Leeks

It is believed that leeks have been a part of Egyptian and Mesopotamian diets since 2nd millennium BCE. Ancient Romans and Greeks found that leeks had a beneficial effect on the throat. The leek is also one of the national emblems of Wales.

The leek is part of the allium family and closely related to the onion and garlic. Ramps, or wild leeks, are much smaller and have a pungent and more intense flavor. Though cultivated leeks are available year-round, they are at their prime September through April.

How Leeks are Good for Your Body

Research says that we should include allium vegetables in our diet daily due to the combination of flavenoids and sulfur containing nutrients. The combination of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron and manganese in leeks helps the body properly metabolize sugars. Leeks also are a great source of folate and fiber and leeks are a good source of calcium. Included in the awesome nutritional benefits of leeks is that they have antiseptic qualities to help fight the body against infections. Leeks are also known to lower cholesterol and prevent or fight against cancers.

How to Select Leeks to Eat

The key is to remember that the younger the leek the more delicate the flavor. Therefore, you want to try to select leeks that are 1/2 inch in diameter. Most are actually larger at 1 1/2 to 2 inches, therefore try to pick the smallest of the selection. Also look for cylindrical bottoms because when leeks began to round into a bulb shape that means they are more mature. In addition make sure the tops are tight and a are a nice vibrant green. Pass over any leeks that are wilting.

How to Store Leeks

Leeks should not be trimmed or washed before storing. They should be stored in the refrigerator in a loosely wrapped plastic bag. This helps them retain moisture and also helps prevent the sulfurous odor from traveling throughout your refrigerator. Leeks can be stored from 5 days to 2 weeks depending on their freshness. Though leeks can be frozen it is not advisable since they can lose their texture and flavor.

How to Eat Leeks

Make sure that you wash your leeks well since they have dirt hiding in the layers. The easiest way to do this is to slice them in half lengthwise and rinse them under running water.  While most recipes only call for the white parts, the entire leek is good to eat. They can be thinly sliced and sautéed in olive oil and a splash of lemon. Leeks have a mild and sweet onion taste and bring a nice flavor to your recipes. A common way to eat leeks is in a soup such as potato leek soup.

Recipe Inspirations:

As of this winter, I am now fond of leeks and plan to grow some in my garden. I like them lightly sautéed since that helps keep the flavor. They are also awesome paired with greens and lemon. Here are a few recipes I found on the web for additional inspiration:

- Though Potato Leek Soup was already mentioned, I like the way Rachel over at Inside the Kaganoff Kitchen served up her “lovely leeks”. It reminded me of an asparagus watercress soup shots I fell in love with at Ubuntu.

- I found a leek pilaf recipe on Laurie Catantino’s older blog.

- Cooking Books has an awesome looking recipe for Pomegranate Braised Leeks with Pomegranate Syrup. Looks delish!

- Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has a recipe for Black-eyed Peas & Leeks which seems to be a popular pairing.

- Finally the Lemony Leek Pesto Penne from Kathy at Healthy Happy Life is vibrantly green and could not be passed up.

Kiwifruit a.k.a The Kiwi

Sometimes called kiwi for short, this southern China native made it to the United States in the 1960’s by way of New Zealand. During its travels the kiwifruit went through a few name changes before being named after the kiwi, a New Zealand bird. Though the name change was to “kiwifruit”, most people refer to the fruit as “kiwi”.

The sweet and tangy kiwifruit has gained popularity over the past 20 years. About 98% of the kiwi grown in the United States is produced in California from October to May. Because the kiwi has a variety of nutritional benefits some refer to the kiwifruit as a new superfood.

How Kiwis are Good for Your Body

The nutrition benefits of kiwis are numerous. A serving of kiwifruit has over twice the daily allowance of vitamin C which is almost twice the amount as two oranges of equal weight. The kiwi is high in fiber which aids in digestion, lowering cholesterol, and keeps your heart healthy. Kiwifruit also is high in potassium which aids in your physical performance with one serving having more potassium than a banana. The kiwi is also a good fat free source of vitamin E and is also a great source for folic acid.

How to Select Kiwis to Eat

When selecting a kiwi go for plump and fragrant fruits that give to slight pressure. Pass on any kiwis that are soft, shriveled or blemished. The unripe kiwi is tart with an astringent taste and these should be allowed to ripen to enjoy the kiwi’s natural sweetness.

How to Store Kiwis

Storing kiwis depends on how ripe they are when purchased or picked. To ripen kiwifruit store them at room temperature or place them in a bag with an apple or banana. Ripe kiwifruit can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

How to Eat Kiwis

An easy way to enjoy kiwi is to cut the fruit in half and eat the flesh with a spoon or wash the kiwi and eat the flesh and the fiber dense and nutrient rich skin (yes, eat the fruit whole). If eating the skin is not your thing, you can peel kiwifruit and enjoy.

Recipe Inspirations:

I eat my kiwis alone either before or after a workout but there are many people out there who have made wonderful kiwi recipes that maybe one day I will give a try. Here are a few recipes for inspiration:

- Heather at Sweetly Raw made an awesome looking Zingy Kiwi Coconut Cream. The ingredients are simple and coconut is one of my favorites.

- The Kiwi Mango with Strawberry Coulis from Helen over at The Raw Palate is a bright and colorful way to serve 3 yummy fruits.

- Brittany at Real Sustenance has not just one but two raw kiwi cheesecake recipes. One is a 2-Layer Mango Kiwi Cheesecake and the other a Kiwi and Lime Cheesecake.

- I found a cooked recipe too at Lite Bite for an Eggless Kiwifruit Muffin.  How yummy does that sound!?

As you can see, kiwifruit is an awesome fruit to add to your winter diet. They are especially an added benefit to any workout.

What are your favorite ways to eat kiwis?