Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients that are thought to be beneficial to us. Culinary herbs supply some compounds that are not provided by fruit and vegetables. So using a variety of herbs, such as mint, adds to the diversity of phytonutrients in our diet.
Mint is a wonderfully fresh herb, both sweet and cooling. It goes well with many foods, and features in many cuisines around the world, including our own roast lamb and mint sauce. Pair it with vegetables like cucumber, beetroot, peas, carrots and eggplant, or summer fruits like melon, strawberries and pineapple. Mint is very popular in Mediterranean cooking, accompanying lamb, yoghurt and lentils, and in tabouli and other dishes.
Mushrooms are low in energy, add protein and fibre, and can be an excellent source of selenium and B vitamins.
Mushrooms have a special place in the heart of any Kiwi who’s picked them on autumn mornings to eat on toast for breakfast. The selection of varieties now available in New Zealand includes portobellos, shiitake, Swiss brown, and button mushrooms, and they add an earthy, savoury note to many dishes. Mushrooms contain a lot of water and shrink during cooking, and they also soak up fat readily, so keep this in mind when cooking them. Mushrooms can be roasted, stir-fried, grilled and sautéed, and are great in pies (see below).
Kumara are nutrient-dense and contain good amounts of fibre, potassium, folate, and vitamins C, B3 and B6.
The kumara — our very own Kiwi sweet potato — can be used pretty much anywhere a potato is called for, although they tend to cook a little quicker. Each of the red, gold and orange varieties has a slightly different taste, and all are more nutritious with their skins left on. Their sweetness makes them particularly good for baking!
This sweet fruit adds fibre and potassium to our day.
Although not grown here, bananas consistently rank as New Zealanders’ favourite fruit and if we don’t eat them straight out of their skins we put them in smoothies, baking and desserts, ice cream, breakfasts and even the occasional savoury dish, like a curry.