April 4, 2016

That’s right. A breadfruit. It’s native to Tahiti and was introduced to Jamaica in 1793 by Captain Bligh. So why are the Jamaicans keeping all these great fruits to themselves? Granted, the breadfruit is tropical and can’t be grown in the majority of the US, but we could at least know about it, right?

The breadfruit is a large green fruit, usually around 10 breadfruitinches in diameter. It has a pebbly green skin and flesh with a potato like texture. Breadfruit is picked and eaten before it ripens. Most varieties can cause severe stomach upset if eaten raw. A common practice is to boil them twice and throw the water away to avoid any issues from the fruit. However, they can be used in place of any of your starchy vegetables, rice, or pasta. And breadfruit is pretty versatile. It can be cooked and served in a number of ways. It’s not uncommon for it to turn up in preserves or beverages.

But why call it a breadfruit? It tastes doughy like bread, but has more moisture. There are both seeded and seedless varieties. The seedless breadfruit is low in protein, but the seeds are considerably higher and therefore of more value as food.

The breadfruit tree can grow up to 85 feet tall. These trees require temperatures between 60° to 100°F, annual rainfall of 80-100 inches, and relative humidity of 70-80%. This is the main reasBreadfruit treeon why we rarely see breadfruit in the US. Generally the rind of the fruit is green at first, then turning a yellowish-green, yellow or yellow-brown when ripe, although there is one variety that is lavender. When it is green the fruit is hard with a white, starchy and fibrous interior. When the fruit is fully ripe, it becomes somewhat soft with a cream or yellow, pasty interior. It also has a slightly sweet fragrance.

Small drops of latex appear on the surface of the fruit when it is mature. Similar to a banana or plantain, the breadfruit can be eaten ripe as a fruit or under ripe as a vegetable. Soft or overripe breadfruit is used to make chips. These are currently being manufactured in Trinidad and Barbados. In some areas, such as Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the South Pacific, fallen male flower spikes are boiled, peeled, and then eaten as vegetables. They can also be candied by recooking them in syrup and then rolled in powdered sugar and sundried.

Dried breadfruit has been made into flour. It is being explored as to whether it is a viable option to substitute breadfruit in part for wheat flour in bread making. The combination of the two proves more nutritious than wheat flour alone. Breadfruit flour is richer in lysine and other amino acids than wheat flour. In Jamaica, breadfruit flour is boiled and sweetened and then eaten as porridge.

Breadfruit has some other uses as well. Its leaves are commonly eaten by livestock such as cattle, goats, horses, and pigs. The latex, after being boiled with coconut oil, is used for caulking boats. It can also be mixed with colored earth and used as a paint for boats. The wood of the tree is light in weight but strong, elastic, and resistant to termites. Therefore, it makes it a good wood to be used in construction and for furniture. It is also quite in demand for surfboards. Traditional Hawaiian drums are even made out of breadfruit trunks.

Perhaps most interestingly, the breadfruit also has a number of medicinal uses. In some areas, such as Trinidad and the Bahamas, the breadfruit leaves are believed to lower blood pressure. Some also say they can relieve asthma. Leaves can be crushed and applied to the tongue as a treatment for thrush. So did we really just get rid of beta-blockers, inhalers, and the need for antibiotics to cure thrush because of a fruit? Seems a lot easier, doesn’t it?

The leaf juice is even employed as ear-drops and skin infections can be treated with ashes of burned leaves. A powder of the roasted leaves is used as a remedy for an enlarged spleen. So a powder from a fruit or risk a surgery? Hardly seems like choice to me. Some even say that the leaves can be used as a remedy for headaches. And if you’re like me and you get chronic headaches and migraines, you’d try just about anything to help them. Toasted flowers are rubbed on the gums near an aching tooth. This sounds so easy! The latex is used on skin diseases and is bandaged on the spine to relieve sciatica. And finally, diluted latex is taken internally to overcome diarrhea.

I’m a skeptic myself, so until I try these I’m not sure I believe them either. But even if only half of them worked, wouldn’t it be amazing?

Images courtesy of Jamaican-Recipes.com & CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

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April 4, 2016

There are plenty of us out there who don’t like fruit. Or at least, not enough to eat it regularly. But we really need to start thinking about eating healthy. And here’s some ideas for those of us who are a little pickier than others. I myself am the pickiest eater I’ve ever met, and even I have found a few fruits I like. But it did take some searching.

Go for convenience. Try buying pre-cut fruit or individual serving packages. They’re easier to grab on the go. When you do this, steer clear of fruits with added sugars. If you’re choking down the fruit you may as well make it worth it, right?

