A look at common vegetables starting with the letters G, K, J, L and how to cook them and their nutritional value.
This is a series of Health benefits of Common Vegetables from A-Z, or using at least as many letters as there are commonly eaten vegetables.
To view any of this series simply click the relative letter; A, B, C1, C2
Related to the onion, leek and shallot this belongs to the Allium group of vegetables. Over 6,000 years old this originally comes from Asia and is one of the vegetables used as both food and medicine in ancient times.
Hippocrates was one of the many ancient “doctors” to use this for a variety of health matters such as parasites, respiratory disorders and other illnesses.
Over the years it has been cited as curing many illnesses are smallpox and tuberculosis are but two.
Garlic has also become famous, or infamous for warding off evil spirits, (and vampires), and it was hung outside or over a door to keep evil spirits out. This practice still happens in certain countries
Garlic can be eaten raw, chopped and added to a salad or anything else you fancy, pickled, preserved in oil, or added to any dish you are cooking. It goes with just about any other savoury food stuff, so is a matter of taste.
The benefits and presumed benefits to health are numerous and would cover many pages if dealt with in depth, so included here is a simple list, naming a few of these:
- as a disinfectant
- boost testosterone levels
- cardiovascular benefits
- digestive disorders
- fungal infections
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- preventing and fighting the common cold
- prevent some complications of diabetes
- regulate blood sugar levels
- It was used to prevent gangrene during WWI and II, thanks to a discovery In 1858, by Louis Pasteur who found antibacterial qualities in garlic.
- It has been used with apparent success to counteract some side effects of AIDS
Please note these are things said to be improved with garlic, but as yet there is little evidence to support many of these claims.
This may not be as commonly eaten as other vegetables in this series, but it is an interesting vegetable - mainly because it does not come from Jerusalem, and also because it is not an artichoke. It is actually a member of the daisy family, is closely related to the sunflower and the tuber is the edible part. This vegetable was first cultivated by the Native Americans and why it came to be named Jerusalem Artichoke is unknown.
In some ways these are similar to celeriac, as they are used as a potato side dish substitute, and have a “nutty” flavour - however Jerusalem Artichokes do tend to cause flatulence and bloating, and in some people enough to be disturbing.
This is a tuber, but unlike most tubers which store the carbohydrate starch, this has inulin, (not to insulin), instead. Inulin is thought to increase the amounts of calcium and magnesium the body can absorb and it promotes intestinal bacteria which is why it is sometimes referred to as a prebiotic. It can aid blood sugar-related illnesses as it does not raise triglycerides. This means diabetics should be able to eat this without it having any negative effect for them.
It also contains potassium, iron, fibre, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper.
Kale is a type of cabbage but instead of the leaves being closed in a ball, Kale leaves open out. It is from the Brassica Oleracea family and this includes broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.
Kale dates back a very long time to BCE, although some records exist there are too few to be sure exactly when and where this was used. In Britain growing Kale was encouraged during WWII as it was so easy to grow and provided so many important nutrients. This was called a “Dig for Victory campaign”.
A normal Kale is a dark green colour, but nowadays ornamental vegetables are popular and you can often see edible purple and white Kale in flowerbeds.
This is one of a very few vegetables that actually taste better after being frozen as it looses some of its bitterness. It can be shredded and added to salads or cooked like cabbage and used for casseroles, soups and so on, but beware, it can have a strong flavour, so use sparingly if you want to taste other vegetables.
Kale contains many valuable nutrients including; Carbohydrates, Dietary fibre, Protein, beta-carotene, Calcium, Phosphorus, Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, zeaxanthin, lutein, and Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, E and K. this is quite a list, and Kale is especially high in beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, (these two are carotenoids*), and vitamins C and K.
Just like other vegetables from the Brassica family, kale contains sulforaphane which is a powerful anti-cancer and antimicrobial compound when chopped or shredded, (to break down the fibres).
Another common Brassica family characteristic is indole-3-carbinol, which is also believed to impede the growth of cancer and boosts healing in DNA cells.
Carotenoids have two basic types xanthophylls, (with oxygen) and carotenes (with hydrogen), the common one being beta-carotene. There is also alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, (more than 600 have been found so far). These help the eye in different ways and also are antioxidants.
Studies seem to show that a carotenoid rich diet can mean less serious illnesses and lower mortality rate due to ill health.
Leeks, along with garlic and onions this is an “Allium porrum” and belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family.
Although they have a bulb, rather like an onion, it is the long stalk that is usually eaten, although the white bulb is also edible. The taste is like a mild onion without the kick.
Dried leeks were found in archaeological digs in Egypt that date back to at least 2000 BCE. The leek is one of Wales’s national emblems – the other being the Daffodil which they call “Peter's Leek”. Why this came about is shrouded in legends about battles in leek fields and soldiers wearing vegetables on their helmets, but no one seems to really know how this started.
The stalk starts white and turns to a light green and darkens the further up the stalk you look. The darker the colour the less tender, and while the dark green bit may be chewy to eat, it can be used in stock or soup to give flavour and discarded later.
Leeks can be finely chopped and added to salads, lightly fried, boiled or added to soups or casseroles.
Leeks have a good number of important nutrients including; Carbohydrates, Dietary fibre, Protein, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc and Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, C, E and K.
Like the Jerusalem Artichoke this is a Daisy, or more precisely belongs to the daisy family of Asteraceae. The name is a derivative of the old term for this plant, which was milk, due to the white juice it produces. There is an ancient carving in a temple, of a subject offering this sacred thing we know as lettuce, to a God. There are many different types divided into six main groups;
those with loose leaves and a strong flavour like Tom Thumb
loose leaves and a mild flavour like Lollo Rosso, (red leaves)
Chinese lettuce with long thin leaves
Iceberg with tight heads
Cos which has a long head and spine
a reasonably thick headed type that is somewhere between an Iceberg and a loose leaf variety.
This is usually eaten raw in a salad, added to sandwiches and the like, but some cultures, like the Chinese, often cook lettuce leaves and even in Europe the odd “wilted salad” contains lightly steamed lettuce.
While lettuce is lower than most vegetables in the nutrition stakes, it is a good filler for salads and sandwiches and provides some vitamin A and folic acid.
Lactucarium, (also called “Lettuce Opium”) is the milky substance that oozes from the base of the spine and all types of lettuce have it.
Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons