Food facts: Papayas - Pumpkins

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:

 

Papayas

Papayas are also known as pawpaws. They come from South America. Papayas contain an enzyme called papain which aids the digestion process. They contain good amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene plus iron, potassium and calcium.

Paprika

Paprika is a milder relative of cayenne. It is made from the grinding of either dried red or green peppers. It is used to both colour and to season food. This spice has a high sugar content so it will burn if overcooked.

Parsley

Parsley derives it's name from the Greek word meaning rock celery. It is the world's most popular herb and comes in two types, flat leaf and curly. Parsley is an excellent source of Vitamin C, iron and calcium. chewing on parsley after eating garlic or onions can help neutralize the smell and taste.

Parsnips

Parsnips contain vitamins C and E, iron, folic acid and potassium. They are best picked after the first frost as the starch in them is then converted to sugar making them taste sweet.

Peaches

Most of the vitamin C content of the peach lies in and under the skin so eat them without peeling. they are an excellent source of beta carotene which is an anti-oxidant which is said to lower the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Peaches were once known as Persian apples.

Peanuts

Peanuts are not really nuts but members of the legume family. They are used in Asia in Satay Sauce. In African cuisines they are used in stews. In the west they are eaten, when roasted and salted, as snack food. They are also popular when processed into peanut butter. They are high in fat. Peanuts are a feature in Peruvian Creole cuisine. Some people have mild to severe peanut allergies. These allergies seem to be related to the roasting of peanuts. Un roasted peanuts are widely eaten in India and China but peanut allergies are virtually unheard of there.

Pears

Pears were extensively cultivated by the Greeks and Romans. They contain a reasonable amount of Vitamin C, fibre and potassium. They are used as a diuretic and a laxative.

Peas

A good source of protein and fibre. They also contain vitamin C, iron, thiamine, folate, phosphorus and potassium.

Pecans

Pecans are nuts that look like elongated walnuts. However, they taste sweeter than a walnut. They have the highest fat content of any nut. The fat they contain is unsaturated fat. The antioxidants and plant sterols found in pecans reduce high cholesterol by decreasing the bad LDL cholesterol levels. Pecans can be eaten fresh in salads or used in sweet desserts such as pecan pie. Pecan trees may produce nuts for 300 years.

Pineapples

Pineapples contain bromelain which is an anti bacterial enzyme that has anti inflammatory properties so it may be useful for arthritis suffers. The pineapple is a native of Brazil and neighbouring Paraguay and has been cultivated for thousands of years. Pineapples can weigh up to 20 pounds. More than one-third of the world's commercial supply of pineapples comes from Hawaii.

Pine nuts

Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines. They have been eaten in Europe and Asia since Paleolithic times. Pine nuts are often toasted to bring out their flavour.

Plums

There are over 2000 varieties of plums in existence. Even in ancient Roman times, there were already over 300 varieties of European plums

Potatoes

Potatoes are starchy tuberous vegetables from the nightshade family. The word potato comes from the Spanish word potata. There are about five thousand varieties of potato with around three thousand of those available in South America alone. Potatoes include both protein and fibre and are high in complex carbohydrates. They contain reasonable quantities of vitamins B, C iron and potassium. It is said that humans can survive on a diet of potatoes providing they consume milk and butter with them. The milk and butter provide the only two missing dietary needs, i.e. vitamins A and D.

Prosciutto

Prosciutto is a dry-cured, spiced, Italian ham usually sliced thinly. It resembles very thin bacon. It is made from the hind leg or thigh of a pig or wild boar. The meat is generally salted for about two months in a cool environment. It is then rinsed off and left to dry and age for around 18 months or so. Prosciutto is available from the delicatessen section in supermarkets. It is quite expensive but because it has a strong flavour you usually only need a very small amount of it in a recipe.

Pumpkin

Pumpkins are from the gourd family. Antarctica is the only continent where pumpkins won't grow. Pumpkin carving was brought to America by the Irish. Back home in Ireland they used to carve turnips but in the US it was easier for them to use pumpkins. Pumpkins are 90 % water. They contain high amounts of Vitamin A, beta carotene and potassium. They are a diuretic as well as a laxative. Pumpkins can be used in soups, breads and desserts and their seeds can be roasted as they are very tasty and nutritious.

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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