Seafood of the Week – Sea cucumber

December 17, 2013 at 7:43 PM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | Leave a comment
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Sea cucumber

Sea cucumber

Sea cucumbers are marine animals of the class Holothuroidea used in fresh or dried form in various cuisines.
The creature and the food product are commonly known as bêche-de-mer (lit. “sea-spade”) in French, trepang (or trīpang) in Indonesian, namako in Japanese, and balatan in Tagalog. In Malay, it is known as the gamat.
Most cultures in East and Southeast Asia regard sea cucumbers as a delicacy.
A number of dishes are made with sea cucumber, as this ingredient is expected to have a strong cultural emphasis on health. In most dishes, the sea cucumber has a slippery texture. Common ingredients that go with sea cucumber dishes include winter melon, dried scallop, kai-lan, shiitake mushroom, and Chinese cabbage.

 

 

Dried sea cucumbers

Dried sea cucumbers

 

Sea cucumbers destined for food are traditionally harvested by hand from small watercraft, a process anglicised into “trepanging” (after the Indonesian noun trepang). They are dried for preservation, and must be rehydrated by boiling and soaking in water for several days. They are mainly used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine soups or stews.
Many commercially important species of sea cucumber are harvested and dried for export for use in Chinese cuisine as hoi sam. Some of the more commonly found species in markets include:
* Dried sea cucumbers
* Holothuria scabra (sandfish)
* Holothuria spinifera (brown sandfish)
* Holothuria fuscogilva (bat susu, white teatfish)
* Actinopyga mauritiana (spiny sea cucumber)
* Stichius japonicus
* Parastichopus californicus (giant California sea cucumber)
* Thelenota ananas (prickly redfish)
* Acaudina molpadioides
Western Australia has sea cucumber fisheries from Exmouth to the border of the Northern Territory; almost all of the catch is sandfish (Holothuria scabra). The fishing of the various species known as bêche-de-mer is regulated by state and federal legislation.
Five other species are targeted in the state’s bêche-de-mer harvest, these are Holothuria noblis (white teatfish), Holothuria whitmaei (black fish), Thelenota ananas (prickly redfish), Actinopyga echninitis (deep-water redfish), and Holothuria atra (lolly fish).
In the far north of Queensland, Australia, sea cucumber are harvested from the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. Targeted species include Holothuria noblis (white teatfish), Holothuria whitmaei (black teatfish) and H. scabra (sand fish). Divers are supplied air via hose or “hookah” from the surface and collect their catch by hand, diving to depths of up to 40 m.
The largest American species is Holothuria floridana, which abounds just below low-water mark on the Florida reefs. There are plans to harvest this species for the sea cucumber market.

 

 

 

Jar of dried, gutted sea cucumbers

Jar of dried, gutted sea cucumbers

The trade in trepang, between Macassans seafarers and the aborigines of Arnhem Land, to supply the markets of Southern China is the first recorded example of trade between the inhabitants of the Australian continent and their Asian neighbours.
The Asian market for sea cucumber is estimated to be US$60 million. The dried form accounts for 95% of the sea cucumber traded annually in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan.
It is typically used in Chinese cuisines. The biggest re-exporters in the trade are China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Of the 650 species of sea cucumbers, just 10 species have commercial value. In 2013, the Chinese government cracked down on the purchasing of sea cucumbers by officials as their expensive price tag could be seen as a sign of opulence.
In Japan, sea cucumber is also eaten raw, as sashimi or sunomono, and its intestine is also eaten as konowata, which is salted and fermented food (one of a variety of shiokara). The dried ovary of sea cucumber is also eaten, which is called konoko or kuchiko.

 

 

 

Both a fresh form and a dried form are used for cooking. The taste is described as “tasteless and bland”. Individually, the dried form is also used for traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese folk belief attributes male sexual health and aphrodisiac qualities to the sea cucumber, as it physically resembles a phallus, and uses a defence mechanism similar to ejaculation as it stiffens and squirts a jet of water at the aggressor. It is also considered a restorative for tendonitis and arthritis.

 

 

One of America’s Favorites – Chicken

October 21, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Posted in chicken, One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Oven-roasted rosemary and lemon chicken

Oven-roasted rosemary and lemon chicken

 

Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world, and is prepared as food in a wide variety of ways, varying by region and culture.

 

 
The modern chicken is a descendant of Red Junglefowl hybrids along with the Grey Junglefowl first raised thousands of years ago in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Chicken as a meat has been depicted in Babylonian carvings from around 600 BC. Chicken was one of the most common meats available in the Middle Ages. It was widely believed to be easily digested and considered to be one of the most neutral foodstuff.[citation needed] It was eaten over most of the Eastern hemisphere and a number of different kinds of chicken such as capons, pullets and hens were eaten. It was one of the basic ingredients in the so-called white dish, a stew usually consisting of chicken and fried onions cooked in milk and seasoned with spices and sugar.
Chicken consumption in the United States increased during World War II due to a shortage of beef and pork. In Europe, consumption of chicken overtook that of beef and veal in 1996, linked to consumer awareness of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).

 

 

Chicken in a public market

Chicken in a public market

Modern varieties of chicken such as the Cornish Cross, are bred specifically for meat production, with an emphasis placed on the ratio of feed to meat produced by the animal. The most common breeds of chicken consumed in the US are Cornish and White Rock.
Chickens raised specifically for food are called broilers. In the United States, broilers are typically butchered at a young age. Modern Cornish Cross hybrids, for example, are butchered as early as 8 weeks for fryers and 12 weeks for roasting birds.
Capons (castrated cocks) produce more and fattier meat. For this reason, they are considered a delicacy and were particularly popular in the Middle Ages.