Get the kids involved. Most kids will resist eating fruit. But you can make them part of the process and hopefully encourage them to eat some fruit. Take them shopping with you. Offer them a choice of fruits and let them decide which one they’d like. You can also decorate their plates with fruit slices. Even try making a smiley face with sliced banana eyes, a raisin nose, and an orange slice for a mouth! And if they’re really against fruit, cut up some berries and use it as a topping on ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Learn what to buy. Be sure to buy fresh fruits when they’re in season. This is when they’re usually less expensive and at their peak flavor. Also stock up on dried, frozen, and canned fruits (in water or 100% juice rather than syrup) so there’s always a supply in your pantry. While fruit juices are beneficial, whole or cut-up fruit is more nutritious.

TIP: Vary your fruit choices. Fruits have different nutrient content. Bananas are high in potassium while pomegranates are high in antioxidants. Make many fruits a part of your diet to benefit from their healthy qualities.

Make substitutions. Swap out your afternoon soda for ½ a cup of 100% juice. It’ll get you an extra serving of fruit. And if you’re really dependent on your caffeine, start by adding the fruit juice rather than just substituting. And those times you hear “Mom, I’m hungry” is a perfect opportunity to offer your kids raisins or other types of dried fruit instead of candies. Also pack a juice box in your child’s lunch instead of soda.

Eat more colors. This is an easy way to remember to eat healthy. Fruits are colorful, so just remind yourself and your kids to add color to their diet. Red can be apples or strawberries. Orange is rather obvious! Yellow could be lemons, bananas, or apples. Green is apples again as well as grapes and avocadoes. Blueberries come next. Purple grapes and raspberries round out the rainbow. This is just the beginning of adding color. Papayas, pomegranates, grapefruit, melons, pineapples, pears, and other berries are great options as well.

Add a fruit tree in the back yard. Okay, maybe we're biased, but how can you resist fresh fruit right at your fingertips?

Watch out for How to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Fruit Part 2 coming on Monday!

Image courtesy of Camille Wellard at http://www.makoodle.com/rainbow-fruit-tray/

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April 4, 2016

Guava Cheese Turnovers (Guava Pastelillos)

Total Time:
55 min
20 min
15 min
20 min
Yield:8 servings Level: Easy

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into 8 equal pieces
8 (1 by 1-inch) squares guava paste (about 4 ounces)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sprinkle the sugar on your work surface to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry to an 8 by 8-inch square. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each sheet into 4 squares.

Make the turnovers: Set a pastry square in front of you with 1 of the corners pointing toward you. Place 1 piece of cream cheese diagonally over the center of the bottom of the square. Top with a piece of guava paste. Brush the edges of the square with beaten egg. Fold the upper half of the square over the filling to make a neat triangle. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining turnovers, placing them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet as you go.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.

While the turnovers are baking, mix the confectioners' sugar with the milk and vanilla, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Set aside.

Cool the turnovers on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then drizzle the glaze over them. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy Daisy Martinez via Food Network

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April 4, 2016

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April 4, 2016

So now you’ve taken the first step. You’ve bought your fruit at the grocery store. But the hard part’s coming up. Now you have to eat it. So…how can we make it a little more appetizing than sucking on a lemon?

Here’s a few snack recipes and tips.

Make Chips:

You can slice up moderately ripe bananas (or plantains) and either slow roast or lightly sauté them. They’ll have a crispy exterior and fruity flavor. If you don’t like the texture of fruit, this is a great way around that.

Frozen Fruit:ID-10031534

Put bananas and grapes into the freezer. It’ll change the texture but keep the flavor and nutrients.

TIP: If you have a girl who loves Frozen, get some Anna and Elsa plates, and have a themed snack time. Some powdered sugar from a sifter could work wonders for this.

If you’re still not thrilled with the taste, dip them in some dark chocolate. That too is rich in antioxidants. And even the pickiest eaters love chocolate!

Popsicles and Smoothies:

Blend fresh fruit with ½ cup of yogurt or 100% fruit juice. Pour them in a popsicle mold and freeze them. Another option would be to just buy frozen juice bars. Or, to make a smoothie, blend fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit of your choice. Some popular fruit smoothie flavors are banana, peach, strawberry, and other berries.

Fruit Kabobs:fruit kabobs

Make fruit kabobs with fruits like pineapple, bananas, grapes, berries and peaches. This is a great addition to a barbeque meal. Go for strawberries and blueberries for a Fourth of July barbeque.

