The Power of Purslane

PurslaneFeaturePurslane — also known as duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley, verdolagas and wild portulaca — is the most frequently reported “weed” species in the world. It can grow anywhere that has at least a two-month growing season, but little is known in North American kitchens about this delicious and nutritious food.

Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Purslane’s high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) thickens soups and stews.

Here’s a few good reasons to eat this power packed food:

  • This wonderful green leafy vegetable is very low in calories and fats; nonetheless, it is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • High in Vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acids, in fact it provides provides six times more vitamin E than spinach.
  • Purlane provides seven times more beta carotene than carrots.
  • It is an excellent source of Vitamin-A, one of the highest among green leafy vegetables.
  • Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin-C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese.
  • Furthermore, present in purslane are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, which are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.

 

Produce of the Week: Cucumbers

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Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce sections of most groceries, cucumbers actually come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers, and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables. But we’ve become accustomed to thinking and referring to cucumbers as vegetables. Cucumbers have not received as much press as other vegetables in terms of health benefits, but this widely cultivated food provides us with a unique combination of nutrients.

Lemon Cucumbers: Don’t be fooled by this heirloom’s unusual shape-these bright yellow balls are excellent for salads and pickling. They have a clean, crisp taste and are never bitter. Lemon cucumber does not have a lemon taste, only color.  Round and yellow, this tennis ball-sized cucumber is a perfect serving for one or two people. It is believed to have been introduced to the US in the late 1800s. 

Armenian Cucumbers: The skin is very thin, light green, and bumpless. It has no bitterness and the fruit is almost always used without peeling. The Armenian cucumber grows approximately 30 to 36 inches long.  You can find them grown quite thick or long and lean.  They’re delicious for slicing and snacking or in salads and other dishes.

Persian Cucumbers:  Persian cucumbers, belong to the burpless category of cucumbers, named as such because these cucumbers are milder and contain little or no cucurbitacin, a compound that makes for a bitter taste and often causes the burping reflex after consumption.  They are usually small, have soft tiny seeds, thin skin that is easy to chew and a very mild almost sweet taste.  They tend to have a soft crunch which makes them ideal for pickling and slicing.

Storage: If you’ll use cucumbers within a few days, store at room temperature. Exposing cucumbers to temperatures below 50º F can hasten decay. If you must refrigerate cucumbers, wrap them in a dry paper towel and slip into a loosely closed plastic bag. Store them in a warmer part of the fridge and for best flavor and quality.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cucumbers… or maybe you did

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  1. Cucumbers originated from Ancient India where they grew in the wild. Around 2-3 millennia BC, early Indian civilization managed to domesticate cucumbers and start infusing them into their rich cuisine. As time went by, manufacturing capabilities expanded, and they began to trade them with Middle Eastern civilization and Europe.
  2. Cucumbers contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.
  3. Cucumbers have have three main varieties –
    • “slicing” – grown to eat fresh and are mainly eaten in the unripe green form, since the ripe yellow form normally becomes bitter and sour. In North America, they are generally longer, smoother, more uniform in color, and have a much tougher skin.
    • “pickling” – are shorter, blockier and perfect for the pickle jar as well as the sandwich. Pickling cucumber plants yield heavy crops of fruit just over a few weeks.  They are never waxed. Color can vary from creamy yellow to pale or dark green.
    • “burpless” – are sweeter and have a thinner skin than other varieties of cucumber, and are reputed to be easy to digest and to have a pleasant taste. They can grow as long as 2 feet (0.61 m). They are nearly seedless.
  4. During 18th century, expansion of cucumbers across North America suddenly stopped when several medicinal journals started reporting that cucumbers and all similar vegetables that were not cooked represented serious health risk. Discouraged by those misconceptions, cucumber use plummeted across the continent, which was reversed only in 19th century.
  5. Placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth may help to rid your mouth of odor-causing bacteria. Some say, eating cucumbers may also help to release excess heat in your stomach, which is said to be a primary cause of bad breath.

Discover delicious recipes and new ways to enjoy cucumbers this season.  We love the inspiration Bon Appetit shared here.

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Summer Menu Favorites

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Whether you’re serving brats or burgers,
cook up these sides to serve a truly market fresh meal this grilling season.

Baked Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges | potatoes, garlic, parmesan cheese, herbs

Panzenella Salad |bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, fresh herbs, lemon, salt

Roasted Peaches | peaches, honey

Deviled Eggs | eggs, pickles, relishes herbs, onion

Don’t Forget The Munchies | chips + salsa, pita + dip, veggies + dressings

Infused Water | fresh citrus, fruits, edible flowers, herbs, cucumbers

 

Earth Day 2017

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The Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market is a program of Community Food Connections (CFC), a 501c3 non-profit organization. CFC creates a downtown community gathering place by supporting small farmers and businesses that strengthen sustainable food systems and produce healthy products for the local community.

