Archive for June, 2010

The Unknown Chile Peppers

Monday, June 28th, 2010

jungla de morrones

There’s a lot more to chile peppers than bell peppers, jalapenos and poblanos. If you are living in a place like us (Toronto), finding even a serrano chile at a mainstream grocery store can be a challenge. It’s really unfortunate, because there are other varieties of chiles out there, some of them being extremely versatile in food applications.

Two chiles that we particularly like for their potential are the amarillo and rocoto pepper. The amarillo, a member of the Capsicum baccatum family, is the most widely used chile pepper in Peruvian cooking, and if you’ve ever had Peruvian cuisine, chances are you have tasted it. It’s orange in colour and usually about 10 cm long.  Although not very spicy, this pepper is normally seeded and deveined before it is used in cooking. The dried version of this Amarillo pepper is called Aji Mirasol. It often comes as a paste. The food blog Serious Eats really likes the amarillo:

…aji amarillo is worth seeking out for its unique flavor, which offers a lot of fruitiness for its heat. It’s a different kind of fruitiness from other chiles like poblanos: less sharp and harsh, more full-bodied, and a lot more subtle. If there were a chile to taste like sunshine, this would be it. It may sound odd to use the word “comforting” to describe a hot chile, but for aji amarillo, it seems fitting.

Rocoto (Capsicum prubescens) is another Peruvian pepper worth considering. It’s got a lot more heat than the amarillo. This is a meaty pepper that comes in a variety of vibrant colours, from yellow to red. Made into a sauce, we really like it as a replacement for cayenne pepper based hot sauces. It seems to have a fresher, less strong taste, but with all the heat and spiciness. Try rocoto sauce on chicken wings instead of the usual hot sauces. It is excellent.

If you are a food manufacturer interested in incorporating a new and unique chile pepper into your applications, you might want to consider the amarillo or the rocoto pepper. We can provide samples in paste, dried or powdered format, and would be happy to discuss potential uses. Consumers in North America can find these peppers in various formats at ethnic grocery stores, and online. You might try searching for a Peruvian restaurant in your vicinity so you can sample the many dishes that use these chiles.

Here’s something else worth trying: subscribe and follow Ingredient Hotline so you are always up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural ingredients. We’re even on Facebook!

Creative Commons License photo credit: A6U571N

Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2010-06-25

Friday, June 25th, 2010
  • Could Chia Seeds Help Ease Depression?:
    A significant portion of our population suffer from major depression at s… #
  • We just had a small earthquake in Toronto! Apparently it caused a tsunami in the #G20 Summit fake lake. #
  • I'm about to upgrade the iPhone to iOS 4. I heard it's a good improvement. #
  • Mango coconut "happy drink" using coconut sugar Looks great, I've got to try it! #
  • Chia Seeds Featured on CNBC: Chia seeds have been featured this week on CNBC, where they wonder whether chia is th… #
  • I wonder if chia is applicable here… RT @helenlowell: Omega-3 eases depression: #
  • Homemade amarillo paste #
  • Demand for Quinoa Surges:
    There is a surge in demand for the ancient grain Quinoa, driven by a new found awarenes… #
  • It's a good time to be a quinoa farmer in Bolivia #
  • Some information on rocoto peppers We like the taste of rocoto and amarillo peppers. #
  • I'm actually going to try this tomorrow: cinnamon toast with coconut sugar. Seems simple and delicious #
  • We love making home made pizza. Here are some great tips on making pizza at home from the people at Lifehacker #
  • Refined Sugar: Not So “Refined”:
    We’re starting to notice a developing trend away from refined sugar and towards … #
  • We're enjoying the world cup. Here's some great soccer videos to check out #
  • Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2010-06-18: Chef 2 chef: cooking wirh quinoa #
    For all you wo… #

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Could Chia Seeds Help Ease Depression?

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A significant portion of our population suffer from major depression at some point in their lives. A recent study conducted at the University of Montreal, McGill University in Montreal, Laval University in Quebec City and Queen’s University in Kingston has shown that omega-3 supplements help patients with major depression (excluding those with anxiety disorders). The double blind study had half of the participants taking three capsules a day of an omega-3 supplement containing fish oil over an eight week period and the other half taking a placebo. According to the CBC:

The study found that the supplement helped about half of the sample of patients — those who had depression without anxiety disorders…The researchers could not say if food with omega-3, such as fish, would have the same effect, because their test involved only the supplement form.

The consumption of omega-3 is already a growing trend amongst those in search of a diet that may help improve cardiovascular health, strengthen the nervous system and stop cell aging. Chia seeds are the superior vegetarian source of omega-3 since it contains 18 grams of α-linolenic acid for every 100 grams of seeds. It is also felt that vegetarian sources provide other benefits over fish as a source of this essential fatty acid. Others go further in linking the relief of depression to chia:

The omega-3 fatty acids found in chia seeds has shown some success in the relief of depression symptoms. Research has shown that deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are contributing factors in many mood disorders, depression among them. Supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids have shown promising results in many who suffer such disorders, decreasing symptoms substantially in some cases.

