Summer is here! With so much delicious local produce available, it’s hard to choose which delectable ingredient to build your meal around. Every Friday at Tilda’s Kitchen, our fabulous chefs will guide you through your meal-making collaboration from start to finish, and then you can stick around for local open mic entertainment 8-10pm.
On July 2, you will be enjoying the humble green bean. Green beans are an herbaceous plant in the legume family (Fabaceae). It originates in Peru, but can be found around the world today. They are distinguished from the many other varieties of beans in that green beans are harvested and eaten before the bean seeds inside have fully matured. The shapes range from thin “fillet” to wide and thick “romano”, and grow on low bushes or vine up poles. The most popular varieties are “stringless” and green. Raw green beans contain a plant protein called lectin, which can cause stomach upset for some people. Cooking breaks it down, making it much more tolerable.
Friday July 9 celebrates the “new potato.” Potatoes were domesticated approximately 7,000-10,000 years ago and thought to be native to the Andes of Peru. Of the presently cultivated potatoes worldwide, 99% are descended from a wild, inedible variety called Solanum brevicaule. These wild potatoes can still be found growing throughout the Americas from the southwestern United States to southern Chile. The potato the Spanish Conquistadors brought back to Europe in 1536 is descended from islands on the southeastern coast of Chile. Through selective breeding, each region developed its own unique variety of edible tuber, with Peru in the lead with almost 3,000 varieties.
On July 16 you are in for a real treat—sour cherries. Today there are more than 1,000 cultivars of both sweet and sour cherries, but only about 20 varieties are used in commercial production. It is the fruit of plants of the genus Prunus, and is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). Cherry trees are temperate-latitude trees that require a certain number of chilling hours in order to break dormancy, bloom, and make fruit. Because of this cold-weather requirement, no members of the genus Prunus can grow in tropical climates.
In comparing the two, sour cherries contain 20 times more vitamin A, and antioxidant levels are five times higher than sweet cherries. Sour cherry juice has been proven to reduce muscle pain, damage, and inflammation. It also increases muscle strength. Sour cherries are naturally high in melatonin—a hormone responsible for sleepiness. They also contain a good amount of tryptophan and anthocyanins, which improve sleep quality and duration. Sour cherry juice also reduces uric acid, which is a chemical that triggers gout, thus reducing inflammation and arthritis pain. Patients with degenerative brain disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s experienced improvements in verbal fluency and short and long-term memory when consuming 16 ounces a day. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals that support the immune system and fight against cancer.
We celebrate the blueberry on July 23. Blueberries are perennial flowering plants with blue or purple berries. They are classified in the section Cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinium, which also includes cranberries, bilberries, huckleberries and Madeira blueberries. Commercial blueberries—both wild and cultivated—are all native to North America. Blueberries are considered a superfood. The color of a blueberry is from anthocyanin, which makes them extremely high in cancer fighting antioxidants. The Native Americans called them “star berries” because of the star shape of their flower.
Friday, July 30 the chosen ingredient is zucchini. Zucchini (one is a zucchina), similar to summer squash, is a vining herbaceous plant whose fruit are harvested when their immature seeds and epicarp are still soft and edible. Typically green and cylindrical, you can also find yellow or round zucchini this time of the year at farmers markets. Zucchini was bred from squash first domesticated in Mesoamerica over 7,000 years ago, but the zucchini itself was bred in Milan, Italy in the late 19th century and brought to North America by Italian immigrants in the 1920s.
Bigger is not better with zucchini. The smaller squash are more tender and sweeter, plus the more you pick, the plant will continue to produce. It is important to keep close watch over your zucchini plants because they can grow two inches a day and produce 10 pounds of fruit per plant.
Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, a single zucchina has more potassium than a banana. Vine crops including cucumbers and zucchini produce chemicals called cucurbitacins. Stress from inadequate water, pests or poor nutrition in the soil during growth gives a bitter taste to the fruit.
Learn more about Tilda’s and the Friday dinners at tildaskitchenandmarket.com.