Thursday, January 21, 2010

Prickly Pear Sorbet

I'm minding my own business, keeping my head down, working, thinking I'm finally going to shut up about desert foods, and I run into prickly pear sorbet in Grand Central during my commute. Disruptive!

You can speak French and make this granita/sorbet/ice in fancy machines, give it a kick with lime or tequila, or make it with just a campfire, coffee filter, and a freezer. Done!


  1. hey kara - what i want to know about (although it has nothing to do with this post about sorbet) is the nutritional value of pickles.

    I was thinking about this alot b/c I am attracted to japanese pickles like tsukemono and ichiyazuki.

    how does pickling change the nutritional value of foods? any idea?

  2. Hi tw - it seems a lot of people are after this information, judging from the search terms that bring them to wintergreens! I've stated before that I have little to no understanding of chemistry, which is what it would take to truly understand the changes vegetables go through when fermented. Sadly, I am not a nutritionist either.

    There are a couple of general ways pickles are valuable to nutrition:
    - Varying one's diet, including beneficial herbs and spices, and replacing processed foods.
    - If you're pickling yourself, or getting pickles from a trusted source, you know that these vegetables were grown with care, without chemicals, pickled while they were fresh, without travel. Both using vegetables fresh out of the garden and preserving through pickling (as opposed to freezing or canning) retain the nutrients in the vegetables.
    - It's the dead of winter, and you're still eating crunchy, flavorful, local vegetables instead of produce flown to you from someplace where it's summer. The nutrients are more intact.

    As for the more technical nutrition questions, I turn to experts. There are a lot of studies available online, and here's what I gather from them:
    - Pickled vegetables are easier to digest, and fermentation aids in the absorption of nutrients and minerals. Even shallow pickles (ichiyazuki, or overnight pickles) have undergone a "pre-digestion" transformation.
    - Fermented foods support and enhance beneficial bacteria, and a varied microflora in your gut. This balance is credited with keeping many illnesses at bay.
    - Pickled vegetables are low in calories, and the acetic acid inherent to fermentation is thought to aid the way the body processes sugars, and be very important for certain types of diabetes.
    - Brine pickles do have a lot of salt/sodium. However, studies have shown that healthy people who cut down on salt drastically have seen no benefit. Just use a good sea salt so that you're getting more important minerals into your pickles.

    Then there are all those tales about fighting "free-radicals" which I can't understand, probably because it's hard for me to accept a Free Radical being a BAD thing! And, of course, miso protecting the body from radiation. These are powerful claims, and I can't tell you whether they're right or not, because then I'd have to spend all my time in a lab instead of a kitchen.

    The Japanese are masters of the pickle, and I find it impossible to NOT be attracted to the arts of tsukemono! These pickles are beautiful, with a huge range of colors, shapes, and textures. They also incorporate a lot of additional ingredients that are healthful: red shiso, green tea, golden turmeric, pink ume, earthen nuka, red chilies, black seaweed.

    Let your body be the judge of whether these foods are good for you! And enjoy your experimentation.

  3. I just cleaned the cat boxes, and that, errr, reminded me of something I forgot in the above list.

    Pickles are a great anti-diarrheal food, since they promote good bacteria and fight the bad. Picture your pickles wearing capes.

    Constipation is much more of a problem in the U.S., but diarrhea, which I politely call "the cha cha chas," threatens lives in much of the world.