Chia seeds can easily be added to a variety of food applications such as salads, yogurt, soups, cereal, and even drinks, without altering the original flavor.

By the way, we are not medical professionals. This is simply an interesting study result that we’d like to pass on – yet another potential benefit of chia. People with major depression should discuss the use of omega-3 with their physicians before supplementing their diets with the unsaturated fatty acid.

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Omega-3 eases depression: study

Chia Seeds Featured on CNBC

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Chia seeds have been featured this week on CNBC, where they wonder whether chia is the next big superfood. Chia isn’t mainstream yet, but has a growing following amongst the nutritionist and health community. Thanks to Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, which describes the use of chia in a drink called iskiate, long distance runners and other athletes are beginning to extol the virtues of this amazing seed. According to CNBC:

The next superfood though is a name you might know: Chia seeds. Yep, the very same seeds that you spread over your kitchen pet are now valued as a superfood…its filled with fiber, potassium and antioxidants, and it’s good for athletes of endurance sports because it holds water well.

Here’s the video segment:

Mentions of chia in the mainstream press should bump demand. It’s a versatile seed that food manufacturers might consider using in some of their products to leverage this growing awareness amongst consumers. If you’re a manufacturer looking into chia, we can help you with your application and supply both standard, and certified organic chia. Contact us to arrange for a sample. Consumers can purchase chia both online and in a growing number of traditional retail outlets.

Demand for Quinoa Surges

Monday, June 21st, 2010


There is a surge in demand for the ancient grain Quinoa, driven by a new found awareness of its nutritional value. Quinoa is a chenopod, so it’s actually closely related to species such as beets and spinach. While the greens can be consumed, it’s the grains which are typically used in food. Quinoa’s protein content is very high (12%–18%) and unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is high in lysine and therefore has a complete set of essential amino acids. It’s also a good source of dietary fiber. Besides being high in magnesium and iron, Quinoa is gluten-free and as such, easy to digest. Check out the search volume and news reference trends for quinoa since 2004:

quinoa search volume trends

According to Global Post, the demand for this grain has caused prices in Bolivia, the world’s largest quinoa exporter, to soar and exports to North America have risen over 300% since 2005:

But only in the past five years has its value to farmers has jumped through the roof, with international markets suddenly taking an interest in this nutritious food. This demand has changed the lives of quinoa farmers in Bolivia, which is the world’s largest quinoa exporter…In the 1980s, 100 pounds of quinoa sold for $7 inside Bolivia. Now the same amount of high-quality organic quinoa can sell for more than $100 to vendors in the United States or Europe.

Hopefully this demand will be offset by greater supplies as farmers realize the economic potential of this crop.

We like the potential for using quinoa flour in bread and bakery applications. The proper preparation of quinoa is essential since quinoa has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins. Therefore good quinoa has been processed to remove this coating. This process usually involves rinsing the grains. It has been suggested that this bitter coating may have caused early European settlers to south america to reject it as a food source. Quinoa is becoming widely available to consumers. If you’re a food manufacturer interested in using quinoa we’d be happy to discuss how it can be applied in your products. We currently source quinoa from Peru.

Here’s another thing you can do: subscribe to the Ingredient Hotline blog today and follow us on twitter so you can stay up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural food ingredients.

Quinoa: Bolivia’s nutty-tasting export success

Photo Credit: Christian Guthier

Refined Sugar: Not So “Refined”

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Refined Sugar

We’re starting to notice a developing trend away from refined sugar and towards natural sweeteners. There is a growing awareness that refined sugar has virtually no nutritional value, while excess consumption may have serious negative consequences to our health. Fortunately, food manufacturers (and consumers!) can leverage this growing trend and incorporate natural sweeteners in their applications as an alternative to refined sugar. An array of natural sweeteners are now available such as agave and yacon syrups, coconut sugars and other palm sugars. The appropriate sweetener probably depends on the specific application.

For example, here is how search volume has been trending for palm sugar, a natural sweetener, over the past few years:

palm sugar search volume

Refined sugar comes almost exlcusively from sugar cane and sugar beets. These plants contain juices from which sugar crystals, syrups and molasses are made. It’s worth noting that raw sugar cane juice is actually fairly good for you and has a relatively low glycemic index. Refinement is the process of extracting the sucrose from these plant materials while removing unwanted materials from the raw sugar, such as plant fibers and soil.

Refinement consists of a repeated process of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying. More Than Sugar describes the process:

After harvesting the sugar cane, machines are used to wash, cut, and press the juice out of the cane stalks. This liquid is then heated to boiling and treated with chemical solvents to remove impurities. Then it is moved to huge tanks and heated again to evaporate the water content. This leaves a thick syrup that is placed in a centrifuge machine to form the syrup into crystals…These crystals are then transported to a sugar refinery where they are heated to boiling again, treated with bleach and other chemicals and then filtered through bone char, which is a powder made from cow or pig bones. After filtering, the syrup is then centrifuged again to produce refined white sugar. Brown sugar is created by adding molasses before putting it in the centrifuge.

