In my recent trip to Florida, I stayed a few days on a house hosted by this gracious Cuban guy who cooked great breakfast and one day we prepared malanga fritters. Then I when to some food markets and local produce stores to find produce that was new at least for me.
What is Malanga root? It is a potato like vegetable, a staple in Cuba and Puerto Rico, that grows in the Caribbean, part of South America and other tropical parts of the globe (it ‘s also being cultivated in Florida and California). It has an elongated shape and the skin is bumpy and patchy, brown. The flavor is nutty and earthy with a waxy, starchy consistency when it's prepared. A 1/3-cup serving of cooked malanga contains 70 calories; along with 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein (while same amount of boiled potato has 45 calories and 1 gram each of fiber and protein). How to cook with Malanga? It cannot be eaten raw because it can be toxic (contains calcium oxalate), but cooking eliminates the chemical. Malanga is easily digested and is often used in baby food. It is usually prepared mashed, baked, boiled, sautéed or deep fried. Malanga flour can be used for baking.
I also have the chance to taste for the first time the exotic dragon fruit or pitaya. Originally from Central America and north South America and cultivated also in Southeast Asia, Australia and US, it’s hard to find in the Argentinean market. And I loved its eye catching pink color and its refreshing taste. It’s a fruit of the cactus family with a leader exterior and a juicy flesh that can be white or red with tiny black seeds (similar to kiwi seeds) that contain small amount of monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids (similar to kiwi seeds). Dragon fruit and other exotic fruits are gaining popularity in many cuisines worldwide. Dragon fruit is promoted as a superfood, but like many other fruits full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamin A, C and potassium.
Finally, I came across of the widest selection of citrus fruit I have ever seen! Florida is a synonymous of citrus. My favorites were the tangerines or mandarines, specially the Pixie variety (though is an hybrid originated in Southern California). Mildly sweet, seedless with a medium-orange flesh and easy-to-peel. Also, I love blood oranges and tangerines with red colored flesh as they add great color to salads. Perfect for our picnics at the beach!
Whenever you have the chance to travel, don’t miss the chance of going to local food markets to become familiar with foreign vegetables and fruits. When I was a child kiwi and mango where exotic (actually didn’t knew they existed) and now are commonly found in most supermarkets around the globe.
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