 

 
Edible components
Main
* Breast: These are white meat and are relatively dry.
* Leg: Comprises two segments:
1 The “drumstick”; this is dark meat and is the lower part of the leg,
2 the “thigh”; also dark meat, this is the upper part of the leg.
* Wing: Often served as a light meal or bar food. Buffalo wings are a typical example. Comprises three segments:
1 the “drumette”, shaped like a small drumstick,
2 the middle “flat” segment, containing two bones, and
3 the tip, sometimes discarded.
Other
* Chicken feet: These contain relatively little meat, and are eaten mainly for the skin and cartilage. Although considered exotic in Western cuisine, the feet are common fare in other cuisines, especially in the Caribbean and China.
* Giblets: organs such as the heart, gizzards, and liver may be included inside a butchered chicken or sold separately.
* Head: Considered a delicacy in China, the head is split down the middle, and the brains and other tissue is eaten.
* Kidneys: Normally left in when a broiler carcass is processed, they are found in deep pockets on each side of the vertebral column.
* Neck: This is served in various Asian dishes.
* Oysters: Located on the back, near the thigh, these small, round pieces of dark meat are often considered to be a delicacy.
* Pygostyle (chicken’s buttocks) and testicles: These are commonly eaten in East Asia and some parts of South East Asia.
By-products
* Blood: Immediately after slaughter, blood may be drained into a receptacle, which is then used in various products. In many Asian countries, the blood is poured into low, cylindrical forms, and left to congeal into into disc-like cakes for sale. These are commonly cut into cubes, and used in soup dishes.
* Carcase: After the removal of the flesh, this is used for soup stock.
* Chicken eggs
Heart and gizzard
* Liver: This is the largest organ of the chicken, and is used in such dishes as Pâté and chopped liver.
* Schmaltz: This is produced by rendering the fat, and is used in various dishes.

 

 

Chicken Peking (Philippines)

Chicken Peking (Philippines)

Raw chicken can be frozen for up to two years without significant changes in flavor or texture. Chicken is typically eaten cooked as when raw it often contains Salmonella.
Chicken can be cooked in many ways. It can be made into sausages, skewered, put in salads, grilled, breaded and deep-fried, or used in various curries. There is significant variation in cooking methods amongst cultures. Historically common methods include roasting, baking, broasting, and frying. Today, chickens are frequently cooked by deep frying and prepared as fast foods such as fried chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken lollipops or buffalo wings. They are also often grilled for salads or tacos.
Chickens often come with labels such as “roaster”, which suggest a method of cooking based on the type of chicken. While these labels are only suggestions, ones labeled for stew often do not do well when cooked with other methods.
Some chicken breast cuts and processed chicken breast products include the moniker “with Rib Meat.” This is a misnomer, as it is the small piece of white meat that overlays the scapula, and is removed with the breast meat. The breast is cut from the chicken and sold as a solid cut, while the leftover breast and true rib meat is stripped from the bone through mechanical separation for use in chicken franks, for example. Breast meat is often sliced thinly and marketed as chicken slices, an easy filling for sandwiches. Often, the tenderloin (pectoralis minor) is marketed separately from the breast (pectoralis major). In the US, “tenders” can be either tenderloins or strips cut from the breast. In the UK the strips of pectoralis minor are called “Chicken mini-fillets”.
Chicken bones are hazardous to health as they tend to break into sharp splinters when eaten, but they can be simmered with vegetables and herbs for hours or even days to make chicken stock.
In Asian countries it is possible to buy bones alone as they are very popular for making chicken soups, which are said to be healthy. In Australia the rib cages and backs of chickens after the other cuts have been removed are frequently sold cheaply in supermarket delicatessen sections as either “chicken frames” or “chicken carcasses” and are purchased for soup or stock purposes.

 

 

Chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes and spices.

Chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes and spices.

Raw chicken maintains its quality longer in the freezer as compared to when having been cooked because moisture is lost during cooking. There is little change in nutrient value of chicken during freezer storage. For optimal quality, however, a maximal storage time in the freezer of 12 months is recommended for uncooked whole chicken, 9 months for uncooked chicken parts, 3 to 4 months for uncooked chicken giblets, and 4 months for cooked chicken. Freezing doesn’t usually cause color changes in poultry, but the bones and the meat near them can become dark. This bone darkening results when pigment seeps through the porous bones of young poultry into the surrounding tissues when the poultry meat is frozen and thawed. It is safe to freeze chicken directly in its original packaging, however this type of wrap is permeable to air and quality may diminish over time. Therefore, for prolonged storage, it is recommended to overwrap these packages. It is recommended to freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use, but it is still recommended to overwrap or rewrap it. Chicken should be away from other foods, so if they begin to thaw, their juices won’t drip onto other foods. If previously frozen chicken is purchased at a retail store, it can be refrozen if it has been handled properly. Chicken can be cooked or reheated from the frozen state, but it will take approximately one and a half times as long to cook, and any wrapping or absorbent paper should be discarded.

 

 

 

Fall Harvest: Persimmon

October 11, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Posted in fruits | 1 Comment
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Persimmons are available for a short window in the fall and early winter – look for bright, heavy-feeling fruits.

A branch heavily laden with persimmons

A branch heavily laden with persimmons

Persimmons are the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. Diospyros is in the family Ebenaceae. In color the ripe fruit of the cultivated strains range from light yellow-orange to dark red-orange depending on the species and variety. They similarly vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and in shape the varieties may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx generally remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easy to remove once the fruit is ripe. The ripe fruit has a high glucose content. The protein content is low, but it has a balanced protein profile. Persimmon fruits have been put to various medicinal and chemical uses.
Like the tomato, persimmons are not popularly considered to be berries, but in terms of botanical morphology the fruit is in fact a berry.

Commercially and in general, there are two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.
The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatably astringent (or “furry” tasting) if eaten before completely softened. However, the sweet, delicate flavor of fully ripened persimmons of varieties that are astringent when unripe, is particularly relished. The astringency of tannins is removed in various ways. Examples include ripening by exposure to light for several days, and wrapping the fruit in paper (probably because this increases the ethylene concentration of the surrounding air). Ethylene ripening can be increased in reliability and evenness, and the process can be greatly accelerated, by adding ethylene gas to the atmosphere in which the fruit are stored. For domestic purposes the most convenient and effective process is to store the ripening persimmons in a clean, dry container together with other varieties of fruit that give off particularly large quantities of ethylene while they are ripening; apples and related fruits such as pears are effective, and so are bananas and several others. Other chemicals are used commercially in artificially ripening persimmons or delaying their ripening. Examples include alcohol and carbon dioxide which change tannin into the insoluble form. Such bletting processes sometimes are jumpstarted by exposing the fruit to cold or frost. The resultant cell damage stimulates the release of ethylene, which promotes cellular wall breakdown.

