August 30, 2011

Barbados Cherry

Malpighia emarginata is a tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree in the family Malpighiaceae. Common names include Barbados cherry, Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry and wild crapemyrtle. Barbados cherry is native from Southern Mexico, Central and South America, but now being also grown as far North as Texas and in subtropical areas – Asia and India. It is known for being extremely rich in vitamin C although it also contains vitamins A, B1, B2 and B3 as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids which provide very important nutritive value and a possible use as an antioxidant. This vitamin C produced by the fruit is better absorbed by human organisms than synthetic ascorbic acid.

Uses

As food
Close-up on the blossom and unripe fruits

The fruit is edible and widely consumed in the species' native area, and is cultivated elsewhere for its high vitamin C content. There are 1677.6 mg of vitamin C in 100 g of fruit.

* Fruit can be used to make juices and pulps, both very rich in vitamin C and antioxidants;
* Barbados cherry fruit can be used to produce vitamin C concentrate;
* Baby food and juice

A comparative analysis of antioxidant potency among a variety of frozen juice pulps was carried out, including the Barbados cherry fruit. Among the eleven fruits' pulps tested, Barbados cherry was the highest-scoring domestic fruit, meaning it had the most antioxidant potency, with a TEAC (Trolox equivalent antioxidant activity) score of 53.2 mmol g.

Absolut Vodka released Absolut Los Angeles, a limited-edition spirit flavored with Barbados cherry, açai, pomegranate, and blueberry, in July 2008.

Chiquita's Strawberry-Banana C-Optima drink, sold in 4-packs of 125ml apiece in Belgium and Germany, advertises on its lid that it contains 3 Barbados cherrys and 200mg of Vitamin C.

Other uses

Barbados cherry is a popular bonsai subject because of its small leaf, fruit and fine ramification. It is also grown as an ornamental and for hedges.

August 27, 2011

Bael

Common Names

English: Wood apple, Bengal Quince
Hindi: Bael, Sirphal
Scientific Names

Species: Aegle marmelos Correa
Family: Rutaceae
Uses

Various parts of the tree are used for its curative, pesticidal and nutritive properties. Fresh half ripe Bael fruit is mildly astringent and used to cure dysentery, diarrhoea, hepatitis, tuberculosis, dyspepsia and good for heart and brain. Roots have antidiarrhoetic, antidote to snake venom, anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. The Bael fruit is one of the most nutritious fruits, rich in riboflavin and used for the preparation of a number of products like candy, squash, toffee, slab, pulp powder and nectar. The leaves and seed oil have pesticidal properties.
Origin

Woody tree, native to India. Now naturalized in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and most of southeastern Asian countries.

Crop Status

A perennial woody tree grown in kitchen gardens, boundary plantation around mango orchards and in forest plantations in most of the states of India.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

It is used as a medicine to cure a number of diseases in India. It's medicinal properties have been listed within "Charaka Samhita," an early medical treatise.

Nutrition

The deficiency of nitrogen and zinc is common in Bael orchards and can be corrected by soil application or foliar spray.

August 23, 2011

Babaco

Common name - Babaco, Mountain Papaya are the few names in which Babaco is known by.

Origin - The babaco is known to have originated in the central south highlands of Ecuador .

Appearance - Babaco is an attractive torpedo shaped fruit with an effervescent flesh hence it is also called the champagne fruit . When sliced crosswise, the facets of this fruit gives a pentagonal outline which gives it the scientific name of Carica pentagona. The texture of this golden fruit is very light and refreshing. The babaco fruit is just like a papaw with a single, knobbly stem dividing into two or more branches at the top. It bears a few large, sparse flowers and lobed leaves which forms on the trunk and branches.

Nutrients in Babaco

Babáco is best eaten raw. It contains three times the amount of papain as in papaya and is considered as an excellent source of vitamin A and C. Our body needs vitamin C which mainly helps to heal wounds and also to maintain healthy gums.


