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Taste the freshness of seasonal salads

For many people, salads, especially those with lettuce as the main ingredient, are the essence of healthy eating.

Local and regional sources well into autumn

Above all, salads are easy to prepare in endless variations so that they can deliver the most fantastic taste experiences. This is especially the case from spring through to autumn when lettuces and other salad vegetables are available from local growers. The range of lettuces available is huge and very attractive. The shelves of supermarkets and local vegetable shops are full of all sorts of lettuces – from compact and round to frilly and red. Usually you buy and eat what is botanically known as a rosette. It’s typical of the way lettuces grow and it develops because the individual sections of the shoots don’t develop so that the leaves grow closely layered one over the other. For the early forms of the lettuce – the thorned lettuce Lattich Lactuca – which grew in the steppe environments of southern Europe, Asia, northern India and north Africa – this was essential for survival.

Worth knowing’s from a scientific point of view

As days lengthen and temperatures rise, the rosette of leaves opens out and a central stalk shoots upwards. In gardeners’ language, the lettuce “bolts”. Different varieties of lettuce react differently to these environmental changes, but sooner or later every lettuce switches from the initial growth phase to flowering mode. The tall stalk rising out of the centre of the lettuce is full of yellow flower panicles. As the stalk grows upward, the amount of bitter, milky white juice, especially in the stalk and flowers, increases sharply. The aim is to deter grazing animals, birds and insects from nibbling at the flowers. People don’t like the excessive bitterness either, so gardeners will pull up and discard bolted lettuces. The genus name Lactuca derives from the Latin lac for milk.

Huge health benefits

Lettuces are low-calorie and contain important vitamins and minerals, especially in the darker leaves. The bitter substances lactucin and lactucopikrin stimulate appetite. Lettuce is also thought to contain substances that soothe coughs. The refreshing taste comes from the malic and citric acid content. It’s a good idea to serve lettuce with an oil-based dressing (extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed rapeseed oil), because many of the beneficial substances in it are fat-soluble. So bring back some plump lettuces from your next shopping trip and enjoy some wonderful summer salads!


Source: Heike Stommel, www.bzfe.de