One traditional misconception is that persimmons are to be ripened till rotten. This is a confusion of the processes of controlled ripening with the processes of decay, possibly arising from problems of translation from Asiatic languages onto English. Rotting is the action of microorganisms such as fungi, and rotting persimmons are no better than any other rotting fruit. Sound persimmons should be ripened till they are fully soft, except that the carpels still might be softly chewy. At that stage the skin might be splitting and the calyx can easily be plucked out of the fruit before serving, which often is a good sign that the soft fruit is ready to eat.
Astringent varieties of persimmons also can be prepared for commercial purposes by drying. Tanenashi fruit will occasionally contain a seed or two, which can be planted and will yield a larger more vertical tree than when merely grafted onto the D. virginiana rootstock most commonly used in the U.S. Such seedling trees may produce fruit that bears more seeds, usually 6 to 8 per fruit, and the fruit itself may vary slightly from the parent tree. Seedlings are said to be more susceptible to root nematodes.
The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly sold as fuyu. Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests, but rather are far less astringent before ripening, and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. Non-astringent persimmons may be consumed when still very firm, and remain edible when very soft.
There is a third type, less commonly available, the pollination-variant non-astringent persimmons. When fully pollinated, the flesh of these fruit is brown inside—known as goma in Japan—and the fruit can be eaten firm. These varieties are highly sought after and can be found at specialty markets or farmers markets only. Tsurunoko, sold as “chocolate persimmon” for its dark brown flesh, Maru, sold as “cinnamon persimmon” for its spicy flavor, and Hyakume, sold as “brown sugar” are the three best known.
Before ripening, persimmons usually have a “chalky” taste or bitter taste.

A ripe hachiya persimmon fruit

A ripe hachiya persimmon fruit

Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When eaten fresh they are usually eaten whole like an apple or cut into quarters, though with some varieties it is best to peel the skin first. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half and eating from the inside out. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy, and the texture is unique. The flesh is very sweet and when firm due to being unripe, possesses an apple-like crunch. American persimmons and diospyros digyna are completely inedible until they are fully ripe.
In China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam after harvesting, ‘Hachiya’ persimmons are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques, outdoors for two to three weeks. The fruit is then further dried by exposure to heat over several days before being shipped to market.

In Korea, dried persimmon fruits are used to make the traditional Korean spicy punch, sujeonggwa, while the matured, fermented fruit is used to make a persimmon vinegar called gamsikcho (감식초). The hoshigaki tradition traveled to California with Japanese American immigrants.
In Taiwan, fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with limewater to get rid of bitterness. Slightly hardened in the process, they are sold under the name “crisp persimmon” (cuishi 脆柿) or “water persimmon” (shuishizi 水柿子). Preparation time is dependent upon temperature (5 to 7 days at 25–28 °C (77–82 °F)). In some areas of Manchuria and Korea, the dried leaves of the fruit are used for making tea. The Korean name for this tea is ghamnip cha (감잎차).
In the state of Indiana (US), persimmons are harvested and used in a variety of dessert dishes most notably pies. It can be used in cookies, cakes, puddings, salads, curries and as a topping for breakfast cereal. Persimmon pudding is a dessert using fresh persimmons. An annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest, is held every September in Mitchell, Indiana. Persimmon pudding is a baked pudding that has the consistency of pumpkin pie but resembles a brownie and is almost always topped with whipped cream. Persimmons may be stored at room temperature 20 °C (68 °F) where they will continue to ripen. In northern China, unripe persimmons are frozen outside during winter to speed up the ripening process.

Compared to apples, persimmons have higher levels of dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese, but lower levels of copper and zinc. They also contain vitamin C and provitamin A beta-carotene (Nutrient table, right).
Persimmon fruits contain phytochemicals, such as catechin and gallocatechin, as well as compounds under preliminary research for potential anti-cancer activity, such as betulinic acid. In one study, a diet supplemented with dried, powdered triumph persimmons improved lipid metabolism in laboratory rats.

Fall Harvest: Cabbage

September 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM | Posted in vegetables | 1 Comment
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Cabbage and its cross section

Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather when it’s harvested, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”).

 

 
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea or variants) is a leafy green biennial plant, grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense-leaved heads. Closely related to other cole crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, it descends from B. oleracea var. oleracea, a wild field cabbage. Cabbage heads generally range from 1 to 8 pounds (0.5 to 4 kg), and can be green, purple and white. Smooth-leafed firm-headed green cabbages are the most common, with smooth-leafed red and crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages of both colors seen more rarely.
It is difficult to trace the exact history of cabbage, but it was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC. By the Middle Ages, it was a prominent part of European cuisine, although savoys were not developed until the 16th century. Cabbage heads are generally picked during the first year of the plants’ life cycles, but those intended for seed are allowed to grow a second year, and must be kept separated from other cole crops to prevent cross pollination. Cabbage is prone to several nutrient deficiencies, as well as multiple pests, bacteria and fungal diseases.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world production of cabbage and other brassicas for calendar year 2011 was almost 69 million metric tons (68 million long tons; 75 million short tons). Almost half of these crops were grown in China, although Chinese cabbage is the most popular form of the vegetable in that country. Cabbages are prepared in many different ways for eating, although pickling, in dishes such as sauerkraut, is the most popular. Cabbage is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber. Contaminated cabbage has been linked to cases of food-borne illness in humans.

 

 

Cabbage seedlings have a thin taproot and cordate (heart-shaped) cotyledons. The first leaves produced are ovate (egg-shaped) with a lobed petiole. Plants are 40–60 cm (16–24 in) tall in their first year at the mature vegetative stage, and 1.5–2.0 m (4.9–6.6 ft) tall when flowering in the second year. Heads average between 1 and 8 pounds (0.5 and 4 kg), with earlier varieties producing smaller heads. Most cabbages have thick, alternating leaves, with margins that range from wavy or lobed to highly dissected; some varieties have a waxy bloom on the leaves. Plants have root systems that are fibrous and shallow. About 90 percent of the root mass is in the upper 20–30 cm (8–12 in) of soil, although some lateral roots can penetrate up to 2 m (6.6 ft) deep.
The inflorescence is an unbranched and indeterminate terminal raceme measuring 50–100 cm (20–40 in) tall, with flowers that are yellow or white. Each flower has four petals set in a perpendicular pattern, as well as four sepals, six stamens, and a superior ovary that is two-celled and contains a single stigma and style. Two of the six stamens have shorter filaments. The fruit is a silique that opens at maturity through dehiscence to reveal brown or black seeds that are small and round in shape. Self-pollination is impossible, and plants are cross-pollinated by insects. The initial leaves form a rosette shape comprising 7 to 15 leaves, each measuring 25–35 cm (10–14 in) by 20–30 cm (8–12 in); after this, leaves with shorter petioles develop and heads form through the leaves cupping inward.
Many shapes, colors and leaf textures are found in various cabbage varieties. Leaf types are generally divided between crinkled-leaf, loose-head savoys and smooth-leaf firm-head cabbages, while the color spectrum includes white and a range of greens and purples. Oblate, round and pointed shapes are found.
Cabbage has been selectively bred for head weight and morphological characteristics, frost hardiness, fast growth and storage ability. The appearance of the cabbage head has been given importance in selective breeding, with varieties being chosen for shape, color, firmness and other physical characteristics. Breeding objectives are now focused on increasing resistance to various insects and diseases and improving the nutritional content of cabbage. Scientific research into the genetic modification of B. oleracea crops, including cabbage, has included European Union and United States explorations of greater insect and herbicide resistance. However, genetically modified B. oleracea crops are not currently used in commercial agriculture.