Babaco Facts

1) The capacity of a matured babaco tree is nearly between 38 to 100 fruits per year.
2) Fruits are harvested only when they lose their green colour and turn yellow all over.
3) Babacos require a very warm, humid climate and perfect drainage. They are not tolerant to strong winds and hot dry conditions.
4) All babacos are female and do not require pollination, which means all the fruits are seedless.
5) The babaco plant has an average life span of about eight years.
6) The babaco plant is damaged by air frost, and sometimes will be killed in severe air frosts.
7) Babaco fruits may get damaged easily, hence it should be handled very carefully.

Babaco - disease controller

Babacos are remarkably tough and disease-resistant. They are very susceptible to root rot diseases when they become saturated with water or full of water. Severe root rot diseases in babacos can only be treated by chopping down the plant and either treating the soil with a fungicide or,chopping out the whole root system and leaving the ground empty by without planting any other fruit tree there for at least a year.

Prolonged humidity can also bring on powdery mildew, which coats the leaves in a pale, powdery substance. This can be easily treated with either milk sprays (one part milk to 10 parts water) every 10 days or a commercial brand remedy. Prevention is always better than cure – good drainage, plenty of light, and good air circulation around the plants will prevent the trees from the occurence of such problems. Babacos need humidity to set fruit. Crowding them to together may cause the fungal problems to develop.
Diseases in Babaco

The major pests affecting the babaco fruit and the tree are the

* Two spotted mite - Tetranychus uraticae
* Strawberry mite - Tetranychus atlanticus

Controlling these diseases is very difficult since most miticides are phytotoxic to babaco leaves. Predatory mites may give reasonable control. Slugs and the California brown snail may damage the fruit and must be controlled.

August 20, 2011

Avocado

What's New and Beneficial about Avocados

* Consider adding avocado to salads, and not only on account of taste! Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene—increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to an otherwise avocado-free salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%. This research result makes perfect sense to us because carotenoids are fat-soluble and would be provided with the fat they need for absorption from the addition of avocado. Avocado oil added to a salad accomplished this same result. Interestingly, both avocado oil and fresh avocado added to salsa increased carotenoid absorption from the salsa as well. That's even more reason for you to try our 15-Minute Halibut with Avocado Salsaa great-tasting recipe that can help optimize your carotenoid health benefits.

* The method you use to peel an avocado can make a difference to your health. Research has shown that the greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocado occurs in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin. You don't want to slice into that dark green portion any more than necessary when you are peeling an avocado. For this reason, the best method is what the California Avocado Commission has called the "nick and peel" method. In this method, you actually end up peeling the avocado with your hands in the same way that you would peel a banana. The first step in the nick-and-peel method is to cut into the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed. Next you take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate. At this point, remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado. You can use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin. The final result is a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh so rich in carotenoid antioxidants!

* We tend to think about carotenoids as most concentrated in bright orange or red vegetables like carrots or tomatoes. While these vegetables are fantastic sources of carotenoids, avocado—despite its dark green skin and largely greenish inner pulp—is now known to contain a spectacular array of carotenoids. Researchers believe that avocado's amazing carotenoid diversity is a key factor in the anti-inflammatory properties of this vegetable. The list of carotenoids found in avocado include well-known carotenoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein, but also many lesser known carotenoids including neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin.

* Avocado has sometimes received a "bad rap" as a vegetable too high in fat. While it is true that avocado is a high-fat food (about 85% of its calories come from fat), the fat contained in avocado is unusual and provides research-based health benefits. The unusual nature of avocado fat is threefold. First are the phytosterols that account for a major portion of avocado fats. These phytosterols include beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol and they are key supporters of our inflammatory system that help keep inflammation under control. The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis. Second are avocado's polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs). PFAs are widely present in ocean plants but fairly unique among land plants—making the avocado tree (and its fruit) unusual in this regard. Like the avocado's phytosterols, its PFAs also provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits. Third is the unusually high amount of a fatty acid called oleic acid in avocado. Over half of the total fat in avocado is provided in the form of oleic acid—a situation very similar to the fat composition of olives and olive oil. Oleic acid helps our digestive tract form transport molecules for fat that can increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. As a monounsaturated fatty acid, it has also been shown to help lower our risk of heart disease. So don't be fooled by avocado's bad rap as a high-fat food. Like other high-fat plant foods (for example, walnuts and flaxseeds), avocado can provide us with unique health benefits precisely because of its unusual fat composition.