Dinner Time:

Add crushed pineapple to coleslaw. Also try some meat dishes that incorporate fruit. Some great ones are chicken with apricots or mangoes.

Dip ‘Em:

Sometimes a fruit just needs a little extra flavor. Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruits like strawberries or melons. Or, try the strawberry cream cheese fruit dip. To make it, just mix an 8 oz. package of strawberry flavored cream cheese and a 7 oz. container of marshmallow fluff. Chill it before serving. It’s always a big hit. Maybe not as healthy as the fat-free yogurt, but if you’re picky…you gotta eat, right?


Make a Waldorf salad (choose your favorite recipe) and include fruits like apples along with celery, walnuts, and a low-calorie dressing. And of course the old standby, a fruit salad. Mix apples, bananas, or pears with more acidic fruits. These would be your citrus fruits like oranges, pineapples or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Fruit Pizza: fruit pizza

Again, not the healthiest food choice, but it sure has enough fruit. Bake a large sugar cookie (the size of a cookie cake). Cover it with cream cheese. Then lay out sliced fruit on top of the “frosting.” Some good choices are strawberries, kiwis, melons, pineapples, grapes, and other berries. You can place the fruits randomly or in a pattern. Here’s your chance to get creative. It’s a great dessert alternative.

Fruit Pie:

We all love a good slice of pie, but we have to be healthy these days. So, we get rid of that buttery crust. Place the filling for your favorite fruit pie in individual ramekins. Bake them until they set and enjoy your fruit pie without the fattening crust.

Quick Snacks:

  • Spread peanut butter on apple slices.
  • Top plain yogurt with berries or slices of kiwi.
  • Slice up strawberries and dip them in powdered sugar (my personal favorite).

Images courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, http://texasfarmersdaughter.com/rainbow-fruit-kabobs/, and http://www.chef-in-training.com/2011/08/fruit-pizza-2/

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April 4, 2016

A fruit tree is a great gift. But what about those of us that live somewhere where the climate isn’t conducive to growing fruit? Can fruit trees withstand the cold?

Surprisingly, many fruit trees can withstand temperatures well below freezing. Good news for those of us living up north! The first thing you need to determine is your climate. SinUSDA zonesce fruit trees will be around for years, you need to consider climate extremes, not just the average temperatures. To do this, find out what agricultural zone you’re living in. Check our graphic for your location. You can also visit the USDA interactive plant hardiness zone map for a more detailed look.

The temperature at which the tissue of a particular plant will freeze and the degree of the damage are determined by a number of different factors. Some of these include the actual temperature reached, the duration of time the tree was exposed to this temperature, how well the plant was conditioned before exposure, age of the plant, and the overall health of the tree. A more mature, healthier tree can withstand much more cold than a diseased or younger tree.

The temperature range given for a tree to survive refers to its leaves and wood, not the fruit itself. Therefore, the fruit crop may be damaged in the cold while the tree remains undamaged. If the fruit buds are still very tight, the fruit damage should be minimal, but if the fruit has already started to bloom it is likely about 90% of the fruit will be lost.

So how do you prepare and protect a tree from the cold? Plant the tree in a sunny location that is sheltered from wind. Plant it in bare, non-turf ground as turf near the base of the tree can lower the temperature. Also, keep the tree away from the bottom of a hill as this can also lower the temperature. Do not mulch around the tree as this will retain moisture and even encourage disease. Be sure not to fertilize citrus trees after August as this promotes new growth which is more sensitive to cold temperatures.

There are things you can do to protect a tree when you know temperatures are going to drop. First, you should cover the entire plant, but leave the foliage untouched. Bring the cover all the way to the base and use weights like bricks or rocks to hold it down. Remove this cover as soon as temperatures rise again. Another option is to install small lights, like Christmas lights on the tree to increase the nearby temperature. This works well because it is usually the holiday season when temperatures are dropping.

If you’re in a climate that is still not conducive to growing fruit, or you want a fruit that can’t withstand your local climate, you may consider growing it in a container. Then you can leave it on a patio or deck in the warmer months and bring it inside as temperatures get colder.

Be on the lookout for cold hardy plant recommendations coming later this week!

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April 4, 2016

eggfruitSo again, a mysterious fruit with a bizarre and potentially off-putting name. Eggs and fruit are generally kept quite separate in American cuisine. But an eggfruit is an entity all its own.

These fruits grow in a tropical and subtropical climate. They are roughly the size of an apple with a yellowish to orange color. The pulp is similar in both appearance and texture to a cooked egg yolk hence the fruit’s name. The fruits’ color does not change as it matures, but the skin texture does turn from glossy to dull. Eggfruits must be harvested in order to ripen completely. It takes approximately one week after harvesting for the fruit to ripen.

