After an unfeasibly long absence, hello! I’ve been in Florida the past couple of weeks visiting my lovely Dad and younger sister, getting a bit of sun/Vitamin D and eating in some of Tampa Bay’s great new local-food restaurants. I won’t take over a whole post with restaurant reviews but I must say that even since my October visit the food scene has spiced up considerably. I’ll pop down some recommendations in a soon-to-be-written page of travel finds (she typed hopefully), but I was quite impressed by Wimauma and Boca, both in south Tampa.
The former specialises in what it terms “Cracker Cuisine”, referring to the jokey name given to native Floridians, indicating a “frontier people who did not just live but flourished in a time before air conditioning, mosquito repellent, and bug-screens.” Although I did not see squirrel on the menu, my sister and I split, and enjoyed very much, a dish of juicy shrimp (although anything but shrimpy – the suckers were HUGE) sauteed with tomato, basil, white wine and pork bark, and served over the creamiest, softest grits I have ever tasted. Green tomatoes, hush puppies, collard greens, Florida seafood, boiled peanuts and many other native treats get the gourmet treatment at this unusual, family-friendly restaurant. My only criticism – too much salt. I noticed that many higher-end restaurants take the French way of seasoning to the extreme. I should have done a pre- and post-trip blood pressure check. Could’ve been quite alarming though. I am hoping the copious amount of backyard grapefruits and star fruits that I scoffed will somehow have mopped up the excess sodium. Note to molecular biologists and biochemists: please do not write in and disabuse me of this new but strongly-held belief.
As I have been back less than 24 hours, this post will be short-ish and to the point (-ish). I have an urgent appointment with a comfy sofa…
What can I say about the pomegranate that you don’t already know, or haven’t heard about already? Well, probably not much. I know – as do you, I am sure – that pomegranates are one of only a handful of foods that deserve the accolade ‘super food’. However, although they are great sources of fibre, vitamin C, folate and vitamin K, that’s not really why they are so good for us.
The fruit of the Punica granatum tree quite literally drips with antioxidants: The taste, the colour, and the scent of a cut pomegranate leaves you in no doubt that something special lies within. That special something is an abundance of tannins and anthocyanins . When it comes to heart health and anti-ageing properties these particular polyphenols are more potent than vitamin C, vitamin E and co-enzyme Q-10, and pomegranates probably have the most of any known plant. Interestingly, and quite like tomatoes in this respect, the juice is a more concentrated source than the fruit, and commercial juice more so than home-pressed. Just make sure to get 100% juice and not any blended with other fruit juices or with sugar added (it’s sweet enough as it is). And please don’t get it in commercially made smoothies: Smoothie King’s Pomegranate Punch weighs in at a hefty 464 calories for a 20 ounce serving, although you can go ‘skinny’ for a mere 414 calories. An 8 ounce glass of pure juice sets you back 160 calories (6 ounces is more than enough in my opinion), but this monster smoothie adds blueberries, banana, apple juice, turbinado (a fancy name for sugar) and the obligatory soy protein. I say, make your own (see sidebar).
Although credited as far back as Biblical times with “extraordinary medicinal properties”, the ruby seeds of this winter fruit were relatively unexplored by Western medicine until recently. Research from 2006 onwards has shown pretty convincing evidence that pomegranates may help prevent and treat (yes, treat) numerous cancers and also heart disease (specifically atherosclerosis).
The latest information from both cultured (‘test tube’) and animal studies credits this refreshing fruit with selectively inhibiting the growth of breast, prostate, colon, lung and skin cancer cells. An initial Phase II clinical trial of pomegranate juice (similar to what we can buy in shops) in prostate cancer patients with rising PSA levels significantly slowed the ‘doubling rate’ in 38 of 46 men who drank 8 ounces of the juice for three years. As rising PSA levels can indicate a growing tumour this 2006 finding is very important. A follow-up study is due to report in 2013. For more information on the studies, have a look at this review by Adhami et al in the academic journal, Nutrition and Cancer. For a layman’s look at the pomegranate and health literature, click through to this piece in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And for details of the current prostate cancer study go to this clinicaltrials.gov page. And promise me that even with all this good news about pomegranates that you enjoy them in moderation, and don’t eat the peel (it is sometimes on sale in dried form – AVOID). Those of you on blood thinners and ACE inhibitors such as captopril should skip pomegranate juice unless okayed by your physician. The rest of you, drink in place of other juices occasionally, and no more than one glass a day, or eat the seeds as you wish.
Nutrition lesson over, I’ll get on to the recipe. But first, for gorgeous images of pomegranates, and quite a lot of tips on how to use them, amble over to Sally at My Custard Pie. I differ with her on the best method for extracting the seeds as I find the roll, cut and whack method fine for my purposes, but you might find her method better for you. And don’t worry about getting the juice on you and your clothes: unlike my beloved beetroot, pomegranate juice washes out no problem.
This Week, 2011: Tawny Seville Orange Marmalade