6. Gluten-free ingredients Food from plants - b Gluten-free cookery,the complete guide : Glutenfree

The full text of the book published by Hodder and Stoughton, updated.

Bilberry and Cranberry, Vaccinum spp.

These fruit make excellent jelly for serving with meat or for flavouring natural yogurt or fromage frais.

Blackcurrants and Redcurrants, Ribes spp.

These easily grown fruit freeze well and are an excellent source of vitamin C and some iron. They can be eaten in puddings or pies or slightly stewed until just soft and served with yogurt or fromage frais. They also make a richly coloured fruit wine or vitamin rich preserves.


The leaves and blue flowers of this hardy annual can be eaten in salads or used to flavour drinks.

Brambles, Blackberry, Rubus spp.

This hedgerow fruit is rich in vitamins C and E with smaller quantities of other vitamins and minerals. It makes excellent jelly and wines. It goes well with apple in puddings and pies. It also freezes well.

Brassicas, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Pak Choi, Pe-Tsai

A very versatile group of vegetables that can be eaten raw as salads, cooked in soups and stews or served as a separate vegetable dish. It is important that all brassicas are cooked until just tender. More prolonged cooking destroys the texture and the nutritional value. Only pickled cabbages benefit from braising.

Brazil Nuts, Bertholletia exelsa

Fruit of a large tropical forest tree. The kernels contain 66% fat and 14% protein and are highly nutritious with high levels of vitamins E and B and a range of minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis

The flesh of these large fruit is used before it is fully ripe when it is white, firm and starchy. It is served mashed and sweetened or cut in slices and baked or toasted. The seeds can be roasted. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and contains other vitamins and minerals.

Buckwheat and buckwheat flake and flour, Kasha

These are the fruit of a herbaceous plant native to north eastern Europe. A husk is removed from the kernel before sale. The kernels can be cooked in a similar way to rice or used in a flour for general baking. Traditional buckwheat dishes include breakfast porridge, pancakes and a mixture with meat to form sausages.

Buckwheat contains 8%-10% protein and is a good source of B vitamins and minerals. Buckwheat flour has a very strong flavour and some people find it difficult to digest

Capers, Capparis spinosa

Capers are the small flower buds of a Mediterranean shrub. These are often preserved by pickling in salt vinegar or dry salting. They are commonly used in cold sauces with fish and salads but also occasionally with hot meat or pizza.

Carambola, Star fruit, Averrhoa carambola

These yellow fruit come from a tropical Indonesian tree. They are sliced and used to decorate fruit salads and ice cream. The flavour can vary from sweet to tart. They are an excellent source of vitamin C.

Caraway, Carum carvi

Caraway is the small seed of a hardy annual plant. It should be obtained as the whole seed and if required ground this should be done immediately before use. It can be used to flavour bread, cakes and fruit, salads and vegetable dishes as well as fatty meat dishes. Caraway leaves can also be added to salads.

Cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum

Cardamom is the seed of a tropical member of the ginger family. It retains the best flavour if obtained as whole pods which can be used whole or the seeds can be ground when required. It can be used in cakes and pastries but features more in rice and pulse dishes as well as pickles and punches. It is also used to flavour coffee.

Carob flour, Ceratonia siliqua

Carob flour is prepared by grinding the ripe dried pod of the Carob tree. The beans are not used.

The pods should be ground coarsely and then gently roasted after which they should be ground to a fine powder.

The pods can be chewed raw. The flour is used in cakes and biscuits or to make drinks, desserts and sweets.

Carob flour contains 8% protein, 2% fat, 47% sugars and is a good source of many minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium and the vitamins A, B1, B2 and B5.

Cashew, Anacardium occidentale

These nuts are roasted and then shelled by hand before sale. They contain 45% fat and 20% protein and are a good source of iron and calcium and vitamins E and B. They can be eaten as snacks, make excellent nut bread and are a useful component of gluten free muesli.

Carrot, Daucus carrota

Carrots are among the most nutritious of the hardy root crops. They have high vitamin A content and the sugar level gives them a sweet taste. They can be eaten raw as a snack or salad, or cooked in soups and stews. When cooked as a vegetable use the minimum amount of water and simmer until just tender. Grated carrot can be added to bread and cakes where it improves the texture.

Cassava, Manihot utilissima

The coarse white flour produced from these tropical roots has some good baking qualities and can be used to make very thin crepes. See tapioca.

Cayenne pepper and Chilli, Capsicum frutescens spp.

Cayenne and chilli are both prepared by blending powder from the seeds and pods from a number of different types of chilli. The ripe pods should be roasted until dry and dark and then ground finely. The powder should be used sparingly with fish and other seafood dishes, savoury egg dishes, stews, casseroles and hot sauces. Fresh chilli should be only eaten in small amounts and with great care. Paprika is a slightly milder form of these peppers.

Celery, Apium graveolens var. dulce

Celery stalks are best eaten raw with a savoury dip. They can also be used to flavour soups or cooked as a vegetable by baking or braising.

Celeriac, Apium graveolens var. rapaceum

The swollen stem base provides a celery flavour in soups and stews or grated in salad.

Cherry, Morello, Prunus acida

This cherry tree fruits reliably in cold temperate climates. The fruit needs to be cooked to make fruit pies and jams.

Cherry, Sweet, Prunus avium vars.

The fruit of this hardy tree is excellent raw and adds colour to fruit salads and cold sweets. Glacé cherries are added to cakes. Maraschino cherries are preserved in almond oil.

Chervil, Anthriscus cerefolium

The finely cut leaves of this hardy biennial herb are used to flavour soups, salads and omelettes.

Sweet chestnut flour, Castanea sativa

The Sweet Chestnut is a large tree, native of southern Europe. These contain only 2% protein but the highest sugar content of any nuts. They are a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium and have small amounts of B group vitamins. The nuts can be roasted or boiled and eaten whole or ground into flour and used in soups, stews, pancakes, bread and cakes. Tinned pureé is an excellent substitute for the flour. If the nuts are very dry they should be soaked overnight before use.

Chick Pea, Bengal Gram, Besan flour, Garbanzo,

Cicer arietinum

This is a major Indian crop. The dried seeds should be soaked overnight before cooking. They are used to produce the dish dhal. They have a 20% protein content and are an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamins A, B1, B2, niacin and vitamin C

Citrus fruit, Orange, Lemon,Tangerine, Grapefruit and Lime

All these fruit come from trees in the warm temperate or sub-tropics. They are a valuable source of vitamin C at all times of the year. Both the outer peel and the fruit make excellent flavourings for both sweet and savoury dishes.

Cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum

Cinnamon is prepared by drying the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, a native of Sri Lanka. The strips of bark curl up to form quills and in this form can be used in mulled wine. It is difficult to grind and is best purchased as a powder for flavouring cakes, biscuits, fruit and for rice and curries.

Cloves, Eugenia caryophyllus

Cloves are the young flower buds of this tropical tree, a native of the Moluccas. They are best obtained as the dried whole bud. The head of the bud is easily crumbled between the fingers if a powder is needed. One clove is often sufficient for a dish except for decorating ham and pork. They are used to flavour cakes, puddings and fruit, marinades and mulled wine, casseroles, gravies and pickles.

Cocoa, Theobroma cacao

Cocoa is produced from the seeds of a small tree that grows in the tropical rain forests. The ripe seeds are left in heaps to ferment for a week before being dried, roasted and then ground to produce cocoa mass. Cocoa powder is produced from the cocoa mass by removing some of the cocoa butter. Bitter chocolate is produced by adding extra cocoa butter. As well as being used in drinks and sweets, cocoa is used in bread, cakes and in stews.

Coconut, Cocos nucifera

Coconut is one of the largest seeds known, produced by a tropical palm tree. A thick layer of hard fibre surrounds the hard shelled nut and is removed before the nut is exported. The liquid inside the nut can be poured out after one of the eyes has been pierced. The flesh can be scraped out after the nut has been broken open.

Coconut milk is prepared by mixing equal quantities of shredded flesh and hot water and kneading them together. The milk is then separated out through a sieve. Some force is necessary to extract all the liquid. The liquid inside the coconut can also be used in place of water to make coconut milk. The milk is used to thicken curries and rice dishes and can be used as a replacement for dairy milk in desserts. Coconut can be used with fish as well as bread, cakes and sweets.