 

 

Green and purple cabbages

Green and purple cabbages

There are several cultivars of cabbage, each including many varieties:
* Savoy – Characterized by crimped or curly leaves, mild flavor and tender texture
* Spring Greens – Loose-headed, commonly sliced and steamed
* Green – Light to dark green, slightly pointed heads. This is the most commonly grown cultivar.
* Red – Smooth red leaves, often used for pickling or stewing
* White (also called Dutch) – Smooth, pale green leaves
Some sources only delineate three cultivars: savoy, red and white, with spring greens and green cabbage being subsumed into the latter.

 

 

Cabbage is used in many ways, ranging from eating raw and simple steaming to pickling, stewing, sauteing or braising. Pickling is one of the most popular ways of preserving cabbage, creating dishes such as sauerkraut and kimchee, although kimchee is more often made from Chinese cabbage (B. rapa). Savoy cabbages are usually used in salads, while smooth-leaf types are utilized for both fresh market sales and processing. Bean curd and cabbage is a staple of Chinese cooking, while the British dish bubble and squeak is made primarily with salt beef and boiled cabbage. Cabbage is used extensively in Polish cuisine. It is one of the main food crops, and sauerkraut is a frequent dish, as well as being used to stuff other dishes such as golabki (stuffed cabbage) and pierogi (filled pasta). Other eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, also have traditional dishes that feature cabbage as a main ingredient. In India and Ethiopia, cabbage is often used in spicy salads and braises. In the United States, cabbage is used primarily for the production of coleslaw, followed by fresh market use and sauerkraut production. Cabbage consumption varies widely around the world, with the Russians eating the largest amount in Europe, at 20 kilograms (44 lb) per capita, while Belgians consume 4.7 kilograms (10 lb), the Dutch 4.0 kilograms (8.8 lb), Americans 3.9 kilograms (8.6 lb) and the Spaniards 1.9 kilograms (4.2 lb).
The characteristic flavor of cabbage is caused by glucosinolates, a class of sulfur-containing glucosides. Although found throughout the plant, these compounds are concentrated in the highest quantities in the seeds; lesser quantities are found in young vegetative tissue, and they decrease as the tissue ages. Cooked cabbage is often criticized for its pungent, unpleasant odor and taste. These develop when cabbage is overcooked and a hydrogen sulfide gas is produced.

 

 

White cabbage

White cabbage

Cabbage is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. It is a cruciferous vegetable, and has been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers, especially those in the colorectal group. This is possibly due to the glucosinolates found in cole crops, which serve as metabolic detoxicants, or due to the sulphoraphane content, also responsible for metabolic anti-carcinogenic activities. Purple cabbage also contains anthocyanins, which in other vegetables have been proven to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Along with other cole crops, cabbage is a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Research suggests that boiling these vegetables reduces their anti-carcinogenic properties.

 

 

 

Fish of the Week – Tilapia

August 13, 2013 at 9:38 AM | Posted in fish, Fish of the Week, tilapia | Leave a comment
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Fish of the Week – Tilapia

Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus

Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus

 

 
Tilapia (/tɨˈlɑːpiə/ ti-la-pee-ə) is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia are mainly freshwater fish, inhabiting shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes, and less commonly found living in brackish water. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa and the Levant, and are of increasing importance in aquaculture and aquaponics. Tilapia can become problematic invasive species in new warm-water habitats, whether deliberately or accidentally introduced, but generally not in temperate climates due to their inability to survive in cooler waters below about 21 °C (70 °F).

 

 

Tilapia were one of the three main types of fish caught in Biblical times from the Sea of Galilee. At that time were called musht, or commonly now even “St. Peter’s fish“. The name “St. Peter’s fish” comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish. While the name also applies to Zeus faber, a marine fish not found in the area, a few tilapia species (Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus and others) are found in the Sea of Galilee, where the author of the Gospel of Matthew accounts the event took place. These species have been the target of small-scale artisanal fisheries in the area for thousands of years.
The common name tilapia is based on the name of the cichlid genus Tilapia, which is itself a latinisation of thiape, the Tswana word for “fish”. Scottish zoologist Andrew Smith named the genus in 1840.

 

 

Tilapia typically have laterally compressed, deep bodies. Like other cichlids, their lower pharyngeal bones are fused into a single tooth-bearing structure. A complex set of muscles allows the upper and lower pharyngeal bones to be used as a second set of jaws for processing food, allowing a division of labor between the “true jaws” (mandibles) and the “pharyngeal jaws”. This means they are efficient feeders that can capture and process a wide variety of food items. Their mouths are protrusible, usually bordered with wide and often swollen lips. The jaws have conical teeth. Typically tilapia have a long dorsal fin, and a lateral line which often breaks towards the end of the dorsal fin, and starts again two or three rows of scales below.

 

 

Tilapia as a common name has been applied to various cichlids from three distinct genera: Oreochromis, Sarotherodon and Tilapia. The members of the other two genera used to belong to the genus Tilapia but have since been split off into their own genera. However, particular species within are still commonly called “tilapia” regardless of the change in their actual taxonomic nomenclature.
The delimitation of these genera among each other and to other tilapiines requires more research; mtDNA sequences are confounded because at least among the species of any one genus, there is frequent hybridization. The species remaining in Tilapia in particular still seem to be a paraphyletic assemblage.

 

 

The tilapiines of North Africa are the most important commercial cichlids. Fast-growing, tolerant of stocking density, and adaptable, tilapiine species have been introduced and farmed extensively in many parts of Asia and are increasingly common aquaculture targets elsewhere.

