Sunday, October 18, 2009

Betel nuts (areca nuts)

Betel nuts(areca nuts) are the seeds of Betel palm (Areca catechu), which are native to Malaya. The size of the nuts are about 2 inches(5cm) long and colored between dark-brown to gray.

In general, the betel nuts become mature between the months August and November. The matured betel nuts are boiled in water, cut into slices, and dried in the sun. The driend nuts are then broken down into smaller pieces (sometimes into a powder) and mixed with edible lime (which aids in the absorption of their active ingredients, arecaine and arecoline, to human body). The mixture is then wrappen together in a leaf of the betel pepper (Piper betle) and chewed. To improve the taste and flavor, the betel-lime mixture can be then added with a small amount of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, tamarind or cardamom.

The alkaloid and arecoline ingredients of Betel nuts are a mild stimulant which produce a feeling of wellbeing, when chewing the above prepared mixture. 

Overuse of betel nuts chewing can cause a feeling of intoxication and convulsions. The habitual and long term betel nut chewers will eventually develop a distinctive red stain of the mouth, teeth, and gums; and sometime it alos cause tooth decay.

Other uses
The betel nuts are used to destroy intestinal worms, and are also used as a dewormer in veterinary medicine.

How betel nut got this name?
Since, the leaves from Piper betle(betel) are chewed together with areca nut and edible lime (the mixture is also called calcium hydroxide,  limbux, or slaked lime); and with that  association, the areca nut has become known as betel nut.
[image: woman holds Betel nut with piper betle]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) - Cheenikizhangu

This plant is cultivated for it's large edible tuber, which is being used as vegetable; They are eaten after boiled, baked and fried. The sweet potato can also be dried and ground into flour to make biscuits, and breads. The leaves and shoots of the plant are also edible. The large sweet potato tubers are range in color from purple to white or orange.

The sweet potato plant is vigorous, which spreads over with its dark green heart-shaped or five-lobed leaves closely to the ground.

The sweet potato is a good source of sugars, carbohydrates, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. It contains carotenoids which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, making cells more responsive to insulin.

The leaf decoction from the plant is used in folk remedies for tumors of the mouth and throat.

[sweet potato being cut open]

Yam - Dioscorea alata

Yam is cultivated for their edible underground tuber; and is a popular food item in tropics. Yam tubers are boiled, peeled and then mashed for eating. It can be also prepared like potato chips or french fries. It tastes sweet with starchy.

Yam is native to Southeast Asia. The plant grows for 8 to 10 months, and goes dormant about 3 to 4 months.

The flesh of yam tubers varies colors between white to yellow, and filled up with 15% to 40% starch, with little or no protein. Yam tuber contains more natural sugar than even sweet potatoes and are rich in moisture content.

Yam is termed as kachil kizhangu in tamil language.