Coconut when fresh contains 4% protein, 38% fat, 11% carbohydrate, 4% fibre 1% minerals and small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and C. Dried coconut contains 62% fat and 5.5% protein. It is a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron. If dried coconut seems moist when purchased it may contain additives such as propylene glycol.

Coriander, Coriandrum sativum

Coriander is the seed of a hardy annual plant. It should be obtained as whole seeds and may be roasted slightly before use. The leaves can also be used fresh in salads but are an acquired taste. Coriander seed is a major ingredient of curry powder and is also used in stews, soups, and pickling as well as in bread and cakes.

Coffee, Coffea arabica

The beans of this small tropical tree are fermented for a short time in water and then sun dried. The beans are then roasted before use. Coffee flavourings are best made by boiling the beans in water for up to an hour.

Cornflour, Cornmeal. See the entry under Maize

Cucumber, Cucumis sativus

These are the fruit of a tender trailing annual. They have a good vitamin content especially when eaten raw, sliced with a salad or chopped with yogurt. They can also be served fried or boiled with a sauce. The small cucumbers grown for pickling are often bitter when fresh.

Cumin, Cuminum cyminum

The strongly flavoured seed of this herbaceous perennial should be roasted before use in curry, chutney and pickles.

Dates, Phoenix dactylifera

The date palm has been in cultivation for at least 5000 years. The fruit has a high sugar content and dries and stores well. It also contains some calcium and some iron. Dried dates can be eaten as a snack or stewed with apple or other dried fruit in puddings and pies. Finely chopped dates will improve the texture of bread or cakes and can be used to replace part of the sugar content in a recipe.

Dill, Anethum graveolens

The stalks, leaf and seeds of Dill are used. This is a hardy annual plant native to Southern Europe. Dill is often used in pickles and for fish sauces and herb soups. The seed can be sprinkled on bread and cakes. Unopened flower heads can be eaten in salads.

Elder, Sambucus nigra

The vitamin rich fruit of this small tree make excellent wine and jelly, and can be used to add flavour to apple and gooseberry dishes.

Endive, Cichorium endivia

The leaves of this salad plant must be grown in darkness to prevent the development of a very bitter taste.

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel is a vigorous hardy herbaceous perennial. Young leaves can be used in salads and fish sauces. The seeds are used to flavour bread, cakes and pastries and grilled fish.

Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum

The seeds or leaves of this hairy annual are used in curry powders and to flavour dhal. The seeds are roasted lightly before grinding into a powder.

Fig, Ficus carica

These highly nutritious fruit come from a tree of warm temperate regions. They have the highest protein content of all dried fruits and contain some calcium and iron. Fresh figs, eaten raw, have the best flavour but do not travel well. Dried figs vary in flavour and texture according to their origin. These can be eaten as a snack or soaked in water and simmered to soften them. Chopped figs can also be added to cakes and puddings.

Garlic, Allium sativum

Garlic is the bulb of a hardy perennial.

It is best used fresh, crushed through a garlic press or mashed with a little salt using a fork on a hard surface. Small amounts can be used in most meat, fish and vegetable dishes as well as more strongly flavoured sauces and butters.

Ginger, Zingiber officinale

Ginger is the tuberous root of a reed like tropical herbaceous perennial. Fresh ginger has the best flavour and can be sliced or chopped finely. Dried ginger has to be well crushed before use with a mallet- it is easier to use powdered ginger. It can be used in most savoury dishes as well as in cakes and biscuits and with fruit. It is also an ingredient of curry powders and pickling spices.

Gooseberries, Ribes grossularia

The fruit of this easy to grow, hardy bush varies in colour from yellow to red. They can be used in fruit stews and puddings and pies, mixing well with other fruit or with ginger. They are a rich source of vitamin C and many other vitamins and minerals.


The flour made from any pea. Some mills grind both wheat flour and pea flour in the same mill and this can result in contamination of the flour. Gram flour is easy to produce from the whole grain in a domestic grain mill.

Grapes, Vitis vinifera

Fresh grapes are available for most of the year. They also make excellent decorations for cakes and puddings. Dried grapes in the form of raisins, sultanas and currants can be used in a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes or added to cold snacks. They contain some iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

Guava, Psidium guajava

The fruit of this tropical tree turn from green to yellow when ripe. They have very high values for vitamin C with smaller quantities of other vitamins and minerals. They are best stewed or made into jam or jelly.