 

Red nile tilapia under the experiment (CLSU), Philippines)

Red nile tilapia under the experiment (CLSU), Philippines)

 

Farmed tilapia production is about 1,500,000 tonnes (1,500,000 long tons; 1,700,000 short tons) annually with an estimated value of US$1.8 billion, about equal to that of salmon and trout.
Unlike carnivorous fish, tilapia can feed on algae or any plant-based food. This reduces the cost of tilapia farming, reduces fishing pressure on prey species, avoids concentrating toxins that accumulate at higher levels of the food chain and makes tilapia the preferred “aquatic chickens” of the trade.
Because of their large size, rapid growth, and palatability, tilapiine cichlids are the focus of major farming efforts, specifically various species of Oreochromis, Sarotherodon, and Tilapia, collectively known colloquially as tilapia. Like other large fish, they are a good source of protein and popular among artisanal and commercial fisheries. Most such fisheries were originally found in Africa, but outdoor fish farms in tropical countries, such as Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, are underway in freshwater lakes. In temperate zone localities, tilapiine farming operations require energy to warm the water to tropical temperatures. One method uses waste heat from factories and power stations.
China is the largest tilapia producer in the world, followed by Egypt.
In modern aquaculture, wild-type Nile tilapia are not too often seen, as the dark color of their flesh is not much desired by many customers, and because it has a bit of a reputation of being a trash fish associated with poverty. On the other hand, they are fast-growing and give good fillets; leucistic (“Red”) breeds which have lighter meat have been developed and these are very popular.
Hybrid stock is also used in aquaculture; Nile × blue tilapia hybrids are usually rather dark, but a light-colored hybrid breed known as “Rocky Mountain White” tilapia is often grown due to its very light flesh and tolerance of low temperatures.
Commercially grown tilapia are almost exclusively male. Cultivators use hormones, such as testosterone, to reverse the sex of newly spawned females. Because tilapia are prolific breeders, the presence of female tilapia results in rapidly increasing populations of small fish, rather than a stable population of harvest-size animals.
Other methods of tilapia population control are polyculture, with predators farmed alongside tilapia or hybridization with other species.

 

Redbelly tilapia, Tilapia zilli ("St. Peter's fish) served in a Tiberias restaurant

Redbelly tilapia, Tilapia zilli (“St. Peter’s fish) served in a Tiberias restaurant

 

Whole tilapia fish can be processed into skinless, boneless (Pin-Bone Out, or PBO) fillets: the yield is from 30 percent to 37 percent, depending on fillet size and final trim. The use of tilapia in the commercial food industry has led to the virtual extinction of genetically pure bloodlines. Most wild tilapia today are hybrids of several species.

Tilapia have very low levels of mercury, as they are fast-growing, lean and short-lived, with a primarily vegetarian diet, so do not accumulate mercury found in prey. Feral tilapia, however, may accumulate substantial quantities of mercury. Tilapia are low in saturated fat, calories, carbohydrates and sodium, and are a good protein source. They also contain the micronutrients phosphorus, niacin, selenium, vitamin B12 and potassium.
However, typical farm-raised tilapia (the least expensive and most popular source) have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids (the essential nutrient that is an important reason that dieticians recommend eating fish), and a relatively high proportion of omega-6. “Ratios of long-chain omega-6 to long-chain omega-3, AA to EPA, respectively, in tilapia averaged about 11:1, compared to much less than 1:1 (indicating more EPA than AA) in both salmon and trout,” reported a study published in July 2008. The report suggests the nutritional value of farm-raised tilapia may be compromised by the amount of corn included in the feed. The corn contains short-chain omega-6 fatty acids that contribute to the buildup of these materials in the fish.
The lower amounts of omega-3 and the higher ratios of omega-6 fats in US-farmed tilapia raised questions about the health benefits of consuming farmed tilapia fish. Some media reports even controversially suggested that farm-raised tilapia may be worse for the heart than eating bacon or a hamburger. This prompted the release of an open letter, signed by 16 science and health experts from around the world, that stated that both oily (i.e. high in omega-3 fatty acids) fish and lean fish like tilapia are an important part of the diet and concluded that “replacing tilapia or catfish with ‘bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts’ is absolutely not recommended.”
Multiple studies have evaluated the effects of adding flaxseed derivatives (a vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids) to the feed of farmed tilapia. These studies have found both the more common omega-3 fatty acid found in the flax, ALA and the two types almost unique to animal sources (DHA and EPA), increased in the fish fed this diet. Guided by these findings, tilapia farming techniques could be adjusted to address the nutritional criticisms directed at the fish while retaining its advantage as an omnivore capable of feeding on economically and environmentally inexpensive vegetable protein. Adequate diets for salmon and other carnivorous fish can alternatively be formulated from protein sources such as soybean, although soy-based diets may also change in the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
The US produced 1.5 million tons of tilapia in 2005, with 2.5 million projected by 2010.

 

 

Tilapia serve as a natural, biological control for most aquatic plant problems. Tilapia consume floating aquatic plants, such as duckweed watermeal (Lemna sp.), most “undesirable” submerged plants, and most forms of algae. In the United States and countries such as Thailand, they are becoming the plant control method of choice, reducing or eliminating the use of toxic chemicals and heavy metal-based algaecides.
Tilapia rarely compete with other “pond” fish for food. Instead, because they consume plants and nutrients unused by other fish species and substantially reduce oxygen-depleting detritus; adding tilapia often increases the population, size and health of other fish.
Arizona stocks tilapia in the canals that serve as the drinking water sources for the cities of Phoenix, Mesa and others. The fish help purify the water by consuming vegetation and detritus, greatly reducing purification costs.
Arkansas stocks many public ponds and lakes to help with vegetation control, favoring tilapia as a robust forage species and for anglers.
In Kenya, tilapia help control mosquitoes which carry malaria parasites. They consume mosquito larvae, which reduces the numbers of adult females, the disease’s vector.
Tilapia also provide an abundant food source for aquatic predators.

 

Diabetes Helped by Green Tea, New Studies

January 25, 2013 at 9:31 AM | Posted in diabetes, diabetes friendly, green tea | Leave a comment
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Diabetes Helped by Green Tea, New Studies

 

By Deborah Mitchell on January 25, 2013

 

 

Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and can be a challenge to treat. Several new studies show how green tea may help patientsGreen tea better manage this disease and diabetic complications.

Green tea has compounds that help diabetes
Green tea is widely studied for a variety of health issues, and for good reason. Among its many helpful components are potent antioxidants called polyphenols, and a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is of special interest.

In fact, scientists are so interested in EGCG, there is currently a clinical trial underway that is exploring how the green tea component affects the body’s response to insulin. While that study is underway, others have been completed, and here are some of the findings.

In a new study from Brazil, researchers explored the ability of green tea to protect the retina in diabetic rats. This information is critical because diabetics are prone to developing diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition that can result in blindness.

