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January, 2009

Winter's Fresh Veggies...

Blackeyed Peas
Blackeyed Peas
These small beige colored peas are commonly referred to as “cowpeas”. They get their name because of the black spot on each pea, looking like an eye. They were believed to have originated in North Africa where they were a staple food for Greeks and Romans. Many years later, they appeared in the “New World”, possibly brought in by the Spanish explorers. Black-eyed peas earned a reputation for good luck once eaten during the New Year celebration. They are very popular eaten in the Southern US, but more so during New Years celebrations. Most black-eyed peas are packaged dry, but Melissa’s black-eyed peas are reconstituted in a tub, ready to prepare. They make great dips and are delicious in casseroles. Black-eyed peas are very low in fat and are an excellent source of folic acid.




Hawaiian Ginger Root
Hawaiian Ginger Root
Ginger has been a popular root for thousands of years. Its origination is unknown, but it is believed to come from Southeast Asia. Ginger was considered a food preservative before there was refrigeration. It has also been considered for many medicinal purposes. Today, ginger is grown in several countries, Fiji, U.S., China, Brazil, to name a few. Ginger is irregularly shaped with knobby “fingers”. The pieces are often referred to as hands. It is available all year around, making it an essential in several cultures. Ginger is best when used immediately, but can be frozen in pieces and used as needed. It can also be refrigerated for a week or two, but may tend to dry out this way. Ginger is generally peeled before using. It can be grated, chopped, minced or sliced for recipes. Ginger will add a delicious spice flavor to any recipe. Ginger is great in tea, stir fry, crystallized, in dessert or any main dish recipe.


Chile Peppers
Chile Peppers
Chile peppers have been cultivated for more than 7,000 years, used extensively by the Incas and the Aztecs. Today, they are used by many ethnic groups in their daily cooking preparations. There are several varieties of fresh chile peppers: Yellow (or Caribe), Pasilla (or Poblano), Fresno-red and green, Habanero-assorted colors, Jalapeno, Anaheim-red and green, and Serrano, to name a few. Chile peppers get their heat from ‘capsaicin’, an oil in them that can burn your eyes and mouth. The hottest of these mentioned is the habanero chile, which is off the heat scale in comparison to the others. Generally, the smaller the chile, the hotter the bite. Also, when preparing chiles, if you remove the seeds, the chile will be milder. We also suggest wearing gloves and use caution not to touch your eyes. Chile peppers add a delightful flavor to any dish they are added to. Try them in eggs, soups, stir-fries, sauces or even bread. They are very versatile...and you can use more or less to your liking. Chiles should be refrigerated and used immediately for best flavor. They are low calorie and are a great substitute for salty seasonings.

Pearl Onions
Pearl Onions
Pearl Onions are members of the lily family. They are thought to have originated in Southern Europe. Pearl Onions are available in three colors: White, red and gold. They are available all year around and Melissa’s offers them packaged several ways. Pearl onions are a mild onion, about 1-inch in diameter. They have a papery skin and look like a miniature regular onion. Pearl Onions are very popular around the holidays. They are generally used in vegetable sautés, casseroles or creamed in a side dish. . Pearl onions are great on skewers or in sauces too. To peel pearl onions, blanch them in boiling water, then plunge them into cold water. Cut off the root end, and squeeze the onion out of the skin. It is very simple and easy for such a delicious treat. Pearls should be stored in a cool dry place, just as you would a large onion. They are very low calorie, and very low sodium with some iron and vitamin C.


Italian Chestnuts
Italian Chestnuts
Chestnuts are generally grown in northern climates, although they can be found from Alaska to the Middle East. In the past, most chestnuts were ground to make flour for breads, while today, chestnut flour is used primarily for fancy cakes. Chestnuts have been associated with good digestion when eaten. They have an extremely high sugar content, which makes them excellent for cooking and baking. Italian Chestnuts are a holiday favorite for roasting. Chestnuts should be cooked before eating to bring up the sugar content, otherwise they are starchy and often bitter. Chestnuts can be microwaved or roasted. They are a good source of B Vitamins and iron, and they are low in sodium.