Health Benefits


Promote Heart Health

Before reviewing special health areas in which avocados truly shine in terms of their health benefits, it's worth remembering the big picture. That's exactly what Victor Fulgoni and his fellow researchers at Nutrition Impact, LLC did when they reviewed data from the federal government's National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES 2001-2006) and the dietary intake of 14,484 U.S. adults. Amazingly, only 273 adults participating in this study reported consumption of avocado within the last 24 hours. Amongst the 273 participants who reported recent consumption of avocado, however, nutrient intake was found to be significant higher than other participants for several vitamins (vitamin E and vitamin K), several minerals (potassium and magnesium), and at least one desirable macronutrient (total dietary fiber). Avocado consumers were also determined to be lower in weight and lower in body mass index than non-consumers. Total fat intake, total monounsaturated fat intake, and total polyunsaturated fat intake was higher in consumers of avocado, even though their overall calorie intake was not significantly different from non-consumers of avocado. This nationwide comparison of avocado consumers and non-consumers doesn't prove that avocado consumers get health advantages from avocado. Nor does it prove that avocado consumption makes us lower in weight. But it does point us in the general direction of viewing avocado as a health supportive food that may give us a "leg up" in terms of health and nourishment.

Wide-Ranging Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

The ability of avocado to help prevent unwanted inflammation is absolutely unquestionable in the world of health research. The term "anti-inflammatory" is a term that truly applies to this delicious food. Avocado's anti-inflammatory nutrients fall into five basic categories:

* phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol
* carotenoid antioxidants, including lutein, neoxanthin, neochrome, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, violaxanthin , beta-carotene and alpha-carotene
* other (non-carotenoid) antioxidants, including the flavonoids epicatechin and epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate, vitamins C and E, and the minerals manganese, selenium, and zinc
* omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (approximately 160 milligrams per cup of sliced avocado)
* polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PSA)s

Arthritis—including both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis—are health problems that have received special research attention with respect to dietary intake of avocado. All categories of anti-inflammatory nutrients listed above are likely to be involved in avocado's ability to help prevent osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. One especially interesting prevention mechanism, however, appear to involve avocado's phytosterols (stigmasterol, campesterol, and beta-sitosterol) and the prevention of too much pro-inflammatory PGE2 (prostaglandin E2) synthesis by the connective tissue.

Optimized Absorption of Carotenoids

No single category of nutrients in avocado is more impressive than carotenoids. Here's a list that summarizes key carotenoid antioxidants provided by avocado:

* alpha-carotene
* beta-carotene
* beta-cryptoxanthin
* chrysanthemaxanthin
* lutein
* neochrome
* neoxanthin
* violaxanthin
* zeaxanthin

Optimal absorption of these fat-soluble phytonutrients requires just the right amount and combination of dietary fats—and that is exactly the combination that is provided by avocado! Included within avocado are generous amounts of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that makes it easier for the digestive tract to form transport molecules (chylomicrons) that can carry carotenoids up into the body. This great match between avocado's fat content and its carotenoids also extends to the relationship between avocado and other foods. Consider, for example, a simple salad composed of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots. This simple salad is rich in carotenoids, and when we eat it, we definitely get important carotenoid benefits. But recent research has shown that if one cup of avocado (150 grams) is added to this salad, absorption of carotenoids will be increased by 200-400%! This improvement in carotenoid absorption has also been shown in the case of salsa made with and without avocado. (That's even more reason, we think, to try our recipe for 15-Minute Halibut with Avocado Salsa!)