Hazelnut, Corylus avellana

The nut from a small bush or tree, these can be eaten fresh or lightly roasted. They can be used in cakes and sweets. They contain 36% oil and 7.5% protein and are good sources of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, folacin and pantothenic acid. They also contain small amounts of iron and zinc.


Although this is collected by bees it is essentially sugars produced in the nectars of plants. Honey is said to contain the vitamins B1, B2, B3, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin and folic acid as well as a wide range of minerals.

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana

Horseradish is the swollen root of an easily grown hardy perennial. The fresh root is grated and can be frozen until required. It is used to make a variety of sauces to accompany meat and fish.

Kiwi Fruit, Actinidia chinensis

The whole fruit of this semi-hardy vine is eaten raw or used to decorate cold sweets. It is a good source of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.

Leek, Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum

This extremely hardy winter vegetable can be used in soups and stews or boiled in water or wine and served with a sauce.

Lentil, Lens culinaris

The Lentil has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region since ancient times. The dried seeds are used in soups and stews and can be ground to a flour for general baking purposes. Lentils are easily digested, rich in protein, iron, zinc, and have good levels of potassium and B group vitamins. Red lentils cook faster and are more easily digested than the larger green lentils.

Lettuce, Lactuca sativa

This green salad is a useful source of vitamin A. Although mostly eaten fresh, lettuce can be cooked in soups or served as a hot vegetable.

Lime, Citrus aurantifolia

The fruit of this tropical tree are an excellent source of vitamin C. Their juice can be added to flavour many sweet or savoury dishes or used as a drink. They make an excellent marinade for fish.

Lovage, Levisticum officinale

The stalk and leaves of this Mediterranean herb are used to flavour soups and salads.


This semi-hardy tree produces small clusters of pear like fruits which ripen in late spring and early summer. The fruit can be eaten fresh or used to make jelly.


This evergreen tree of warm temperate regions produces a small fruit of translucent jelly in a papery skin. The large seed is not edible. The lychee is a good source of vitamin C.

Maple syrup, Acer saccharum

The concentrated sap of the sugar maple is used to make sweets, puddings and is excellent on pancakes. It contains small amounts of the vitamins B2, B5 and B6 and is a good source of calcium and potassium.

Mace, Myristica fragrans

Mace is the powdered covering of the nutmeg seed . It does not keep well, so should be purchased in small quantities. It can be added in very small amounts to both sweet and savoury dishes, particularly creamed soups, casseroles and milk puddings.

Maize - the same as Cornmeal, Zea mays

This cereal was originally cultivated in the Americas but is now a staple crop worldwide in all but the coldest regions. Different strains are grown for use as a vegetable, for making pop-corn and for flour. White maize flour can be included in most flour mixtures for bread or cakes. The finest flour is called cornflour. In the UK this is always pure maize starch but in other countries may include some wheat flour.

Maize is mostly starch, 3.5% fat and a source of iron, and the yellow forms contain the pigment carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Maize is deficient in most other nutrients. The ripe grains of maize are treated by boiling in a 5% lime solution. This helps remove the gelatinous hulls which must be washed away together with the lime solution before being ground into flour. This treatment also helps to improve its nutritional value.

The freshly treated and ground moist flour is used in Mexico to produce tortillas. These are much harder to make from dry flour. Masa harina is a dry powder made from this treated maize and can be used to make tortillas.

Polenta is a partly cooked maize meal.

Corn oil is 56% unsaturated fat.

Mango, Mangifera indica

The fruit of this medium sized tropical tree is grown in all tropical countries. The skin and stone are not eaten but the sticky flesh is usually eaten raw although it can be made into jam and unripe fruits into chutney. The fruit turns from green to yellow and orange or pink as it ripens.

Marrows, Squashes, Pumpkins, Cucurbita spp.

The large fruit of these trailing and climbing tender annuals keep well in cool dry conditions. They can be baked, boiled or fried, stuffed with meat or vegetables or served on their own. Young marrows, known as courgettes, should only be cooked until just tender. The grated flesh off all of these can be included in bread or cakes to improve the texture. Winter squashes have the highest food value. Pumpkin can be cooked as a dessert or made into jam. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fat and protein and can be eaten raw or deep fried in oil.