But how does it taste? It has been described in a number of ways. First, some say it tastes like mashed egg yolks sprinkled with sugar. Yams and cooked pumpkin have also been mentioned. Most commonly, eggfruits have been noted to taste of a unique flavor of maple and sweet potato. Eggfruits can be eaten fresh without removing the skin or can be peeled and sliced. The pulp is often used in preparation of milk shakes and provides a lovely color and flavor. Recently it has become popular as a dried powder flavoring. Health benefits of the eggfruit include the amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, and protein in the fruit.

One way to eat eggfruit is to try making eggfruit ice cream. Here’s the recipe below. It will serve 4 people.eggfruit-icecream-575x352

1/4 ltr of Milk
1 no of Eggfruit
3 tbsp of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of Cornflour
2 tbsp. of cream
1 spn. of Milk powder(optional)

Step 1 - Add milk, cornflour, sugar and milk powder in a bowl. Mix well.

Step 2 - Boil the mixture for 2-3 minute in low flame. Stir continuously.

Step 3 - Allow to cool. Remove seeds of egg fruit. Put eggfruit and milk mixture in a blender and process to fine paste.

Step 4 - Transfer the paste to a freezer safe bowl. Freeze it for 5-6 hours.

Step 5 - Take the ice cream from refrigerator. Add cream and again blend for 2-3 minute. Repeat step 4.eggfruit cocunut bread

If you’re not looking for dessert, here’s a recipe for Eggfruit Coconut Bread. It will serve 10-12 people.

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon clove

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups mashed ripe eggfruit

1 cup grated coconut

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 350°F.

Step 2 - In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and spices.

Step 3 - In a large bowl, blend butter and sugar, then blend in eggs. Slowly stir in milk, then vanilla and eggfruit.

Step 4 - Stir in flour mixture, and mix in coconut.

Step 5 - Spoon into a greased 8½ X 4½ x 2½ in loaf pan, making sure to leave ¾ inch at the top to allow the bread to rise.

Step 6 - Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Images courtesy of:                                                                                    http://theindianvegan.blogspot.com/2013/03/all-about-egg-fruit-canistel.html                                Hygeena Shameer at http://www.spicykitchen.net/recipe/eggfruit-ice-cream/        CocinaCubana at http://www.food.com/recipe/egg-fruit-canistel-coconut-bread-347215/photo

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April 4, 2016

Most of us don’t live in a tropical area, so what types of fruit trees can we grow? First, find out what agricultural zone you’re living in. These zones are determined by your region’s temperatures. Visit the USDA interactive plant hardiness zone map to find your zone.

Here are some suggestions for fruit trees that can survive in colder temperatures.

Everbearing Strawberry: Zones 4-9

The everbearing strawberry is very popular because of its ability to produce strawberries well after spring ends. It grows to about one foot in height and can be 1-2 feet wide. It requires full to partial sunlight. It is adaptable to different types of soil and has a good chance of surviving a drought.

Granny Smith Apple: Zones 5-8

Granny Smith apples are fairly easy to grow and they produce fruit very quickly. They ripen in early November, and stay fresh through winter and spring. They grow to 10-15 feet high and 8-10 feet wide. They require full to partial sunlight and are adaptable to different soil conditions. Overall, most apple trees can survive in zones 4 or 5-8.

MacIntosh Apple: Zones 4-8

Ripening early in the season, Macintosh trees are popular because they produce a large amount of fruit. If planted near your Granny Smith trees, the two types of apple trees will help pollinate each other. These trees can grow 15-20 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. They do well in full to partial sunlight and are very adaptable to different soil conditions. Overall, most apple trees can survive in zones 4 or 5-8.

Thornless Blackberry: Zones 5-9

Blackberries produce large amounts of berries. The berries grow in large clusters and can be eaten right off the bush or picked and used in jams or jellies. Blackberries are rich in anti-oxidants which have many health benefits. These plants will grow 3-6 feet tall. They grow 3-5 feet wide and are often planted in groups of three. They do well in full to partial sun.

Cleveland Flowering Pear Tree: Zones 5-8

These trees naturally grow in a tight, semi-perfect oval. In spring white flowers bloom over the surface area of the tree. This tree can resist damage from extreme ice, snow, and wind. It grows quickly up to 30-40 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide. They survive in full to partial sunlight.