Supports Cardiovascular Health

Avocado's support for heart and blood vessels might be surprising to some people who think about avocado as too high in fat for heart health. From a research standpoint, however, many metabolic aspects of heart health - including levels of inflammatory risk factors, levels of oxidative risk factors, and blood fat levels (including level of total cholesterol) - are improved by avocado. In addition, we know that heart health is improved by intake of oleic acid (the primary fatty acid in avocado) and by intake of omega-3 fatty acids (provided by avocado in the form of alpha-linolenic acid and in the amount of 160 milligrams per cup). Since elevated levels of homocysteine form a key risk factor for heart disease, and since B vitamins are very important for healthy regulation of homocysteine levels, avocado's significant amounts of vitamin B-6 and folic acid provide another channel of heart support.

Research on avocado and heart disease remains in the preliminary stage, with studies mostly limited to lab studies on cells or animals fed avocado extracts. But we fully expect to see large-scale human studies confirming the heart health benefits of this unique food.

Promotes Blood Sugar Regulation

One of the most fascinating areas of avocado research—and one that may turn out to be the most unique for health support—involves carbohydrates and blood sugar regulation. Avocado is relatively low-carb food, with about 19% of its calories coming from carbs. It's also a low-sugar food, containing less than 2 grams of total sugar per cup, and falls very low on the glycemic index. At the same time, one cup of avocado provides about 7-8 grams of dietary fiber, making it an important dietary source of this blood sugar-regulating nutrient. Given this overall carb profile, we would not expect avocado to be a problematic food for blood sugar unless it was eaten in excessive amounts (many cups per serving).

Within its relatively small carb content, however, avocado boasts some of the most unusual carb components in any food. When it is still on the tree, avocado contains about 60% of its carbs in the form of 7-carbon sugars. In sizable amounts, 7-carbon sugars (like mannoheptulose, the primary carb in unripened avocado) are rarely seen in foods. Because of their rare status, food scientists have been especially interested in the 7-carbon sugars (mannoheptulose, sedoheptulose, and related sugar alcohols like perseitol) found in avocado. The 7-carbon sugars like mannoheptulase may help regulate the way that blood sugar (glucose) is metabolized by blocking activity of an enzyme called hexokinase and changing the level of activity through a metabolic pathway called glycolysis. Research in this area is still a long way from determining potential health benefits for humans from dietary intake of these 7-carbon sugars. But it's an exciting area of potential health benefit for avocado, especially since this food is already recognized as low glycemic index.

One final interesting observation comes from this research on avocado and its carbs: after five days of ripening (post-harvest, beginning with removal of the avocado from the tree), the carb profile of avocado changes significantly. The 7-carbon sugars change from being the predominant form of carbs in avocado (60%) to being an important but minority component (between 40-50% of total carbs). With ripening, the 5-carbon sugars—especially sucrose—become the predominant carbs. While it's too early in the research process to draw health-oriented conclusions from this information, these findings may be encouraging us to consider degree of avocado ripeness as an important factor in its health benefits. We already know to stay away from an extremely overripe avocado that has become overly soft and has developed dark sunken spots on its skin. Perhaps off in the future, we'll be able to zero in on exact amounts of avocado ripeness that offers different types of unique health benefits, including carb-related benefits.