Sustainability is the overarching theme in this community driven food system. Farmers engage in sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food to sustain the local community, who in turn provide the money necessary to sustain the farmers. Each shares in the success of the other in a mutually beneficial relationship that has become a model for sustainability.

Farmers who choose to use sustainable practices face a challenging economic climate dominated by large, corporate farms. Many find they cannot compete with the massive volume, low market prices, and government subsidies enjoyed by large operations. Farmers markets offer small and mid-sized farmers a low-barrier entry point to develop and establish a thriving business free from the overhead necessary to sell in large retail outlets. But just as important, farmers markets create a space where the focus of food is on quality and farming practices rather than price alone.

Each year, more and more customers are drawn to farmers markets due to an increasing demand for natural and organic food.  This upward trend depicts a rising consciousness among customers who are concerned with not just what they eat, but how it is produced.

Farmers selling at markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create.  On average, food travels over 1,000 miles from the point of production to the retail store.  In contrast, the Phoenix Public Market houses farmers growing within a 50 mile radius of our Market!  Many use certified organic practices, reducing the amount of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our soil and water. A growing number are also adopting other low-impact practices, such as on-site composting, that help mitigate climate change and other environmental issues.

How you can help reduce waste:

Reduce Food Waste: Most supermarkets refuse to carry cosmetically challenged fruits and vegetables, which means many of them end up rotting in landfill where they release methane gas, a green-house gas more potent than CO2. That ugly produce accounts in part for the 40 percent of food wasted in the US. At the farmer’s market, the sizes and shapes of food vary. And some vendors offer a discount for not-so-pretty—yet organic—produce.  So don’t be afraid to shop blemished produce.

Reduce Plastic Use:  Another aspect of farmers’ markets that is usually overlooked is that you can control the packaging. To be more eco-friendly you can politely decline the plastic bag, or reuse last week’s produce bags by bringing them back to the market with you. Reducing the use of plastic bags and plastic packing wraps can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.  Packaging is one of the most disposable things in everyone’s daily life and it often seems hard to curtail.  Worldwide almost 2 million bags are used each minute, which figures out to be a trillion bags each year.  If you consider the life cycle of the plastic bag, the energy consumed, the CO2 emitted and consider that most plastic bags are made overseas and distributed globally; a whole new picture of consumption starts to emerge.

The real question is do you need a bag at all? This is where being an eco-friendly consumer can factor in. Do you need to put all of your different kinds of fruits and vegetables in their own plastic bag? Can you reuse your produce bags from last week?

Discover more on Earth Day | Saturday, April 22nd

Earth Day theme for 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy.

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Market Meal: Frittata + Spring Salad

Crop of the Week: Beetroot

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Beets

Sometimes called table beet, garden beet, red or golden beet, or just beet, beetroot is a taproot part of the beet plant. It is used for nourishment, but it also has use in food coloring and medicine…. Ancient Greeks cultivated beetroot around 300 BC. They didn’t use the roots of the plant and only ate the leaves.

Beetroot is a close relative of spinach and chard and has an earthy flavor and a good nutritional content – it’s also reckoned to be a good detoxifier.   A favorite in 1970’s salads (served cooked and pickled in vinegar), beetroot is a root vegetable with dark, purple skin and pink/purple flesh. It has also enjoyed something of a deserved comeback in recent years, its earthy, rich and sweet flavor and vibrant color lends itself to a variety of both sweet and savory dishes. Beetroot can be eaten raw and shredded into a salad (alone or with other vegetables), boiled, cooked, pickled, or cold as a salad after cooking.

Availability
July through to January, tapering off during February and March. You can try growing in your garden or allotment – it’s generally trouble-free.

Choose the best
Raw beetroot should have their stalks (fresh, not wilting) and roots (nice and firm) intact.

Prepare it
To cook whole, wash but don’t peel, then cut the stalks to 2.5cm and leave the root at the bottom; if either are trimmed too much, the beetroot’s color will bleed. Then, bake in a low oven, either wrapped in foil or in a little water in a lidded casserole dish. It should be ready in 2-3 hours. For boiling, prepare it in the same way, then simmer for around an hour.

Store it
Fresh, they’ll keep for several weeks in a cool, dark place.

Cook it
Roast, chop and dress with walnut oil and chives. Bake in olive oil and cumin seeds, then dot with feta and bake again. Boil the beetroots for a few minutes, drain and serve with olive oil or butter. Juice raw beetroot, and mix half and half with carrot juice for a vitamin-rich drink.