Red Haven Peach Tree: Zones 5-9

These trees are normally planted in pairs to help with pollination. This allows your trees to produce more fruit. Red Haven Peaches ripen in June. They grow quickly to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. They survive in full to partial sun and are adaptable to different soil conditions.

Bing Cherries: Zones 4-8

Bing Cherries are a deep red and the most popular dark cherry. These trees grow quickly and fruit faster than most other cherry trees. Bing Cherry trees grow up to 20 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide. Full to partial sunlight is ideal and they are very adaptable to different soil conditions.

Image courtesy of dan at freedigitalphotos.net

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April 4, 2016

Here we are with another poisonous fruit! Well, this time the fruit is actually safe, but the rest of the plant is poisonous. But this fruit isn’t rare. It’s very popular in areas like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.

The Natal Plum tastes like a slightly sweet cranberry with the texture of a ripe strawberry. Some describe the taste as similar to a slightly unripe cherry. A ripe Natal Plum is plum red and slightly soft to the touch with a coating of latex. It does not need to be peeled before being eaten. Aside from being eaten fresh, it is often used in fruit salads, jams, jellies, and as toppings for cakes, puddings, and ice cream. The fruit is very rich in Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.

The fruit appears in summer and fall or fall and winter depending on the climate. This plant fruits at the same time it blooms. Deep green leaves are offset by the white flowers that bloom for months at a time. These flowers have a smell similar to jasmine, and their aroma is stronger at night.

Natal Plums are suitable for zones 9-11. They are a good choice for coastal areas because they can stand up to salty winds. They grow in mounds two to seven feet high as well as wide. If these plants are being used as a shrub they should be planted 24-36 inches apart. They can be allowed to grow very large and become “invasive,” if that is what you are hoping for. If you are looking for a security hedge, this is ideal. But Natal Plums can also be pruned and kept at any size, perfect for any yard.

They are a popular landscaping plant because they can adapt to many types of soil and lighting conditions. They can also tolerate heat, all the heavy metals, exhaust, and other byproducts of transportation vehicles and are therefore a popular plant for highway landscaping.

When planting the Natal Plum, use caution because of its double spines. These make the plant a good security hedge, but can make planting a bit difficult. Be sure to wear thick gloves when handling them. After pruning, watch out for thorns on the ground that pets or young children could step on. These can be easily swept up. Also, since the plant itself is poisonous, be careful if you have pets near the plants.

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April 4, 2016

On holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day flowers are a go-to gift for many. And for good reason. They’re beautiful, easy to find, and you can’t go wrong. Nobody is going to return them.

But on the other hand, some of us women are getting a little tired of flowers. We’re not really allowed to say anything because it’s the thought that counts. We don’t want to be rude. But they come with an expiration date, and that’s both a waste of money and depressing. So here’s the top reasons women hate receiving flowers.

We know no thought was put into the gift.

Flowers are easy to find, choose, and send. You can even schedule them years in advance so you can never “forget” an important day. The most personal thing about them is the card which most of the time is filled out via an online order form. Anyone can pick up flowers at the last minute too. Any grocery store or gas station likely has a half decent bouquet that could pass for a gift. And any woman can spot these last minute bouquets, but we don’t say anything because we have to be polite. Because it’s the thought that counts.

They’re a waste of money.

We’re lucky if the flowers we get last for a week. So by the time February is over, your Valentine’s Day gift is long dead. This past Valentine’s Day my husband spent over $60 on a dozen red roses. I appreciate the thought. Really, I do! But now we have to get the dryer repaired and the car’s in the shop. And what do I have to show for those flowers? Just a charge on the credit card. But at least my husband felt better about himself for getting me something on Valentine’s Day.

They’re a lot of work.

Most flowers require some maintenance even if they’re going to die in just a few days. You have to cut the stems to make sure they can absorb the water. You have to fertilize the water also. But don’t fertilize it too much! And you have to constantly monitor the water level in the vase. So someone is giving you a gift that requires quite a bit of work, yet is going to inevitably die before next Sunday. But before that you have to find the right vase. Maybe the flowers came with one, although if they did it likely doesn’t go with the décor of your house. And any vase you do have will undoubtedly be the wrong size. It’s a never ending battle.

So what should you get us instead? Well, in the spring plants are a great idea. The weather’s warming up and it’s time for everyone to start heading outside. But this year, think about what your wife, mother, or loved one really likes. Apples, grapes, nuts? And choose a fruit tree instead. This way, you’ve made the gift personal. The plants are an investment. They won’t die in a few days and they’ll even produce fresh fruit for the gift recipient to eat!

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at freedigitalimages.net

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