Is avocado about to be replaced by a new rival?
Nigella Lawson is known for being on the mark when it comes to predicting food trends, recently caused pandan-monium by claiming that a little-known tropical plant was set to take the green superfood hot spot. The TV chef, who once increased avocado sales by 30 percent when she made smashed avo on toast on screen, told The Times that she thinks pandan is going to be the new matcha. She added: “I’ve noticed more and more people in America baking with pandan essence, which comes from the leaf.”
So, what is it, and should we be taking note? Grown in south east Asia, pandan, also referred to as ‘screw pine’ because of its spiky appearance when untouched, is a rare find in the wild but is widely cultivated. The herbaceous plant, known as the ‘sweet plant’ in Chinese, is predominantly celebrated for its smell, caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, and used in a similar way to vanilla essence to sweeten foods and meals. It is a particularly popular flavouring for drinks and desserts and can be ground to a paste and used in savoury dishes such as rice, and the leaves are also used to wrap food in. It’s fairly easy to spot something with pandan in it as the plant acts like food colouring and tends to turn things bright green!
Now we’ve established that it tastes good and offers a funky hue, it’s time to turn to the most important question: what are its health benefits? Well, it turns out that pandan leaves can be used for a large variety of medicinal purposes, including lowering blood pressure, relieving pain and cramps, reducing stress and anxiety, repelling mosquitoes, healing sunburn and eliminating dandruff, to name but a few! Like aloe vera, the leaves contain a health-boosting juice and can be prepared in a number of ways, the most popular being in the form of a tea or drink (some have touted it a ‘cardio-tonic’). Boiling a bunch of leaves for around 10 minutes is the simplest way to make your own wellness beverage, and it’s said that you should drink two cups a day to get the maximum benefits.
Fancy giving it a go? Unfortunately, it’s still fairly hard to find on these shores, although this is likely to change thanks to Nigella’s comments. Currently, there are reportedly a few places that sell pandan ice cream and pancakes, while Whole Foods claims to be the only major supermarket in the UK that sells the leaves. Hopefully it will be coming to a Waitrose near you soon!
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