Off topic, two quick things. First, it's delicata squash season! My ex-girlfriend Sara introduced me to this. The aptly named delicata squash is only available for a few weeks every year, but it's a delicacy, tasty and worth seeking out. The Mennonite market up the hill from me has bounteous heaps of it fresh from the fields. It's great roasted (you can eat the rind too) or made into soup—I'll be making a big batch of delicato squash soup later today. And as a side note, the seeds, toasted, are tastier and less splintery than toasted pumpkin seeds*. A treat all around, and I commend it to you if you don't already know about it.
Second, on the food-as-medicine front, just wanted to pass along the emerging idea, possibly spurious but possibly real, that berries are good for brain health. Early studies have shown positive links between consuming blueberries (or other dark berries like blackberries and currants) and a lessening of the severity and onset of dementia, as well as improvements in memory and mental clarity. Most studies so far have been done on rodents, and no, I am not calling you a "dirty rat" in a Jimmy Cagney accent. The human studies so far are largely anecdotal or preliminary. But as the science catches up it's likely that we'll be hearing more about this in the coming decade.
I'm a fan of the idea because one of the anecdotal studies is the one I've been conducting on myself—at home I've been either eating 1–2 cups of blueberries or blackberries daily, or, usually on alternate days, drinking eight ounces of pure blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, pomegranate, or black currant (very bitter!) juice—Lakewood Juices and R.W. Knudson are among the companies that market pure berry juice. I acknowledge the possibility of suggestibility (a good skeptic is also skeptical of him- or herself), but I'm sensitive to the workings of my own brain, and I notice a distinct improvement in my mentation since I started this experiment—I believe I'm thinking more clearly. Names, increasingly a bugbear for our aging brains, are definitely popping up more readily. Moreover, that thick foggy feeling of mental fuzziness and muzziness that comes and goes, and which I hate, is noticeably ameliorated.
Concord grape juice is also believed to confer benefits, and in the U.S. a traditional drink for many years has been Welch's Grape Juice, which used to be pure Concord grape juice. (Read up on the history of Concord grape juice if you're interested—it's fascinating.) Alas, all I can find from Welch's in the numerous supermarkets I've checked are Concord juice blends. Not good enough. You want to stay away from juice blends in general—one of the (many) great swindles in the modern supermarket is the fact that "100% fruit juice" is very often mostly apple juice, no matter the label on the bottle or the color of the juice, and apple juice is very close to just plain sugar water.
Even pure berry juices do contain sugar, and that's a dietary liability, but take it from me, a guy can only stand to eat but so many blueberries. (Although if you have a Vitamix, here's a great way to get more. You'll want to pit that date!)
Google "blueberries and dementia" for more. A lot of what you'll find will be echo-chamber stuff, and yes, it's possible that this is just a fad, one of those cases of an earnest folk remedy raised up high on a great airy cushion of hope. But then again, garlic really does have about the same antibiotic power as early penicillin, so sometimes folk remedies are real.
My dear Mom has dementia, and she hates it. So my view is, eating more berries might not help, but it seems to, and, since it sure doesn't hurt, I'm in.
(Thanks to Sara)
*A guilty confession—the delicata at Windy Acres is so cheap that, as the end of the season nears, I'll be buying a basket full just to roast the seeds. Wasting the flesh of this squash is a sin, but less of a sin than letting those heaps of delicata turn to compost!
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Featured Comments from:
Kenneth: "Delicatas are the perfect squash. They're the perfect size to bake as a side dish for two. I like to brush them with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence mixed into a little olive oil. I've also enjoyed them with Indian seasonings (cumin, coriander, and garam masala). They're great with baked salmon or salmon cakes. Finish off the plate with a rice pilaf and you've got a 'special' night's dinner that really didn't take all that much work. And because this is a photography blog, you are required to take a picture of your dinner. Send it to your friends. They will be jealous."
Alan Carmody: "Delicata squash from the Mennonite farmers up the road! Mike, the evidence that the move to upstate New York was a wise one keeps piling up. :-) "
JimR: "Mike, years ago while touring wineries in the Finger Lakes (I can't remember which one) there was a winery selling 100% fresh pressed Concord grapes, and it was delicious. Check with a local winery; even if they don't do this they'll know who may be."
Mike replies: After I got your comment, I did a little Googling, and—although I don't know if it's the winery you remember—discovered that Barrington Cellars sells Concord grape juice. Barrington Cellars is, in country terms, a neighbor—I tell guests to turn at their sign to get to my road, and, if one doesn't mind walking up and down steep hills, a person could walk there from my house. So I now have a quart of locally grown, 100% pure Concord grape juice in my fridge, thanks to you, Jim. And a handy local supplier as well.
The juice is so sweet I might mix it with black currant juice (which is not sweet at all, but very bitter).