Saturday, February 16, 2013

Super Food ... Allium Family

If I were to ask you what is included in the Allium family of foods, what would you answer?  You may not recognize the name, but you know the foods!

The definition, according to Merriam Webster Encyclopedia is this:
any of a large genus (Allium) of bulbous herbs of the lily family including the onion, garlic, chive, leek, and shallot [and ramps]
Ah ha!  Now you know what I'm talking about!  But, how much do you know about these super foods?

The allium family made the #2 spot on Dr. Perricone's list of super foods.  Why?  Well, lets do a run down.

  • Foods in this family contain a plant-based compound called flavonoids that are rich in antioxidant properties.  Antioxidants repair damage that has been done to your cells from things like stress, poor eating habits etc. 
  • According to Dr. Perricone, the flavonoids in allium foods stimulates your body's production of Glutathione.  Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that ramps up your body's ability to get rid of toxins and carcinogens. 
  • Foods in the allium family have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.
  • These foods have been shown to improve cardiovascular health.
  • They have been shown to help prevent neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's
  • They have also been shown to help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure.
Personally, I use garlic and onion in almost all of my cooking.  I do know several people who say that they do not like them.  I will admit that they pack a pungent odor and flavor.  A quick blanch or saute will help tone down the flavor a bit.  As for garlic, when it is cooked it actually becomes sweet and nutty in flavor.

So we all know what onions and garlic are, right?  What about the others?
  • Chive: defines them as the most petite member of the onion family.  They are very mild in flavor and are commonly used as a garnish.
  • Scallion:  You may recognize them better by the name Green Onion.  They are larger and a bit stronger in flavor than chives, but smaller and more mild than your typical red, white and yellow onions.  Most commonly eaten raw, they can be thrown into cooking at the end.  They are also delicate enough to use as a garnish.
  • Shallot:  These guys look sort of like "baby onions".  Larger than a scallion, but not near as big as an onion.  Shallots are similar in flavor to an onion, but more mild and sweet.
  • Leek:  Leeks do not seem to be very popular in American cuisine.  I was watching Christina Cooks once and she said, "It's more European.  We just do not know what to do with them."  Appearance wise, they look like a really big scallion.  They are mild and sweet in flavor.  Only eat the white and light green portion ... discard the dark green part of the stalk.  Simply Yummy Goodness has good instructions on how to clean and cook with leeks.
  • Ramp:  Also referred to as a wild leek, you may have never heard of this one.  They look very much like a scallion except their stalks are tinged with purple and a bit more "leafy" in appearance.  They are very pungent and have a flavor like garlic and onion melded into one.  YumSugar has some suggestion on how to prepare them.
So, there you go!  Hopefully the mysteries of the allium family have been unlocked for you.  These foods are not only delicious, but are great for your health too!

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