times as much vitamin C as oranges. A tea made from dried blackcurrant leaves is used to treat arthritis, urinary problems, diarrhoea, stomach upsets, bleeding gums and coughs.


Blueberries are a dark purple fruit that can be eaten raw or cooked in pies, muffins and fruit crumbles. When purchasing blueberries look for plump, firm berries that still retain a whitish "bloom". This "bloom' coating is its natural protection against the sun. Blueberries are very good for the eyes with studies showing they improve night blindness and protect against glaucoma and cataracts. They have a very high anti oxidant count, containing 14 mg. of Vitamin C and 0.8 mg Vitamin E per 1 cup of blueberries. Hence they are thought to protect the body against harmful free radicals.


Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family. Studies have shown that this family of foods is effective in fighting cancers, most particularly lung colon and breast. Studies have shown there are sulphur compounds in broccoli that stimulate the production of anti-cancer enzymes. Raw broccoli contains as much calcium as milk.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages. They grow like buds along a long thick stalk. Being a member of the cruciferous family they help prevent certain cancers, most particularly colon cancer. Their name originates from the fact they were known to be growing over eight centuries ago in Belgium. they are best eaten when small as they are then sweeter. Brussels sprouts can easily be over cooked giving them an unpleasant sulphur smell.


Buckwheat is not wheat at all. It is related to the rhubarb family. It is a staple food in Eastern European countries and has a nutty flavour. It was cultivated in south east Asia as far back as 6000 years BC. It is capable of being cultivated in very cold areas and is grown on the edges of the Tibetan plateau. It is used to make flour which is cooked into noodles and pasta. It is also used to make porridge, pancakes and puddings. It is gluten free so it is a handy food for people who suffer coeliac disease. Buckwheat is a complete protein and it contains all eight essential amino acids. It is good for the bladder, the kidneys and the lungs.



Read other interesting food facts (in alphabetical order):

Allspice - Avocados
Allspice, almonds,amaranth, apples, apricots, asparagus, aubergines, avocados

Bananas - Buckwheat
Bananas, barley, basil, bay leaves, beans, beetroot, black berries, black currants, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat

Cabbage - Chestnuts
Cabbage, capsicum, caraway, cardamom, carrots, cashews, cauliflower, cayenne, celeriac, celery, cheese, cherries, chestnuts

Chicken - Cumin
Chicken, chickpeas, chicory, chilies, chives, cinnamon, cloves, coconut, coriander, corn, couscous, cucumbers, cumin

Dates - Fish
Dates, dill, eggplant, eggs, fennel, fenugreek, figs, fish

Galangal - Green Beans
Galangal, garlic, ginger, globe artichokes, gooseberries, grapefruit, grapes, green beans

Hazelnuts - Limes
Hazel nuts, honey, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kafir lime leaves, kale, leeks, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemons, lentils, lettuce, limes

Macadamia Nuts - Mustard
Macadamia nuts, mace, mandarins, mangoes, maple syrup, marjoram, mar ow, melons, milk, millet, mint, miso, molasses, mushrooms, mustard

Nectarines - Oregano
Nectarines, nutmeg, oats, olive oil, onions, oranges, oregano

Papayas - Pumpkin
Papayas, paprika, parsley, parsnips, peaches, peanuts, pears, peas, pecans, pineapples, pine nuts, plums, potatoes, pumpkin

Quince - Rye
Quinces, quinoa, radishes, raspberries, rice, rosemary, rye

Sage - Sweet Corn
Sage, sea vegetables, seeds, silver beet, soy sauce, sprouted seeds, squash, strawberries, swede, sweet corn

Tamari - Zucchini
Tamari, tarragon, tempeh, thyme, tofu, tomatoes, triticale, turkey, turmeric, turnips, vanilla, walnuts, wheat, zucchini