Melons, Cucumis melo

Melon fruits vary widely in taste, shape, texture and colour. All need warm conditions to grow. For the best flavour a melon should be ripe. Melon is served cold with the seeds removed. Try serving with a little ginger wine.

Millet and millet flake and flour, Bajri

Common millet, Panicum miliaceum

Red millet, Eleusine coracana

Bulrush millet, Pennisetum typhoideum

Millet describes a group of cereals with small round seeds. They are drought resistant temperate and tropical crops that grow well in poor soils. The grain stores extremely well and has 10% protein, the highest iron level of any cereal, and is an excellent source of potassium and magnesium. It also contains niacin and small amounts of B group vitamins.

In Africa the grain is often ground to a flour and used to make a porridge. The flour can be used as part of a mixture of flour to make breads. The grain can also be cooked whole in the same way as rice but it absorbs far more water. Use 4 or more measures of water to one measure of millet. It should be boiled for about 40 minutes.

Millet flakes are precooked by steaming before being flattened and are much quicker to use . The larger green grained millets are better to eat than the small yellow grained millet

Mint, Mentha spp.

There are many varieties of mint in cultivation, only some of which are good to eat. Those best known are spearmint and applemint. The best flavour comes from the youngest leaves at the top of the shoots and these can be used fresh or dried. Chopped mint is used to make sauces with meat and can be added to vegetables, pea soups, in salads and yogurt dips.


This is a by-product of sugar refining that is a rich source of vitamins B1, B2, B6, pantothenic acid and biotin. It is also rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. It can be used as a spread or in a similar way to honey in recipes.

Marjoram, Origanum spp.

This tender perennial, often grown as an annual, provides fresh leaves for flavouring soups, stews, stuffings and other savoury dishes.

Mustard, Brassica nigra and Sinapsis alba

Only the whole seed should be used, as powdered mustard commonly includes wheat flour. White seed has a milder flavour than the dark seed. Whole mustard seed is used in pickling spice and with some meat and seafood dishes. The seed should be freshly crushed to make a variety of hot sauces.

Mung bean see beans.

Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus

This is the decorative hardy garden annual. Young leaves and flowers can be added to salads. Flower buds can be pickled in vinegar and used in the same way as capers. Seeds should be picked before they are ripe and pickled in vinegar to be used as capers or they can be dried for later use and used in the same way as black pepper.

Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans

Nutmeg is the seed of a tropical tree. It should be grated before use or purchased as a powder. Only a pinch should be used in any dish as it is poisonous in quantity. It can be used to flavour cakes, puddings, custards and fruit.

Olives, Olea europaea

Olives are the fruit of the tree. Fresh olives have a very bitter taste. Whole olives are pickled when ripe or crushed to extract the oil. Olive oil can be used as a salad oil or for cooking. It is an easily digested, mono-unsaturated oil containing small amounts of vitamin E.

Onion, Allium cepa

The onion is the edible bulb of the hardy biennial. There are also a number of hardy perennials where the bulb and leaves are used fresh for salads. Onion is best used fresh although dried onion is available. Onion is included in many meat dishes, marinades, stocks, soups, and pickles as well as sauces and vegetable dishes. Shallots have a milder, more delicate flavour.

Palm Oil, Elaeis guineensis

Palm oil and palm kernel oil are produced from the seed of this tropical palm. It is used in Nigeria as a general cooking oil and is a major component of some margarines.

Paprika, Capsicum annum

Paprika is produced from the ripe large red fruit of this capsicum. Paprika can vary tremendously from a mild sweetness to close to the fiery taste of chilli where the seeds have been included. It should be purchased in small amounts and used fresh to add colour and flavour to most savoury dishes, particularly beef stews.

Parsley, Carum petroselinum crispum

This hardy biennial is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is used as a garnish for both hot and cold savoury dishes and as a flavouring for sauces and soups.

Parsnip, Patinaca sativa

This very hardy root crop can be eaten boiled, fried or roasted and included in soups and stews.

Passion fruit, Passiflora edulis

The fruits of this perennial tropical climbing vine are best raw when the purple skin becomes wrinkled.