The researchers administered green tea to rats with diabetes and hypertension for 12 weeks. They discovered how treatment with green tea protected the retina against damage associated with glutamate (an amino acid) toxicity. Based on this finding, they noted they had found “a novel mechanism by which GT [green tea] protects the retina against neurodegeneration in disorders such as diabetic retinopathy.”

In a new study released in the February 2013 issue of Current Opinion in Lipidology, the multinational team of investigators reported on results from studies on plant components called flavonoids and the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Based on their analysis, they noted that “the strongest evidence exists for a beneficial effect of green tea” on bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) levels and that “flavan-3-ols from green tea and cocoa may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.” They did stress, however, that more trials need to be conducted to confirm these findings.

Finally, in a new study from China, a research team looked at the effect of green tea polyphenols on fat deposits in rats fed a high-fat diet. Since overweight, obesity, and diet are critical factors in type 2 diabetes, patients and experts alike are always interested in ways to better manage these risk factors.

In the study, the rats were fed a high-fat diet and given three different dosages of green tea polyphenols in their drinking water. Over time, the scientists observed that the green tea polyphenols reduced fat deposit and levels of adiponectin (a protein that has an important role in glucose and lipid metabolism), as well as other benefits important for diabetes.

Can drinking green tea and/or taking green tea supplements improve your ability to prevent or manage diabetes and its complications? So far there is a considerable body of evidence suggesting green tea and its potent polyphenols have the potential to help individuals who have diabetes and diabetes risk factors, and these new studies add to the growing literature.

 

 

http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/diabetes-helped-green-tea-new-studies

Study Reveals How Green Tea Improves Memory

October 6, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Posted in green tea | 1 Comment
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For all you Green Tea lover’s out there a very good article on Green Tea. I left the web link at the bottom of the post.

 

Study Reveals How Green Tea Improves Memory

by Diana Gitig

Green tea has been enjoyed for centuries, and its benefits have been widely touted. It is reputed to help treat many of modernity’s worst ills, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, HIV infection, and neurodegenerative diseases. New work done in China furthers the observations that green tea can help prevent neurodegeneration. The report, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, starts to elucidate the mechanism by which it does so.

Green tea is rich in a group of antioxidant known as catechins. Antioxidants are important for neutralizing free radicals that we absorb form the environment and that can damage DNA, leading to tumor formation. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most common catechin in tea leaves; it is found in green tea but not black tea, because the oxidation process used to make black tea destroys it.

The new study was based on a number of premises. First, there is epidemiological evidence that green tea consumption is inversely correlated with the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Next, work done in animals suggests that EGCG protects against age-related cognitive decline. And last, it is known that new nerves can be generated in the hippocampus, even in adults. The hippocampus is a region of the brain important for consolidating short-term memories into long-term memories, and it also plays a role in spatial navigation. The generation of new neurons in the hippocampus, a process called hippocampal neurogenesis, declines with age, and this decline is associated with neurodegenerative diseases and the memory problems and disorientation that accompany them. Thus, the researchers wanted to see if EGCG might alleviate neurodegeneration by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis in adults, and if so, how.

They applied EGCG to murine neural progenitor cells growing in dishes and found that EGCG enhanced the proliferation of these cells. When they isolated hippocampal neurons from adult mice that had been injected with ECGC, they found that those cells, too, grew more than cells from mice who received a control injection of saline. Moreover, the mice who received an injection of ECGC exhibited improved spatial learning and memory; treated mice found a hidden platform more quickly than control mice.

When they looked for the molecular modulator of ECGC’s ability to stimulate neuronal growth in the hippocampus their attention fell upon sonic hedgehog (SHH), a protein vital in both the development of the brain during embryogenesis as well as maintenance of neural progenitor cells in the adult brain. And yes, it is named for the video game character. It turns out that ECGC increases the amount of sonic hedgehog, as well as some of its interaction partners, in hippocampal neural progenitor cells. An inhibitor of sonic hedgehog signaling partially blocked ECGC’s ability to promote neuronal growth, strongly suggesting that ECGC uses sonic hedgehog to exert this activity.

The authors note that ECGC is being considered for use as a preventative and therapeutic agent in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease, and their findings that ECGC helps promote adult hippocampal neurogenesis by signaling through sonic hedgehog certainly supports this course of action. Although much of the evidence for green tea’s potency comes from laboratory studies such as this one, rather than human clinical trials, they also suggest that drinking green tea can have positive effects on cognition. Just don’t put milk in it; the proteins in milk, be it from a cow or a soybean, bind to ECGC and reduces the body’s ability to make use of it.

http://www.highlighthealth.com/diet-and-nutrition/study-reveals-how-green-tea-improves-memory/

NATIONAL POTATO LOVERS DAY

February 8, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Posted in baking, diabetes friendly, grilling, potatoes | 3 Comments
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Did you know that TODAY is National Potato Lovers Day! How will you celebrate? Souplantation/ Sweet Tomatoes has baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, Loaded Baked Potato Soup w/bacon, Irish Potato Leek Soup, and two kinds of potato salad. Happy National Potato Lovers Day!

The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosumof the Solanaceae family (also known as the

Potato cultivars appear in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes

nightshades). The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were first introduced outside the Andes region four centuries ago, and have become an integral part of much of the world’s cuisine. It is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. Long-term storage of potatoes requires specialised care in cold warehouses.

Wild potato species occur throughout the Americas, from the United States to Uruguay. The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated independently in multiple locations, but later genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day southern Peru (from a species in the Solanum brevicaule complex), where they were domesticated 7,000–10,000 years ago. Following centuries of selective breeding, there are now over a thousand different types of potatoes.[6] Of these subspecies, a variety that at one point grew in the Chiloé Archipelago (the potato’s south-central Chilean sub-center of origin) left its germplasm on over 99% of the cultivated potatoes worldwide.

Following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. The staple was subsequently conveyed by European mariners to territories and ports throughout the world. The potato was slow to be adopted by distrustful European farmers, but soon enough it became an important food staple and field crop that played a major role in the European 19th century population boom. However, lack of genetic diversity, due to the very limited number of varieties initially introduced, left the crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845, a plant disease known as late blight, caused by the fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, spread rapidly through the poorer communities of western Ireland, resulting in the crop failures that led to the Great Irish Famine. Thousands of varieties still persist in the Andes however, where over 100 cultivars might be found in a single valley, and a dozen or more might be maintained by a single agricultural household. Besides the need of ensuring proper genetic diversity of a crop, it also underscores the need of depending on several staple crops, and to preferably choose staple crops that are endemic and thus adapted to the local environment.

The annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the 21st century included about 73 lb of potato. However, the local importance of potato is extremely variable and rapidly changing. It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India.

Potatoes are prepared in many ways: skin-on or peeled, whole or cut up, with seasonings or without. The only requirement involves cooking to swell the starch granules. Most potato dishes are served hot, but some are first cooked, then served cold, notably potato salad and potato chips/crisps.

Common dishes are: mashed potatoes, which are first boiled (usually peeled), and then mashed with milk or yogurt and butter; whole baked potatoes; boiled or steamed potatoes; French-fried potatoes or chips; cut into cubes and roasted; scalloped, diced, or sliced and fried (home fries); grated into small thin strips and fried (hash browns); grated and formed into dumplings, Rösti or potato pancakes. Unlike many foods, potatoes can also be easily cooked in a microwave oven and still retain nearly all of their nutritional value, provided they are covered in ventilated plastic wrap to prevent moisture from escaping; this method produces a meal very similar to a steamed potato, while retaining the appearance of a conventionally baked potato. Potato chunks also commonly appear as a stew ingredient.

Potatoes are boiled between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on size and type, to become soft.

In the United States, potatoes have become one of the most widely consumed crops and thus have a variety of preparation methods and condiments. French fries and often hash browns are commonly found in typical American fast-food burger joints and cafeterias.

French fries served with a hamburger

One popular favorite involves a baked potato with cheddar cheese (or sour cream and chives) on top, and in New England “smashed potatoes” (a chunkier variation on mashed potatoes, retaining the peel) have great popularity. Potato flakes are popular as an instant variety of mashed potatoes, which reconstitute into mashed potatoes by adding water, with butter or oil and salt to taste. A regional dish of Central New York, salt potatoes are bite-size new potatoes boiled in water saturated with salt then served with melted butter. At more formal dinners, a common practice includes taking small red potatoes, slicing them, and roasting them in an iron skillet. Among American Jews, the practice of eating latkes (fried potato pancakes) is common during the festival of Hanukkah.

A traditional Acadian dish from New Brunswick is known as poutine râpée. The Acadian poutine is a ball of grated and mashed potato, salted, sometimes filled with pork in the center, and boiled. The result is a moist ball about the size of a baseball. It is commonly eaten with salt and pepper or brown sugar. It is believed to have originated from the German Klöße, prepared by early German settlers who lived among the Acadians.

Poutine, by contrast, is a hearty serving of French fries, fresh cheese curds and hot gravy. Tracing its origins to Quebec in the 1950s, it has become a widespread and popular dish throughout Canada.

Tofu

January 10, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Posted in diabetes, Food | Leave a comment
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Tofu, also called bean curd, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is part of East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and others. There are

Taiwanese silken tofu with salad topping

many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu that has been processed in some way. Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish.

Tofu originated in ancient China. Chinese legend ascribes its invention to prince Liu An. Tofu and its production technique were introduced into Korea and then Japan during the Nara period. It also spread into other parts of East Asia as well. This spread likely coincided with the spread of Buddhism because it is an important source of protein in the vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddhism. Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty described a method of making tofu in Bencao Gangmu.

Tofu has a low calorie count, relatively large amounts of protein, and little fat. It is high in iron and, depending on the coagulant used in manufacturing, may also be high in calcium and/or magnesium.

Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds. Although pre-made soy milk may be used, most tofu producers begin by making their own soy milk, which is produced by soaking, grinding, boiling and straining dried (or, less commonly, fresh) soybeans.

Coagulation of the protein and oil (emulsion) suspended in the boiled soy milk is the most important step in the production of tofu. This process is accomplished with the aid of coagulants. Two types of coagulants (salts and acids) are used commercially. The third type of coagulant, enzymes, is not yet used commercially but shows potential for producing both firm and “silken” tofu.

There is a wide variety of tofu available in both Western and Eastern markets. Despite the daunting variety, tofu products can be split into two main categories: fresh tofu, which is produced directly from soy milk, and processed tofu, which is produced from fresh tofu. Tofu production also creates important side products which are often used in various cuisines.

Tofu originated in ancient China, although little else is known about the exact historic origins of tofu and its method of production. While there are many theories regarding tofu’s origins, historical information is scarce enough as to relegate the status of most theories to either speculation or legend. Like the origins of cheese and butter, the exact origin of tofu production may never be known or proven.

What is known is that tofu production is an ancient technique. Tofu was widely consumed in ancient China, and techniques for its production and preparation were eventually spread to many other parts of Asia.

Tofu is relatively high in protein, about 10.7% for firm tofu and 5.3% for soft “silken” tofu with about 5% and 2% fat respectively as a

Japanese style "Silken tofu" with soy sauce and a decorative carrot slice

percentage of weight.

In 1995, a report from the University of Kentucky, financed by The Solae Company St. Louis, Missouri (the PTI division of DuPont), concluded that soy protein is correlated with significant decreases in serum cholesterol, Low Density Lipoprotein LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride concentrations. However, High Density Lipoprotein HDL (good cholesterol) did not increase. Soy phytoestrogens (isoflavones: genistein and daidzein) absorbed onto the soy protein were suggested as the agent reducing serum cholesterol levels. On the basis of this research, PTI, in 1998, filed a petition with Food and Drug Administration for a health claim that soy protein may reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

The FDA granted this health claim for soy: “25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” For instance, 100 grams of firm tofu coagulated with calcium sulfate contains 15.78 grams of soy protein. In January 2006, an American Heart Association review (in the journal Circulation) of a decade-long study of soy protein benefits showed only a minimal decrease in cholesterol levels, but it compared favorably against animal protein sources.

Fruit of the Week – Sea-buckthorn Berry

December 27, 2011 at 10:19 AM | Posted in baking, Food, fruits | Leave a comment
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The sea-buckthorns (Hippophae L.) are deciduous shrubs in the genus Hippophae, family Elaeagnaceae. The name sea-buckthorn is

Close-up of fruit of Common Sea-Buckthorn

hyphenated here to avoid confusion with the buckthorns (Rhamnus, family Rhamnaceae). It is also referred to as sandthorn, sallowthorn, or seaberry.

There are considered to be seven species, two of them probably of hybrid origin, native over a wide area of Europe and Asia.