Table sugar is sucrose in its completely refined stage. “Pure” sugar refers to chemical purity, not to a nutritionally beneficial quality. In fact, pure sugar is virtually void of all nutritional elements such as vitamins, minerals, proteins or fibers.

It is felt that the consumption of excess sugar is linked to the improper functioning of the liver. Some simply call refined sugar dangerous. According to the Refined Sugar blog:

In addition, most people consume far more sugar than their bodies can possibly use for energy. When this happens, the liver converts the extra sugar into molecules called triglycerides and stores it as fat, or else produces cholesterol from the by-products of sugar and deposits it in veins and arteries. Sugar is thus a major factor in obesity and arteriosclerosis…It also negatively effects behavior. Refined sugar consumption has been linked to violent behavior, hypertension, and learning impediments.

If you are a food or nutraceutical manfacturer and you’d like to talk about the use of natural sweeteners in your applications, please contact us. We’d be happy to discuss any specific application you have in mind. Consumers can purchase natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, yacon syrup and agave syrup from many online retailers, and a growing number of traditional food stores.

Subscribe and follow Ingredient Hotline. It’s an easy way to stay up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural food ingredients!

Photo Credit: Lauri Andler. Licensed under the GFDL.

Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2010-06-18

Friday, June 18th, 2010

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Coconut Sugar

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Palm Tree

We’re pretty excited about natural sweeteners, and feature yacon syrup with an ultra low glycemic index. Another product we like is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made from fresh coconut sap collected from the cuttings of the flower buds on dwarf coconut trees. The sap is caramelized, then crystallized into a fine grained brown sugar. It’s 100% natural, and the perfect alternative to refined sugars in applications such as confectionery and desserts. The creamy, almost caramel-like sweetness also works well in the flavouring of curries and rich sauces for savory dishes. On a personal note, we’ve been using coconut sugar in our coffee for a while now and it’s great!

Besides its amazing texture and flavour, it also has a low glycemic index, much lower than refined sugar. Glycemic index (GI) is a tool that was developed at the University of Toronto back in the 1980’s. An ingredient’s glycemic index measures how it affects blood glucose levels in an individual. Carbohydrate foods are assigned a number between 0 and 100 based on that effect. Glycemic Index is often categorized into three levels:

  • High: a GI of more than 70
  • Moderate: a GI between 55 and 70
  • Low: a GI below 55

Due to its low glycemic index, research suggests that using coconut sugar can help stabalize insulin levels in people with type 1 & type 2 diabetes. It is also suggested that a the use of low glycemic index foods can lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol. Low glycemic index foods should also help with weight maintenance, preventing obesity and being overweight.

We encourage you to look into the research on lower glycemic index foods for yourselves. In the mean time, you might want to consider trying coconut sugar. If you’re a food manufacturer, contact us and we’d be happy to arrange for a sample. Consumers can purchase coconut sugar directly from sources such as Amazon. If you use coconut sugar, we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Here’s another idea: subscribe to the Ingredient Hotline blog today and follow us on twitter so you can stay up to date on the latest in innovative, all natural food ingredients.

Creative Commons License photo credit: HeyDanielle

Lucuma Ice Cream

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

How about a diary free, sugar free, wheat and egg free caramel flavoured ice cream? Sound too good to be true? Ani Phyo, the raw food author shows us how to make lucuma ice cream sweetened with yacon syrup. She suggests putting the blended ingredients directly into a container which goes in the freezer. We’d recommend putting them into your ice cream maker first to get a better consistency, but either way lucuma ice cream is delicious!

Chia: a Remedy for Acid Reflux

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Day 141- H's Sick Day
Acid reflux, the main cause of heartburn and acid indigestion, is the abnormal backward flow of stomach acid to the esophagus. The typical symptom is a burning sensation in the chest, just behind the breastbone. The blog Diabetes War claims that chia is an effective remedy against acid reflux.

As we’ve noted before, chia seeds have some rather amazing qualities, among them being high in omega-3, antioxidants, protein and calcium. Chia seeds can absorb about 12 times their weight in liquid. By adding water to chia seeds, a gel is formed around the seeds and it becomes a nutritious, filling drink, which helps decrease appetite. Iskiate is a beverage that leverages this effect, and is well known by long distance runners. According to Diabetes War:

Drinking a third cup of chia gel at the onset of acid reflux can eliminate it for many people. Try drinking that much three times a day. It might prevent acid reflux from occurring at all. I know of people who swallow a teaspoon of raw seeds if they experience acid reflux. The seeds absorb the acid just as they do water…it is rich in mucilloid soluble fiber, thus allowing it to quell the burning pain of acid reflux in the esophagus and stomach.

Have you ever tried using chia as a remedy for heartburn? How else have you used chia in your diet? Let us know in the comments!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jinx!