Pawpaw, Papaya, Carica papaya

The fruit of this tropical tree turn from green to yellow as they ripen. The flesh of the fruit is eaten raw. The fruit also makes an excellent marinade for meat.

Peas, Pisum sativum

There are many strains of pea for use fresh, frozen or dried. Peas are a useful component of many soups and stews or served as a vegetable. Young fresh peas should be simmered until just tender.

Dried pea flour is rich in protein and can be used to make thin pancakes or added to a flour mix for general baking. Peas also supply iron, zinc and B group vitamins. Try to keep intake of pulses below 1 oz per day. Split polished peas - dhal - are much more digestible.

Peach, Prunus persica

These stoned fruit are available fresh or dried. They can be served fresh or cooked by baking or poaching. They supply some manganese to the diet.

Pears, Pyrus communis

The fruit of this hardy tree stays very solid until ripe, when it can soften very quickly. Pears make an excellent addition to fruit stews.

Peanuts, Arachis hypogaea

Peanuts are the seed of a tropical and subtropical annual. They have a high nutritional value, 30% protein and 40 - 50% oil. They contain high levels of vitamins B1, B2 and E as well as iron, calcium and phosphorus. Ground peanuts can be used as a substitute for part of the fat content in many recipes.

Peanut butter is produced by grinding the roasted nut after the germ has been removed.

Peanuts are known to cause mild discomfort and flatulence to some people when they are included in more than minimal amounts in the diet.

Pecan, Carya illinoensis

The nuts of this large North American tree are eaten as a snack or used to flavour bread and cakes. With 37% oil and 4.5% protein they also contain calcium, potassium and iron with small amounts of B group vitamins and vitamin C.

Pepper- black, Piper nigrum

Peppercorns are the whole fruit of a tropical climbing vine. It is best obtained whole and ground immediately before use.

Commercial pepper powder can occasionally be bulked out with wheat flour and should be avoided. Pepper should be added to most savoury dishes towards the end of cooking to give the best flavour. Whole peppercorns are used in pickling mixtures.

Peppermint, Mentha piperita

The leaves can be added to desserts and sweets as a flavouring.

Persimmon, Date plum, Diospyros kaki

The fruit of this warm temperate tree can be eaten fresh or cooked. They are yellow to red when ripe.

Pigeon Pea, Red Gram, Cajanus cajan

This drought resistant tropical legume is widely grown in India and the West Indies. These split peas may be cooked to form dhal or used in soups and stews. They contain 20% protein and are a good source of iron, calcium, vitamins A, B1 and B2.

Pineapple, Annas comosus

This tropical South American fruit has good vitamin A and C content. Fresh fruit also contain an enzyme which digests protein and is excellent for marinading meat, but it should not be eaten by anyone with a recent history of digestive problems such as ulcers or recent food allergy as this enzyme can attack the lining of the digestive system.

Canned pineapple is quite safe.

Pistachio, Pistacia vera

The nuts of this small Mediterranean tree are eaten as snacks or used to decorate and flavour cakes and sweets. They contain 30% oil and 22% protein and are an excellent source of iron and potassium. Good quality nuts should appear pale green. They can also be used when ground into a flour to make biscuits.

Plums, Prunus spp

The fruit of this hardy tree freezes well and make excellent jam - the stones should be removed before the sugar is added. Fresh or stewed plums can be eaten as a dessert or as a filling for puddings and pies.

Poppy, Papaver somniferum

This is the tiny hard seed of the opium poppy . They can be roasted gently before crushing, or soaked in boiling water before standing in the water as it cools for three hours and then crushed. They can be added to bread, cakes and pastries or used to flavour vegetables and sauces.

Potato, Solanum tuberosum

The tuber of the potato is a good source of easily digested starch and the skin is rich in vitamins and minerals. In normal use the potato should be scrubbed clean and cooked by boiling or baking. The skin should be eaten for its full nutritional value. Any part of the potato that has been exposed to the light develops a green colour and this should be discarded as it is poisonous.

Potato flour is produced from the starch of the potato and can be used in general baking, mixed with other flours.

Pumpkin seed

These nutritious seeds are very rich in iron. They contain 32% protein and 55% oil. They are also a good source of calcium and phosphorus. The seeds have a diuretic action.

Quinnoa. Chennopodium spp

This is another plant with its origins in the early civilisations of South America and is exported by Ecuador.

