Growing up, we’ve all heard about the same food groups, so we know how to classify our foods. You’ve got fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins. There are a few other things like spices and herbs, nuts and seeds too, but most things fit into the 4 main groups (fruit, vegetables, grains and proteins). There are also sugars, fat and salt, but for the moment I’m leaving those alone – that’s another post for another day.
Sometimes though, you hear something totally unexpected that seems to go against what you thought you knew. And that’s exactly what happened to me the other day. My hubby was watching TV and suddenly came running over to me, all excited about what he’d just heard. Considering he’s not really that into food, he has learnt a hell of a lot from me over the past 3 years so I wasn’t surprised when he came to give me some interesting info. What he told me was really interesting though.
He’d just heard that:
1. Corn is not a vegetable, but a grain. Ever heard of maize or maize flour? Its another term for corn and it is used much like wheat flour. And heard of polenta? Its another version of corn used as a grain. Evidently, each ear of corn always has the same number of corn kernels on it. Fascinating, no? Check out this article from the United States with the history of corn, some amazing corn facts and even a few recipe suggestions.
2. Watermelon is not a fruit, but a vegetable. Its actually in the same family as pumpkin and cucumber. This is a strange one for me, but if you think about it, watermelon is sweet and pumpkin can be sweet so that makes sense. It’s just the cucumber that isn’t working for me. But I went searching for more info and found this awesome article that explains it all in much better detail than I can. Check it out, it actually kinda makes sense.
When my husband told me these things. I realised that there were a couple of other interesting food facts that I could share with you that I’ve learned by reading cookbooks, watching cooking TV shows and checking out other food blogs.
For instance, did you know that:
3. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is not a grain, but a seed. And I reckon that’s why its become so popular recently, especially among the gluten free and carb free set. However, for us normal home cooks, it just makes an interesting change to the menu, and it has more protein in it so it will help keep our families full. Tip: use quinoa instead of rice or couscous in a recipe, but make sure you adjust the cooking times!
4. Tomatoes are not vegetables, but are instead a member of the fruit family. This fact has been around for a while though, so maybe this is a little bit of a cheat on my behalf because you’re likely to have heard this one before (see the awesome article I referred to in fact 2 for more facts about the fruit vs vegetable debate for tomatoes).
5. Couscous is not a grain, its actually more like, though is not exactly, a pasta. Couscous is made from rolling crushed semolina husks and water together and then drying them. You just add water to cook them, just like with pasta, only its a lot faster. The difference between couscous and pasta is a technicality as pasta uses refined semolina (a type of wheat) and couscous uses the unrefined semolina (see more info and some recipes here). Tip: always measure the amount of water to couscous or you’ll get soggy couscous (see some cooking tips here).
6. Cashew nuts aren’t really nuts. Most nuts grown in a shell which you need to crack to get to the nut (like walnuts and almonds). Cashew trees actually grow a fruit called a cashew apple and the cashew is the bit surrounded by fruit – much like the seed in a mango. Interestingly enough cashews are related to mangoes (related as in the same biological family).
Don’t worry though if you’ve not heard these facts before. At least now you will sound like a genius or be able to win your next trivia night because your friends and family won’t know these facts. But for your cooking career, here’s a couple of meal ideas for you that I’ve made recently.
Chicken and quinoa salad – even going to the Australian Open Tennis wasn’t an excuse not to eat well. I made this simple salad by cooking quinoa with chicken stock then adding salad vegetables and a balsamic and honey dressing – and chicken of course. Totally yum!
|Chicken and quinoa salad|
Roasted pumpkin and quinoa salad – quinoa lends itself really well to salads. In the salad below I roasted pumpkin and a few other veg, added them with some salad vegetables and this time cooked the quinoa with curry powder to give it a vibrant colour and taste.
|Roasted pumpkin and quinoa salad|
Vegetable tagine – Tagines are Moroccan versions of stews and casseroles, and there’s really no reason why you can’t eat a tagine, a stew or a casserole with couscous. This vegetable tagine worked really well with the couscous but you can make beef, lamb and chicken tagines that all taste amazing when paired with couscous.
|Moroccan tagine with couscous|
Question: What other weird and interesting food facts do you know?