Anti-Cancer Benefits

The ability of avocado to help prevent the occurrence of cancers in the mouth, skin, and prostate gland has been studied in a preliminary way by health researchers, mostly through the use of lab studies on cancer cells or lab studies involving animals and their consumption of avocado extracts. But even though this anti-cancer research has been limited with respect to humans and diet, we believe that the preliminary results are impressive. The anti-cancer properties of avocado are definitely related to its unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. That relationship is to be expected since cancer risk factors almost always include excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants). But here is where the avocado story gets especially interesting. In healthy cells, avocado works to improve inflammatory and oxidative stress levels. But in cancer cells, avocado works to increase oxidative stress and shift the cancer cells over into a programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis), lessening the cancer cell numbers. In other words, avocado appears to selectively push cancer cells "over the brink" in terms of oxidative stress and increase their likelihood of dying, while at the same time actively supporting the health of non-cancerous cells by increasing their supply antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. We look forward to large-scale studies in this area involving humans and dietary consumption of avocado.

August 16, 2011

Aprium Fruit

An aprium is a hybrid fruit of plums and apricots. Apriums are available in United States during the period of June. The fruit is dry and less juicy and extremely sweet with orange flavor. The taste of ripe apriums is an apricot taste.

Aprium fruit

The fruit was a light yellow colored fruit and has a fuzzy, apricotlike skin. It contains 75% apricot and 25% plum. Aprium is a climacteric fruit; it will continue to ripen after harvest. It makes an excellent addition to pies, salads, and preserves.

Aprium trees

aprium trees Aprium trees do finest if planted on well drained soil out of strong winds. They self-pollinating or self fertile and more fruit will be achieved only by pollinating with any other apricot tree.

Nutritional facts

Recipes Aprium Muffins

Ingredients

* 3/4 cup apple juice
* 18 chopped apriums
* 3/4 cup raisins
* 14oz of oat bran muffin mix

How to prepare?

Preheat oven to 425 ºF and lightly cover about 9 muffin cups with nonstick spray. In a bowl, mix muffin and juice until it gets moistened. Stir in apriums and raisins. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and cool it.

August 13, 2011

Apricot Prunus armeniaca

Taxonomy

Apricot, Prunus armeniaca L., is a member of the Rosaceae family, along with apple, pear, peach, and other stone fruits. The apricot is found in the Prunophora subgenus within Prunus along with plums. Hybrids between plums and apricots have been produced recently which are said to be finer fruits than either parent. A "Plumcot" is 50% plum, 50% apricot; an "Aprium" is 75% apricot, 25% plum; and the most popular hybrid, the "Pluot" is 75% plum, 25% apricot.

Cultivars
'Blenheim' (syn. 'Royal') is by far the major US cultivar, accounting for over 80% of production. Others include: 'Tilton' , 'Wenatchee Moorpark' , 'Perfection', 'Earlicot' , and 'Autumn Royal'.

Origin, History Of Cultivation

The center of diversity of the apricot is northeastern China near the Russian border (in the Great Wall area). From there it spread west throughout central Asia. Cultivation in China dates back 3000 years. The Romans introduced apricots to Europe in 70-60 BC through Greece and Italy. Apricots probably moved to the US through English settlers on the East Coast, and Spanish Missionaries in California. For much of their history of cultivation, apricots were grown from seedlings, and few improved cultivars existed until the nineteenth century. Cultivars vary among countries, and in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, a great deal of the production is from seedling orchards. Cultivation in the USA was confined to frost-free sites along the Pacific slope of California, due to early bloom but relatively high chilling requirement, and fungal disease problems in humid climates. Now, most of the production in California is in the San Joaquin valley.

Production

World (2004 FAO) - 2,685,486 MT or 6 billion pounds. Apricots are produced commercially in 63 countries on about 988,000 acres. Production has been stable over the last decade. Yields average 5980 lbs/acre, ranging from just a few thousand pounds to over 15,000 lbs/acre in the some European countries.


United States (2004 USDA) - 91,545 MT or 2201 million lbs. Apricots have been valued at $26-48 million/year over the last decade. Prices are relatively low, 19¢/lb, typical of prices over the last decade. Apricots are produced commercially in 3 states (CA, WA, UT), with California accounting for 94% of the crop. In 2004, California had 17,000 bearing acres of apricots, producing about 11,000 lbs/acre, for a value of $29 million. The USA exported 31% of production in 2002, mostly as dried fruit, with fresh fruit about 1/3 of exports. Exports have doubled since 1988. No import data are available, but small quantities of fresh fruit are imported from the southern hemisphere countries like Chile in winter months.

