Onions matter. I was going to write “whichever way you slice them”, but I’m going to get through this column without resorting to lazy puns. No sweat.
In southern Italy, they matter so much that the Calabrian coastal town of Tropea enjoys an annual August “Festival of the Red Onion”, in which locals celebrate the manifold qualities of their crop.
“The sweet taste, fleshiness and crunchy quality of the red Tropean onion make it one of the most delectable and widely requested products of this area,” says the Festival’s literature. I can personally attest to this, but can’t vouch for its claimed therapeutic qualities. Calabrians point to their low rate of heart attacks as evidence.
In Britain, we are not accustomed to onion headlines. Beef has had its moment, chicken too; butter, cream, coffee, tea, red wine and meat are perennials. Turnips, maybe. It was even World Nutella Day last week. But, onions? Well, that’s as unlikely as kale, gluten or… daffodils! That’s not least because, as everyone knows, the latter isn’t a foodstuff.
Well, so you’d think. Last week, we were informed, in an “earnest attack”, by Public Health England that supermarkets need to keep the spring flower away from the fruit and veg sections, because people are mistaking daffodil bulbs for onions. And, no, it’s not April 1. Apparently, some 63 people have suffered from daffodil poisoning over the past six years alone.
Professor Paul Cosford, PHE medical director, warned: “Daffodils are dangerous if eaten and poisoning can occur as a result,” in a letter to stores. “We are aware of an incident a few years ago in which some shoppers, for whom English was not their first language, bought daffodils and cooked the plants believing them to be something else.”
Let’s take this at face value. If eaten, daffodils can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, dizziness, eczema, itchiness and vomiting. Whereas, onions? Even the Tropean variety will do little to adorn the average vase for long.
Who remembers Jamie Oliver’s short-lived 2010 “Food Revolution”? In a scary scene, the cheeky chappie stumped a class of American kindergarten children by asking them to name variously not just an aubergine, but a potato, tomato, cauliflower and beetroot.
The healthy eating trends of 2015
The healthy eating trends of 2015
1/10 Acai bowls are the new green juice
Who ever thought we’d have been ok with adding spinach to our smoothies? Yet even virtuous green juices started to get something of a bad rep, as the ‘juice fast’ backlash grew and it turned out that some shop-bought juices contained as much sugar as a can of fizzy drink. Bring on Acai bowls, the new darlings of Instagram. Like a gloopier smoothie, these are made with antioxidant-rich acai berries (they are hard to come by - search for powdered or dried berries or frozen puree), which are said to aid weight loss. Blend with frozen bananas, berries and a little nut milk and top with whatever you like - seeds, nuts, cacao nibs, goji berries. A picture-perfect purple powerhouse for breakfast.
Ella Grace Denton, www.weneedtolivemore.com
2/10 Bone broth is the new Miso soup
Remember back in the day when the word ‘broth’ would conjure up visions of Dickensian orphanages? Then miso came along, Gwyneth embraced it, and we all followed suit, lauding how filling and protein rich with little wonder broth was. We’ve come full circle now, as bone broth is back on the radar. The glowing-with-health Hemsley sisters seem to use bone broth in most of their recipes, and rave about its nutritional benefits. “Bone broth is a nourishing all rounder packed with vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin which makes it amazing for skin – including the dreaded cellulite! The healthy fats in the broth help you to assimilate important vitamins including Vit D.” There you go, something to stew over...
Food Loves Writing, Flickr
3/10 Bee pollen is the new Manuka honey
Every health hipster has a jar of manuka honey on their shelves - if they can afford it that is, a jar can cost about £15. But many claim it is worth its weight in gold, due to its unique antibacterial properties. Traditionally it was used on wounds, but many also claim that it performs miracles combatting cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and digestive problems (although the science is limited). Now bee pollen is the latest ‘superfood’ out there - thought to ward off colds, limit food cravings, improve skin tone, ward off allergies like hay fever (although some caution that it may exacerbate them) and, of course, fight cancer. Again, the science behind these claims is dubious - but it certainly adds a nice sweetness to your morning porridge.
4/10 Kelp is the new kale
Last year saw the emergence of an unassuming green leaf that was previously barely used beyond cattle feed. Now, we have kale chips in Pret, kale juices, ‘massaged’ kale salads - it’s even on the menu in fine dining restaurants. Yawn. Introducing kelp. This seaweed is high in iodine, which is said to improve thyroid function and control metabolism. It is also thought to have anti-aging properties for skin and hair. Try it in salads or add to asian-style soups.
