Gosh, it feels like ages since I last put fingers to keyboard. All thumbs here. As I am feeling somewhat rusty this might be a bit brief.’ Yay!’ I hear you cry. But not because I have nothing to say. Oh no.
We have recently returned from sunny Spain, where it most certainly did not rain mainly on the plain, or anywhere else. We had a brilliant time staying in Sitges, just outside of Barcelona. Everything was perfect. Usually when we go away, by the end of our time in wherever, I am ready to go home and see my animals and put my head on my own pillow. But not this time. I really felt at home with the heat, the slow pace, the simple food and the welcoming people. Walking the string of sparkling bays lined with attractive restaurants, bars and shops, punctuated by peeks into majestic churches, was a particular highlight. And, outside of the urbanised areas, are swathes of pine forests, sweeping verdant vineyards and the odd preserved Roman site. It is hard to overlay the daily reports of Spain’s economic upheaval and uncertainty with what we saw and experienced: it just doesn’t fit, at least in that area. I truly hope the mess that is the euro at present is resolved without too much sacrifice by the ordinary, hard-working citizens in the countries most affected.
Anyway, as hoped, not only did I come back several shades darker and no longer looking as if I live in a mayonnaise jar, but my feeble, pneumonia-ed lungs have improved. I still have what my GP refers to as my old man’s cough but – touch wood – I am improving every day. Perhaps not enough to tackle the EU mountain of ironing that seems to have grown from nowhere: didn’t we all take perma-press stuff? Methinks I may have to milk this lack of energy thing a bit longer.
Unfortunately, my tastebuds weren’t quite up to assessing the food as well as I would have liked, but I came back inspired by the bounty and colours of the markets. Unlike here in the UK, where we seemingly demand all of our produce look measuring stick-perfect, Spanish markets are filled with delightfully misshapen specimens, all smelling and tasting (I am told) as they should. Naturally I came away inspired so I hope to soon have a couple of ‘sun-spired’ recipes for you.
But, today we are decidedly British. Scottish even. Despite the Biblical-style rain dumped by an errant jetstream, somehow most of the berry crops have survived. Unfortunately the potato and root crops haven’t fared so well, all blighted and drowned. Washed away in some cases. But for now my glasses are rose-tinted, or rather raspberry, blackberry and blueberry tinted.
Berry Good For You: Berries are arguably Nature’s perfect cancer-fighting fruit. Literally stuffed with top nutrients, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are in a league of their own. Despite the fact that they grow wild and can be picked for free or for a nominal price, the blue-black and red coloured berries contain the most antioxidants of any edible plant foods. Best fresh, they are also great from frozen and lightly cooked - smoothies, crumbles, salsas, salads, juices, compotes, sauces, ice creams.
All berries are good or excellent sources of anthocyanins (what makes the colour), Vitamin C, and fibre. Raspberries are brilliant for potassium, folate and fibre, while blackberries are a source of vitamins A, C, E and K, a host of B vitamins, and numerous minerals such as copper and potassium. But the big guns as far as cancer is concerned is ellagic acid. A potentially potent tumour fighter ellagic acid balances our phase 1 and phase 2 detox enzymes (of which phase 2 is involved in transforming carcinogenic substances into a harmless form) and, as the late James Joseph wrote in his book, The Colour Code, “takes the battery out of cancer cells.” This happens by a process known as apoptosis, a fancy word for programmed cell death, what a healthy cell does. This area of interest is too involved for discussion here, when most of you just want to get on to dessert. But if you wish to know more, grab a copy of The Colour Code (mine is well thumbed and stained with berry juice – really!) or have a look at this overview from the American Cancer Society, this from the American Heart Association or, best of all, this fantastic piece from the American Institute for Cancer Research – it’s my crib sheet for work. Most of the phytochemicals are very complicated to study as they interact in innumerable ways, so perhaps it is best just to include them plentifully in a varied diet and not necessarily see them as medicine. But they are fascinating.
What is your favourite way with berries? Do you like them straight from the bush, all sun-warmed and juicy, or do you like them cooked up into jam for a summer treat when snow is falling? Me? I can’t think of any way I don’t like berries!