The common sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is by far the most widespread of the species in the genus, with the ranges of its eight subspecies extending from the Atlantic coasts of Europe right across to northwestern China. In western Europe, it is largely confined to sea coasts where salt spray off the sea prevents other larger plants from out-competing it, but in central Asia it is more widespread in dry semi-desert sites where other plants cannot survive the dry conditions. In central Europe and Asia it also occurs as a subalpine shrub above tree line in mountains, and other sunny areas such as river banks. They are tolerant of salt in the air and soil, but demand full sunlight for good growth and do not tolerate shady conditions near larger trees. They typically grow in dry, sandy areas.

More than 90 percent or about 1.5 million hectares of the world’s sea buckthorn plantations can be found in China where the plant is exploited for soil and water conservation purposes.

The shrubs reach 1.6–20 ft tall, rarely up to 33 ft in central Asia. The leaf arrangement can be alternate, or opposite. Common sea-buckthorn has branches that are dense and stiff, and very thorny. The leaves are a distinct pale silvery-green, lanceolate, 1.2–3.1 in long and less than 0.28 in broad. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The male produces brownish flowers which produce wind-distributed pollen. The female plants produce orange berry-like fruit 0.24–0.35 in in diameter, soft, juicy and rich in oils. The roots distribute rapidly and extensively, providing a non-leguminous nitrogen fixation role in surrounding soils.

Hippophae salicifolia (willow-leaved sea-buckthorn) is restricted to the Himalaya, to the south of the common sea-buckthorn, growing at high altitudes in dry valleys; it differs from H. rhamnoides in having broader 0.39 in broad and greener (less silvery) leaves, and yellow berries. A wild variant occurs in the same area, but at even higher altitudes in the alpine zone. It is a low shrub not growing taller than 3.3 ft with small leaves 0.39–1.2 in long.

Harvesting is difficult due to the dense thorn arrangement among the berries on each branch. A common harvesting technique is to remove an entire branch, though this is destructive to the shrub and reduces future harvests. A branch removed in this way is next frozen, allowing the berries to be easily shaken off. The branches are cut, deep frozen to −32°C, then shaken or abraded for removal of the berries.

The worker then crushes the berries to remove up to 95% of the leaves and other debris. This causes the berries to melt slightly from

Common Sea-buckthorn shrub in The Netherlands

the surface as the work takes place at ambient temperature (about 20°C). Berries or the crushed pulp are later frozen for storage.

The most effective way to harvest berries and not damage branches is by using a berry-shaker. Mechanical harvesting leaves up to 50% in the field and the berries can be harvested only once in two years. They only get about 25% of the yield that could be harvested with this relatively new machinery.

During the Cold War, Russian and East German horticulturists developed new varieties with greater nutritional value, larger berries, different ripening months and a branch that is easier to harvest. Over the past 20 years, experimental crops have been grown in the United States, one in Nevada and one in Arizona, and in several provinces of Canada.

Sea-buckthorn is also a popular garden and landscaping shrub, particularly making a good vandal-proof barrier hedge with an aggressive basal shoot system exploited in some parts of the world as wind breaks and to stabilize riverbanks and steep slopes. They have value in northern climates for their landscape qualities, as the colorful berry clusters are retained through winter. Branches may be used by florists for designing ornaments. The plant is the regional flora of the Finnish region of Satakunta.

Sea-buckthorn is distributed free of charge to Canadian prairie farmers by PFRA to be used in shelterbelts.

Sea-buckthorn berries are edible and nutritious, though very acidic (astringent) and oily, unpleasant to eat raw, unless ‘bletted’ (frosted to reduce the astringency) and/or mixed as a juice with sweeter substances such as apple or grape juice.

When the berries are pressed, the resulting sea-buckthorn juice separates into three layers: on top is a thick, orange cream; in the middle, a layer containing sea-buckthorn’s characteristic high content of saturated and polyunsaturated fats; and the bottom layer is sediment and juice. Containing fat sources applicable for cosmetic purposes, the upper two layers can be processed for skin creams and liniments, whereas the bottom layer can be used for edible products like syrup.

Nutrient and phytochemical constituents of sea-buckthorn berries may have potential effect in inflammatory disorders, cancer prevention or positive effect on bone marrow after chemotherapy  or other diseases, although no specific health benefits have yet been proven by clinical research in humans.

The fruit of the plant has a high vitamin C content – in a range of 114 to 1550 mg per 100 grams with an average content (695 mg per 100 grams) about 15 times greater than oranges (45 mg per 100 grams) – placing sea-buckthorn fruit among the most enriched plant sources of vitamin C. The fruit also contains dense contents of carotenoids, vitamin E, amino acids, dietary minerals, β-sitosterol and polyphenols. Flavonols were found to be the predominating polyphenols while phenolic acids and flavan-3-ols (catechins) represent minor components. Of the seven flavonols identified, isorhamnetin 3-O-glycosides were highest quantitatively.

Sea-buckthorn fruit can be used to make pies, jams, lotions and liquors. The juice or pulp has other potential applications in foods or beverages. For example, in Finland, it is used as a nutritional ingredient in baby food. Fruit drinks were among the earliest sea-buckthorn products developed in China. Seabuckthorn-based juice is popular in Germany and Scandinavian countries. It provides a nutritious beverage, rich in vitamin C and carotenes. A specialty beer called Tyrnilambic Baie d’Argousier has been produced at the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels exclusively for the Finnish Market.

For its troops confronting extremely low temperatures (see Siachen), India’s Defence Research Development Organization established a factory in Leh to manufacture a multi-vitamin herbal beverage based on sea-buckthorn juice.

The seed and pulp oils have nutritional properties that vary under different processing methods. Sea-buckthorn oils are used as a source for ingredients in several commercially available cosmetic products and nutritional supplements.

To overcome high acidity, juice made by adding five-parts water to one-part sea-buckthorn and sweetened to taste, put through a blender and strained, is said to taste like orange or peach juice. Sea-buckthorn leaves, dried and shredded, can be made into teas.

Different parts of sea-buckthorn have been used as traditional therapies for diseases. As no applications discussed in this section have been verified by science and sufficient clinical trial evidence, such knowledge remains mostly unreferenced outside of Asia and is communicated mainly from person to person, therefore falling into the category of folk medicine.

Grown widely throughout its native China and other mainland regions of Asia, sea-buckthorn is an herbal remedy reputedly used over centuries to relieve cough, aid digestion, invigorate blood circulation and alleviate pain.

Bark and leaves may be used for treating diarrhea and dermatological disorders. Berry oil, taken either orally or applied topically, may be used as a skin softener.

For its hemostatic and anti-inflammatory effects, berry fruits are added to medications for pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, blood and metabolic disorders in Indian, Chinese and Tibetan medicines. Sea-buckthorn berry components have potential activity against cancer and dengue virus.

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