Quinnoa is 15% protein

It has a slightly bitter flavour which can be removed from the grain by rinsing in boiling water. The whole grain can be cooked by boiling in water for 15 minutes and served like rice or it can be added to soups and stews.

For baking it should be ground into a flour just before use when it makes excellent biscuits and pancakes although imparting a slightly bitter flavour.

It is related to the weed fat hen that grows easily in our gardens. Good crops of quinnoa can be grown from grain purchased in sealed packets from a health food shop. It threshes easily when ripe by rubbing the seed out of the husks.

Rape oil, Brassica napus

A general cooking oil is obtained from the seed of this hardy annual.

Raspberries, Rubus idaeus

This hardy cane fruit makes excellent jam. The fruit can be served fresh with shortbread and cream. The fruit is easily bruised and does not keep long fresh, but freezes well. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of iron.

Rhubarb, Rheum rhaponticum

The fleshy leaf stalks of this herbaceous perennial are picked for eating in spring only. Mature stalks should not be eaten and the leaves are poisonous. The stem is stewed with sugar or used to make jam. No water should be added.

Rice and Rice flour, Oryza sativa

Rice is the seed of the cereal. Brown rice is mostly carbohydrate but contains 7.5% protein, and small amounts of iron, calcium, and vitamins niacin and thiamin. Most rice is grown in standing water but 10% of the world crop is grown on dry land. An outer bran layer covers the rice grain which can be removed together with the nutrients it contains to produce white rice. Vitamin B1 is present in the bran but not in the white grain. Rice is commonly cooked simply by boiling. The liquid in which it is boiled should also be utilised as this {fontsize 11.8pt}also contains vitamins. In China this is often served as a drink. Glutinous rice is a variety that becomes sticky and sweet when cooked. It does not contain gluten.

Rice bran is a useful source of extra dietary fibre.

Rose Hips, Rosa canina , Rosa rugosa

The fruit of the wild rose can be collected and used to make a vitamin rich syrup. Dried rose hips do not always contain vitamins.

Rosemary, Rosmarius officinalis

The leaves of this small shrub are best used fresh to flavour poultry, meat and salads.

Rowan, Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia

The red berries of this small hardy tree make a vitamin rich jelly to serve with meat and stews. They also make an excellent wine but it must be allowed to mature for several years or the flavour is harsh.

Safflower Oil, Carthamus tinctorius

This is 78% polyunsaturated oil, high in vitamin E. It is a good all purpose cooking and salad oil.

Sage, Salvia officinalis

The leaves of this small leafy shrub are best used fresh to flavour stuffings, soups and stews.

Sago, Metroxylon sagu

Starch is extracted from the mature stem of this tropical palm tree. The flour is almost pure starch and can be used for general baking when mixed with other flours.

Savory -Summer, Satureia hortensis

An annual Mediterranean herb used to flavour bread and sauces.

Savory- Winter, Satureia montana

The leaves of this small hardy bush are used to flavour stews and other savoury dishes.

Sesame, Sesamum indicum

Sesame seed comes from a tropical herbaceous annual. The seed can be ground into an oily paste called Tahini and it is also available as a nutty flavoured oil. Whole seed can be slightly roasted before use. The whole seed can be boiled as a main dish or mixed in bread and cakes. It is also used to make sweets such as halva. Sesame oil can be used in savoury dishes and in salads.

Sesame contains 40% fat and 18% protein. It is very rich in potassium, calcium and iron as well as the vitamin niacin.

Sesame oil is 44% polyunsaturated and keeps well.

Sorghum and Sorghum flour, Sorghum vulgare

Also known as great millet, kaffir corn, millo maize, American broom corn, Guinea corn. In India it is known as cholam or jowar, in Burma pyoung. Sorghum is widely grown in arid subtropical regions. The white grained Sorghum produces a grey flour which is excellent for all baking purposes and is the best general purpose gluten free flour. It has good levels of protein, minerals and vitamins. Sorghum flour is easily digested and it is mainly imported for the manufacture of baby foods.

Sorghum should not be used as a sprouting grain as the young shoots are very poisonous.