Image Courtesy of: Steadfast Farm

Simple Stir-Fry Recipe

Simple Veggie Stir-Fry with In-Season Produce by cookbook author, Melanie A. Albert

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A simple way to cook all kinds of vegetables is a stir-fry (really a simple sauté) with what’s seasonally available from local farmers. To create a simple veggie stir-fry, chose a few local in-season veggies – some roots, veggies, and greens – at the Phoenix Public Market, and have fun intuitively cooking a stir-fry with these steps as a recipe guide.

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10 Things to Do with Citrus

Citrus

When the market gives you lemons (or oranges, limes, and grapefruit)…here’s ten things to do with them:

  1. Cook with them (duh)! With anything from lemon bars to salad dressing, there are recipes using citrus for any meal of the day.
  2. Pick up a few mason jars and can your fruit. The process is simple and preserves the fruit so you can have your locally grown citrus long after the season is over.
  3. Clean your microwave by adding a sliced lemon to a bowl of water and let it steam for five minutes.
  4. Put a piece of lemon in your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh.
  5. Brighten your whites by soaking them in lemon juice before throwing them in the washing machine.
  6. Forget candles, simmer citrus peels on the stove for a homemade air freshener.
  7. Squeeze some lemon juice on other fruits and veggies you have to make make them last longer and keep them from oxidizing.
  8. Compost your citrus scraps! Not only is citrus good for you, but it’s also good for the earth.
  9. Infuse your water by allowing a few citrus slices and herbs to soak in it. Who needs sugar sweetened beverages when you can make a drink that tastes better and offers nutritional benefits?
  10. And last but not least, make lemonade.

This Season’s Hidden Gems

Make the most colorful and delicious seasonal dishes and salads featuring some of the most stunning produce from around the Market.  This Saturday hunt around to find these unique and delicious natural gems.

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Romanesco

The Romanesco Broccoli is nothing short of a mathematical marvel, reminiscent of the Fibonacci series Romanesco looks like something you could design using a Spirograph, and looks like broccoli and cauliflower collided in a great feast for the eyes. In addition to its pretty appearance, it also packs the nutritional punch you’d expect if broccoli and cauliflower had a baby. It is a good source of fiber, and is a surprising source of vegetable protein. It’s also full of Vitamin C, potassium, and Vitamin B6, so it boasts a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals for your overall health and well being. Use it like you would broccoli or cauliflower for a nice change of pace and better presentation.

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Watermelon Radishes

The Watermelon radish is made up of an edible globular root attached to thin stems and wavy green leaves.  The Watermelon radish’s flesh is white and becomes bright pink and magenta in the center, hence the watermelon reference. Its flesh is tender-crisp, succulent, and firm. Its flavor is mild, only slightly peppery with almond-sweet notes. Watermelon radish is an heirloom Chinese daikon radish and botanically a member of the Brassica (mustard) family.  The Watermelon radish, both the root and the greens, provide an excellent source of vitamin C, particularly when eaten raw.

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Purple Cauliflower

Purple cauliflower displays vibrant violet hues on the outside florets, however, the stem and core of the vegetable retain a cream color. The entire plant (floret, stalk and leaves) is edible. The stems and trunk are firm and tender and the florets have a dense yet soft and crumbly texture. It’s flavor is milder, sweeter, nuttier and free of the bitterness sometimes found in White cauliflower. Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C with a half cup of florets providing nearly half of ones daily requirement for vitamin C. It also provides a fair amount of fiber, vitamin A, folate, calcium and potassium as well as selenium, which works with Vitamin C to boost the immune system. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower are known for their high levels of cancer-fighting phytochemicals know as glucosinolates!

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Candy Stripe Beet

It looks like a vegetable straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, but this striped beet is very real!  The Chioggia beet (pronounced kee-OH-gee-uh), also known as the candy cane or candy stripe beet, hails from Northern Italy and became popular in the 19th century. It’s most notable for its striking deep pink and white spirals, and the beet adds a beautiful pop of color to salads and soups. Though the candy stripe beet can be prepared much like any other beet, it has an especially sweet flavor—and it doesn’t ‘bleed’ as much as regular beets, meaning you don’t have to worry about bright red beet juice staining your fingers and clothes.

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Marigold Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are loaded with health benefits that can, among many other things, reduce stress and strengthen your bones. And don’t be afraid of the heirloom’s odd shapes and diverse colors as these are the result of their rich diversity. In short, they are supposed to have lines, bumps and wild color variation.  Heirlooms are picked at the peak of ripeness, which gives them greater vitamin content. The rainbow of colors indicate their diversity of antioxidants, which help protect our cells from aging. A good heirloom tomato is botanically a fruit and can have the juiciness and sweetness of a cherry or a grape.