5/10 Matcha is the new green tea
Yes, yes, yes, green tea, weightloss, yadda yadda yadda, boosts metabolism, etc etc. For 2015, though, it’s not about just any old green tea - this is matcha green tea. Made from finely milled high-grade matcha leaves, which are grown in the shade, matcha boasts 130 times more anti-oxidants than your bog standard green tea and is supposed to boost energy levels, lower stress, improve your mood and aid metabolism. It can be consumed as a regular tea, added to steamed milk for a matcha latte or even used to add a pleasant green shade and flavour to ice-cream.
6/10 Whole 30 is the new Paleo diet
Thought you were a culinary champ with your caveman-style eating plan? Well, think again, paleo is for wimps! Ok, not quite, but while people on the paleo plan cut out grains, legumes, sugar and processed foods, there is an increasing trend to paleo-fy your treats, with almond-flour pancakes, banana bread and a lot of brownies. The Whole 30 plan is a purer, stricter version of Paleo and really takes you back to basics when it comes to eating natural foods. The 30-day plan bans scales as well as sugar and alcohol, so that you can concentrate on nourishment rather than weight.
7/10 Fermenting is the new sprouting
Just when we thought we were ahead of the game by starting to sprout our own seeds and with sprouted flours creeping on to the market, the health set had to kick it up a notch. Now it’s all about making your own kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut or kimchi (both kinds of pickled cabbage). Fermented foods are said to aid digestion thanks to the creation of enzymes and probiotics in the process. Plus they tend to be high in B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. Think of it as the new jam-making, and break out those mason jars.
8/10 Banana flour is the new coconut flour
Coconut flour was one of the coolest baking ingredients of the year, beloved by Paleo fans. Its highly absorbent qualities mean you only need a tiny bit for baking, keeping your creations low carb but resulting in the odd dry-crumbly-mess baking fail. Banana flour is the next flour to experiment with. Made from green bananas (and no, not banana-flavoured), it is gluten free and light in texture, so ideal for baking. High in resistant starch, which is effective against colon cancer, obesity, and diabetes, it is already being lauded for its nutritional benefits in Africa and South America, and will surely start to become much more visible on health-food shop shelves in the near future.
9/10 Bulletproof coffee is the new soy latte
Nowadays it is possible to walk into almost any cafe and order a soy latte without being eyeballed as a lunatic by the person behind the counter. But would you have the guts to request a stick of butter in your morning brew? Well, some coffee shops are offering exactly that. Bulletproof coffee is a paleo-friendly invention which involves a black coffee with a dollop of coconut oil or butter. Bleurgh. But advocates say it gives you more slow-release energy, sharpens your brain and helps you to focus - and even that it is delicious. Now the theory has been expanded into a whole ‘Bulletproof’ diet plan, rich in fat. Who wants to bet on when Starbucks will give it a shot?
10/10 Tiger nuts are the new almonds
2014 was a good year for almonds. Gym-goers and raw foodists alike carried around a stash for healthy, protein-rich snacking, almond-milk lattes were quaffed, and almond flour featured in so many paleo and gluten-free treats. Now tiger nuts, or ‘earth almonds’ (yes, really), are about to vie for snacking superiority. Tiger nuts are not nuts, but the tubers of the sedge plant. Originally a key food source for Paleolithic Indians, they have until recently been used as animal feed or a side dish in South America, Africa and the Middle East, or in Hispanic companies made into a sweet, milky drink called horchata. But now the hipsters have got their hands on it, drying, roasting and flavouring with the likes of sweet chilli for an on-the-go snack. High in healthy fats, protein and natural sugar, it is rich in energy content, and thought to help prevent heart disease and improve circulation.
Last year an Australian survey revealed that 92% of Aussie children didn’t know bananas grew on plants. More than half could not identify a nectarine.
This matters so much, so obviously, that it is collectively negligent of us to allow our children to grow up so ignorant. It’s scandalous that we’ve allowed the ability to recognise an apricot to become the butt of anti-middle class jokes about Waitrose shoppers.
The disconnect between the packaging of meat and its animal origins is even greater. This threatens not only food culture, but public health and the environment. Watch the excellent Channel 4 series Food Unwrapped. It’s an eye-opener.
So, we need a few less “should have gone to Specsavers” jokes and more public education, particularly at primary school level. But, it’s pointless targeting children in isolation. Their parents undertake the weekly shop. We need nothing short of a revolution in the way that the general public is educated about the health and the food chain. And the only flowers you should contemplate cooking belong to zucchini.
Stefano Hatfield is editor in chief of High50.com