Soya, Glycine max

Soya beans are grown in subtropical areas and harvested when ripe. Fresh bean pods can be eaten as a vegetable. Dried beans should be soaked overnight before boiling for at least two hours. They have an excellent nutritional value. 30-50%protein, 15-30% carbohydrate, 13-24% oil. Black Soya beans have the higher protein content while yellow soya beans have the higher oil content. They are a good source of the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and potassium and of the vitamins E, B1, B2, and B5. Some people find soya beans indigestible and bitter.

Soy sauce is made by fermenting beans with flour. Often this is wheat flour and this sauce should not be used.

Soya bean curd, or tofu, is produced by soaking, grinding and then boiling the bean with water. The curd is precipitated from the resulting liquid and is much more palatable. Tofu can be used in bread, cakes and pastry to improve texture and add to the nutritional value.

Squashes, Marrows and Pumpkins

see marrows

Strawberries, Fragaria spp

The fruit of this creeping perennial are a good source of vitamins. They are mostly eaten fresh or as jam. They can be frozen if they are later to be used in a cooked form.


Sugar is produced from the tropical sugar cane, Saccharum officinarum, and the temperate sugar beet, Beta vulgaris. The sugar produced from these crops is nutritionally identical and contains no vitamins or minerals.

Sunflower, Helianthus annuus

The seeds of sunflower can be eaten raw or crushed and used in cakes and biscuits. Sunflower seeds have 22.5% protein and are an excellent source of the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium as well as the vitamins thiamin, niacin, and E.

Sunflower oil is high in polyunsaturates and vitamin E and also contains vitamins A and D.

Sweet Corn, Corn on the Cob, Zea mays

Varieties of Corn which have higher sugar levels in the grain are eaten as a vegetable. Sweet Corn can be added to soups and stews. It is a good source of iron.

Sweet Potato, Ipomoea batatas

This is the underground tuber of a subtropical or warm temperate climbing plant. The tuber is mostly starch but does include some protein and sugar. They do not store well. They are normally cooked by boiling and mashing. The leaves can also be used as a vitamin rich vegetable.

Tapioca, Cassava, Manioc, Manihot utilissima

This is one of the most important food crops of the wet tropics. The swollen roots are often poisonous and partly for this reason is almost immune to attack by pests. The roots are peeled, crushed and the starch washed out of them. This starch is then dried to form pearl or flake and more usefully a fine flour. These have little nutritional value other than from the starch but the flour is useful for general baking when mixed with other flours.

Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus

This herb grows best in warm dry conditions. Its leaves are best fresh in salads, sauces, pickles and with vinegar.

Tea, Camellia sinensis

The dried, fermented leaves of this small tree contain caffeine and tannin. They are used both for hot and cold drinks and for flavouring stews and cakes.

Teff, Eragrostis abyssinica ( Eragrostis tef )

This is a small seeded relative of the millets. It is a staple crop of Ethiopia where it is made into a baked pancake called 'injera'.

Teff contains 14% protein and 2% fat. It is a good source of calcium, iron and thiamine, better than other cereal grains. It produces a brown flour with excellent baking qualities.

Thyme, Thymus spp

The fresh leaves of this low growing herb are best for flavouring stews, soups, stuffings and sauces.

Tofu - see soya

This is a curd made form processing soya beans. It is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.

Tomato, Lycoparsicon esculentum

The fruit of this tender perennial are a good source of vitamins A and C. They are eaten raw in salads or used to impart their flavour to many soups and savoury dishes.

Turnip and Swede, Brassica napa vars.

These hardy biennial root crops can be used in soups and stews or mashed as a separate vegetable. The new leaves in spring can be eaten as spring greens.

Vanilla, Vanilla fragrans

This flavouring comes from the long thin seed pod of a tropical climbing orchid.

The pods can be kept in a jar of sugar when they impart their flavour to the sugar, or the flavour can be extracted by steeping a pod in the liquid of the dish for one hour. Pods used in this way can be dried and used again. The pod can also be ground and used as a powder.

Walnut, Juglans regia

The fruit of a large hardy tree. They contain 12% protein and high levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium iron and zinc. Young green fruits can be pickled in vinegar. Walnut oil is extracted from ripe nuts and is high in polyunsaturates. Walnuts can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Water Chestnut, Caltrops, Trapa natans

The large seed of this water plant can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted.