Over a kilo of plant foods daily

NACHTIGALLEN FRUITS 25 FEB_3854In their eye-opening book, Perfect Health Diet (PHD), with its radical approach to a greater percentage calorie-wise of fat than carbohydrate or protein, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet recommend a daily intake of about 1.4 kg (~3 lb) of plant foods and 1/4 to 1/2 kg (1/2 – 1 lb) of animal foods.

That seemed like an awful lot to me.  I began to weigh what I had in the house and was amazed that those pictured above already totalled over 1 kilo (2 lb). The PHD recommended intake is .45 kg (15 oz or almost 1 lb) of fruits per person per day.  I haven’t accounted for the peel or other discarded bits like seeds. (For instance, a 178-gram apple’s stalk and core can weigh 13 grams; for a 175-gram banana, the peel and stalk can equal 56 grams.) I must say though that this attention to meticulous weighing will only be in the beginning, as I certainly don’t see myself obsessively weighing every item as I journey towards health-conscious eating.

I do find it interesting that 5 portions of fruit (the UK-recommended daily allowance) can weigh over half a kilo (1 lb). I realize that not everyone will eat chico (the brown round fruits above, also known as naseberry, sawo, chico zapota, Manilkara zapota )  or other exotic fruit on a regular basis. It just so happens that M and I are always ready to try any food item that is out of the ordinary.  For a more typical year-round fruit, the handful of black grapes above, for instance, weighs about 100 g.  The banana is 126 g, the pear 130 g; half of the grapefruit 185 g; and the chico 61 g.  (Rough equivalents for non-metric readers are 100 g = 3.5 oz; 450 g = 16 oz or 1 lb; 1000 g or 1 kg = 2 lb.)

How am I doing for vegetables then? Those pictured below are  intended for curry for two.


They include 4 pieces of Chinese cabbage (also known as Chinese leaf) 256 g; 1 section of broccoli 138 g; 1 carrot 107 g; 3 stalks spring or green onions 45 g; 1 red pepper 236 g; and a handful of arugula (also called rucola or rocket) 30 g. I also added 8 cherry tomatoes 101 g. In total they came to 913 grams; thus one equal portion would be 456.5 grams, rounded up to 457 grams (roughly 1 lb). In reality, however, I consume much less than one half of any dish I make for M and me.

The total weight of fruits and vegetables above for one person came to 1,140 grams or roughly 2.5 lb. The actual consumed weight is less, as there was enough of the curry left over for my lunch, and to account for wastage during preparation. As for starchy plant foods, my average intake is 165 grams, consisting of 15 grams of rice crackers and 150 g of cooked short-grain rice or boiled potato. So altogether the above combination of plant foods for one person for one day would be 1,305 grams, just under the 1.4 kilos (~3 lb) recommended intake.

I’m quite heartened that I do manage an intake of 1.4 kilos of plant foods on average per day.  If anything, I perhaps eat well over the recommended intake, as I can very quickly gobble up 4 or 5 mandarin oranges at one sitting! Just for reference and then I shall shut up: one mandarin can weigh 100 grams. My objective now is to observe the proportions (calorie-wise, that is) of 55% fat, 30% carbohydrate, and 15% protein. But that’s for another day, dear reader.

Midsummer is white

I’ve noticed that now most flowers in the hedges and fields are white, in contrast to early spring when wildflowers were overwhelmingly yellow. I’m curious to know why that is, and if anyone knows, do please share your knowledge. The elderflowers  and Philadelphus (called Holunder and Jasminstrauch here) are cascading frothily against the hedge trees, mostly field maple and Ligustrum. In the fields nearby, wild carrot umbels promise a sea of white. I’m late making my usual elderflower syrup this year. Isn’t that strange, now that I’ve got  trees in the garden and don’t have to go out of my way to gather them? Just typical of me. I made the syrup just in time, as today thunderstorms and hail have changed the past few days’ brilliantly sunny skies to a dark grey gloom, and the remaining flowers on the elder are all bedraggled.

I usually add a tablespoon or so of the syrup to sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink, and my friend Hanna tells of an excellent elderflower gelatin dessert she’d had recently. I might try making that, and M is thinking of making elderflower and yogurt ice cream. Sounds divine. Another friend suggested pouring it over pancakes (thanks Charity!). The elderflowers are best gathered as soon as they open. Try to pick them from places that are not too close to traffic. They’re at their best before they’ve been rained on. No need to wash them, just shake off insects if you find any. Picked early enough, you may beat the insects to them.

Making the syrup is dead simple.


Elderflower Syrup

1 kg refined sugar

1 litre water

30-35 fresh elderflower heads

5 unwaxed lemons

1/2 tablespoon citric acid

1.  Put sugar into a pan and pour water over. Bring slowly to a simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. No need to stir: just allow the sugar to slowly melt and turn transparent. Immediately turn off the heat and leave to cool to lukewarm.

2.  Meanwhile, strip flowers from their stalks with clean fingers into a large non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or plastic). It’s okay if some fine stems join the florets, but try to keep them to a minimum, as they give a foxy scent to the syrup.

3.  Wash the lemons, thinly peel the zest, taking care not to include any white pith as it will impart a bitter taste. Squeeze the juice, and add the zest and juice to the bowl. Stir the citric acid into the syrup and then pour over the flower and lemon mixture.

4.  Cover the bowl with plastic film and leave in a dark, cool place for 3 to 4 days. Pass the mixture through a sieve or clean cheesecloth, and then store in small containers in the freezer. If using immediately, store in the fridge.

5.  To make an elderflower drink: place 1 – 2 tablespoons of syrup in a glass, pour over cold plain or sparkling water, stir, and add ice cubes, if desired. You may wish to freeze some florets in an ice cube tray for decorative ice cubes.