Liven up Your Fruit and Veg
Are you eating your five-a-day fruit and veg? Fed up with apples, carrots and bananas? Then why not try some of the more exotic types available in the supermarkets. The fruit and vegetable departments are full of interesting, unusual and healthy items to liven up your daily quota. Nowadays, fresh produce can be on the shelves within a day or two of being picked and hence are still full of vitamins and other beneficial nutrients.
The Ugli fruit's appearance may live up to its name but don't let that put you off. Treat it like an orange and either peel and eat the segments or squeeze for juice. Being a citrus fruit, it is packed with vitamin C and is very juicy. It can be green or yellow with a mottled skin but looks are deceptive. Pick ones which feel heavy and give a little when pressed and for a treat, serve with some kirsch drizzled over.
Sharon fruit is a seedless member of the persimmon family. It is bright orange and about the size of a tomato. Every bit of it, apart from the leaf stalk, can be eaten and it has a sweet, peach like taste. Because of its colouring, it is rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene) and also vitamin C. The brown marks which sometimes develop on it are caused by natural sugars crystallising and are especially sweet.
Kohlrabi is a pale green or purple member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, but this resembles a turnip with stalks, rather like a mini sputnik. It is a good source of fibre, folic acid, selenium, magnesium, copper, potassium and vitamin C. It can either be eaten raw or chopped and added to stews, stir-fries and soups. It has a milder, sweeter taste than cabbage.
Okra is used a lot in the southern states of the USA, especially in gumbo, a rich spicy stew. It is also known as ladies' fingers because of its shape and is full of edible, creamy seeds. Trim the stalks and use either sliced or whole in stews where it is very useful as a thickener. It contains fibre, vitamin B6 and folic acid.
Dragon fruit is an exotic addition to the shelves with its bright pink skin. Cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the pink or white flesh which is dotted with tiny, black, edible seeds. It tastes something like kiwi and is so-called because it was believed to have been created by fire-breathing dragons. It contains anti-oxidants as well as vitamin C and minerals.
Pak Choi is a leafy green vegetable full of calcium, vitamin C, beta-carotene and folic acid. It is used mainly in stir-fries where the stalks and leaves are cooked separately. The stalks are added first and allowed to cook for a couple of minutes before the chopped leaves are added. It can also be eaten raw in salads and has a mild, slightly mustardy taste.
Physalis, or Cape Gooseberry, comes in its own biodegradable packaging. Peel back the brown, papery covering to reveal the cherry-sized, orange fruit. It is often used as a garnish in restaurants but deserves to be eaten in its own right as it has a sweet and slightly spicy taste. It contains bioflavonoids which enhance the action of vitamin C.
Sweet potatoes are rich in many nutrients, including fibre, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. They have a dark orange flesh and can be used in many dishes and soups. They make a healthy substitute for chips when sliced and roasted or they can be boiled and mashed with spring onions for a delicious side dish.
Squashes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours and are interchangeable in recipes which specify their use. Cut them in half and remove the seeds and peel before baking, boiling or roasting. They contain vitamins A and C, potassium and manganese as well as other nutrients.
And look out for the latest health food sensation to reach the shelves - goji berries. They are small, red berries which have been called fruit Viagra and are said to contain more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than steak and more beta-carotene than carrots. They are not particularly sweet but mixed with raisins and nuts or seeds, make for a healthy snack.
So there's no excuse for not having five portions of fruit and veg a day. The choice is enormous and it's all good for you!