Contribution To Diet

Most of the US crop is not sold fresh; drying and canning are popular options for apricots since they are so perishable. Cultivars which retain their color and flavor during drying like ‘Royal' and ‘Tilton' are best for this market. Dried apricots can be easily re-hydrated, and are particularly popular with backpackers. As with plums, drying concentrates all nutrients several-fold. Per capita consumption is only 0.9 lb per year. In 2004, the utilization was as follows:

Canned and juices - 23%
Fresh - 13%
Dried - 57%
Frozen - 5%


* Percent of recommended daily allowance set by FDA, assuming a 154 lb male adult, 2700 calories per day.

August 9, 2011

Flowering Plant Families of Annonaceae

The Annonaceae are woody trees, shrubs and vines comprising about 130 genera and 2,300 species. The leaves are simple, alternate, lack stipules, and generally are distichously arranged in flat sprays. The flowers are bisexual and actinomorphic, possessing 3 whorls of perianth with 3 segments in each whorl. The elongated floral axis also bears many helically disposed stamens and several to many simple pistils. All of the floral parts are distinct. The stamens are very short, consisting of the fertile central anther portion, a distal pad of fleshy connective tissue, and a short fleshy basal portion. The stamens are generally so tightly packed on the receptacle that often only the fleshy connective tissue of each is exposed. The pistils each have a superior ovary with one locule and 1-many parietal ovules. Sectioned seeds reveal channels or partitions in the ruminate endosperm. The pistils generally remain distinct and develop into berry-like fruits but sometimes they coalesce into multiple fruits like the custard apple.


August 6, 2011

Amazon Tree Grape

Moraceae

The Amazon tree-grape, Pourouma cecropiaefolia Mart., of the family Moraceae, is the best-known of about 50 species of Pourouma in Central America and tropical South America. It is known in Brazil generally as puruma, cucura, imbauba mansa, imbauba-de-vinho, imbauba de cheiro; in Bahia as tararanga preta and in Manaus as mapati. In Colombia it is called puruma, caime, caimaron, caimaron silvestre, uva caimarona, camuirro, cucura, uva, sirpe, hiye or joyahiye. In Peru, it is simply uvilla.

The tree resembles Cecropia spp., which are called imbauba in Brazil. It reaches 23 to 50 ft (7-15 m) in height. The bark is gray and marked with leaf scars. The alternate leaves, on long petioles, are nearly circular but deeply cleft into obovate oblong-lanceolate lobes to 1 ft (30 cm) long. They are green on the upper surface, whitish or bluish-gray and velvety beneath; agreeably aromatic, like wintergreen, when crushed. The unopened inflorescence is reddish-purple, densely coated with fine white hairs. The white male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Borne in bunches of 20 or more, the fruit is grapelike except for its wintergreen odor. It is round or round-ovate, usually 3/8 to 3/4 in (0.5-1 cm) wide, occasionally to 1 1/2 in (4 cm). The skin is very rough to the touch, inedible but easily peeled; purple when ripe. The pulp is white, mucilaginous, juicy; of subacid, very mild flavor; and encloses 1 conical seed with fibrous, grooved coat.

The tree grows wild in the western part of Amazonas, Brazil, and adjacent areas of Ecuador and Peru. It is especially abundant in the vicinity of Iquitos. It has been cultivated since pre-Hispanic times by the Indians of southwestern Colombia and is grown by Indians and non Indians in Brazil. Patino says that around 1940 propagation was begun at the Estacion Agricola at Palmira, Colombia, and seeds and plants were given to the Estacion at Calima in 1945. Some trees are being grown, too, at the Estacion Agricola de Armero. There is today renewed interest in encouraging cultivation.

The tree grows on high dry land at altitudes below 1,640 ft (500 m). It may be subject to flooding every 4 or 5 years. It cannot stand prolonged drought. The seeds have short-term viability. If planted in time, they may show 86% germination. Cuttings are difficult to grow. Seedlings bear in 1 to 3 years after setting out. There may be 2 crops per year. Some trees that have been at least 3 years in the plantation have yielded 110 lbs (50 kg). The fruit is eaten raw or made into wine.

The wood is light, coarse and non-durable. It is used only for making charcoal.

Hardiness: Will not tolerate frost.

Growing Environment: Water frequently throughout the year. Trees will stand short periods of flood, but they are highly susceptible to drought.

Propagation: By seed, which loose viability quickly. Seedlings may bear in 1-3 years.

Uses: Fruits are eaten raw or made into wine.

Native Range: Native to rain forests of Western Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. The amazon tree grape has been locally cultivated for centuries in this area.

August 2, 2011

Acorn Squash, Made For Stuffing

What it is: A type of Cucurbita pepo, acorn squash is an edible gourd related to pumpkins and zucchini. A hard-shelled winter-storage squash, most traditionally it has a dark green exterior shaped something like an acorn, and a finely grained, sweet orange flesh, but you can also find acorns with golden, white and even striped skins. They make colorful decorations as well as delicious vegetables.

Where it comes from: Indigenous to North and Central America, winter squash seeds have been excavated from Mexican burial mounds dating to between 9,000 and 4,000 B.C. Squash was introduced to early European settlers by Native Americans. The name acorn squash, however, first appeared in print in 1937.

What to do with it: Acorn squash is most often roasted, steamed or microwaved. It can also be cut into pieces and sauteed, but because of the hard, inedible rind, it’s easiest to simply cut it in half and scoop out seeds before cooking — soften it by par-cooking and then cutting it into smaller pieces. Once cooked, the squash can be simply served in its rind, or the flesh can be scooped out, mashed and seasoned in a variety of ways.

The small size and naturally concave shape make acorn squash halves an ideal medium for individual servings with various fillings. At Las Palmas, a Mexican restaurant in Wicker Park, Chef Armando Gonzalez roasts acorn squash halves and stuffs them with a mixture of saffron rice and vegetables.

Choose squash with a hard, well-colored rind and without cuts or moldy spots. Store in a cool, dark, well ventilated area. If well-stored, the squash will keep for several months.

Las Palmas’ la calabeza rellena
Oven-roasted acorn squash stuffed with artichokes, green peas, chile de arbol, mushrooms and saffron rice
Chef Armando Gonzalez

    Squash:
    3 acorn squash, washed, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    3 tablespoons butter

    Risotto:
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3 cups risotto rice
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 cups white wine
    1 tablespoon powdered saffron
    5 cups vegetable stock, heated

    Vegetables:
    4 artichoke hearts, trimmed
    Juice of 1/2 lime
    1 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 pound white mushrooms, chopped
    1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
    1 chile de arbol, seeded and chopped
    1 cup green peas

    Finishing:
    1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron
    1 to 3 tablespoons butter
    6 springs fresh thyme or rosemary

Cook the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash halves, skin side down, in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and brown sugar, and put 1/2 tablespoon butter in each. Add 1/2 inch of water to pan carefully, and cover with foil. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes.

Prepare the risotto: In large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the rice, garlic, and onion until the onions are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine and saffron. Gradually stir in the stock and cook till absorbed, stirring frequently, so as not to stick.

Cook the vegetables: Boil the artichokes in water to cover with the lime juice for 5 minutes and submerge in ice water. Chop.

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil, and cook the mushrooms, peppers and peas until a little soft (3 to 5 minutes), then add the artichokes.

To assemble: Stir the vegetable mixture into the rice, add saffron, and thin the mixture with butter. Spoon the rice mixture into the acorn squash halves, and top each with a fresh sprig of thyme. 6 servings.