Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spice University - Vegetable Powders

A Little Spice of Life
From The Colonel

Carrot powder? What do I do with that?

Most of us are familiar with herb and spice powders, for example, allspice, cumin, basil, mustard, and rosemary are available in powder form to name a few. We use these when we are trying not to introduce a coarse or chewy ingredient into a particular dish. The powder will tend to blend in and not be noticed for its texture, but just for its taste and flavor. But, what about vegetable powders? I’m going to ignore the two most common vegetable powders, onion and garlic, since most of us have used them at least once. There are some who would argue whether they are vegetables or not. Beside, there are others lurking in the shadows of our cookery just waiting to be discovered and used.

What are they and how do I use them? I would like to cover three with you. The first is beet root powder. I happen to be one of those strange individuals that really like beets. It has even been suggested to me, by my eye doctor, that I should try to eat even more beets. Turns out beets are rich in beta carotene. This is the stuff that is very good for your eyes. It has been my experience, that I do not belong to a very big club. A lot of folks just don’t care for them. Let’s get back to beet powder. Beets are actually very sweet. A lot, I would say most, of the sugar that we eat today doesn’t come from sugar cane, as we would rightly assume, but the sugar actually comes from beets. How they get the beets from red to white is a whole other class. Let’s just say that they do that transformation everyday. This information should give you a hint as to how you might use beet powder. Since it is very red, you may use it to dye or add red color to almost any dish. Some anti-chemical folks will use it to dye Easter eggs. But besides the color, what we are really after here is the sweetness. In the winter and early spring it is hard to get good fresh local vegetables. The ones we can get can turn a little bitter as you cook them. Simple solution, add beet powder. It won’t give the food a beet flavor, you don’t use that much. It simply sweetens the dish without having to resort to processed sugar.

If the red color is really bothersome to you, there is another powder that can be used in exactly the same way and doesn’t turn everything red. Meet carrot powder. Carrot powder has a very slight orange cast, but won’t turn food orange when used. Like beets, carrots are also very sweet, so the addition of carrot powder is another way of turning bitter dishes sweet without going to our old friend processed sugar. Check with your doctor, but most of the time even those with sugar problems can use beet and carrot powder without adversely affecting their sugar levels. You can also use these powders to sweeten drinks like tea and fruit drinks.

The final vegetable powder brings us full circle. Let’s say that we have a dish we are making and all of a sudden it goes very sweet. What can we do? It is tomato powder to the rescue. Since it is also red, it can be a bit tricky, but if you are careful you can add just enough tomato powder so that the acidic nature of tomatoes tames the sweetness. Tomato powder is also good when you want to enrich a dish that already has tomatoes in it, but the flavor is still somewhat flat. Like I mentioned before, during the winter and early spring tomatoes seem to lack in flavor. An easy remedy is to add a little tomato powder. Adding it to tomato soup is like giving your soup a wonderful tomato infusion. Give it a try.


Since these powders are used to enhance a dish and therefore are not an integral ingredient in the dish, I am going to turn the recipe portion over to you. Once you have experimented with these powders, drop off or send your recipes to me by e-mail and I will publish some of the best.

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