Updated: May 27, 2019
Going through hundreds of photographs from last year's trip to Cancún Mexico, I can’t help but notice a “palm tree” theme running across the collection. Some say that the world’s most beautiful palm trees can be found growing wild on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. I did see literally hundreds of palm trees there, but I’m not altogether certain that I haven’t seen others throughout the Caribbean that are just as fine. That noted, most would agree that the palm tree is the quintessential image of a tropical paradise. I mean to say, it’s hard to envision any tropical scene absent of a single coconut palm.
Today, there are nearly 2,600 species of palm trees, and the significance of the palm exceeds the impact of their physical beauty on the human psyche. Archaeological finds confirm a relationship between palm trees and Mesopotamian civilizations as early as 3500 BC when Sumerians used the date palm for shade, food, medicine, basket-weaving, and roofs. Palms were no less significant to forthcoming Greek and Roman societies where palm branches were given to competitors triumphing in athletic and other contests as a symbol of victory.
I enjoyed a bit of fresh coconut during my vacation. Regularly, I use coconut water in my morning smoothie, coconut oil for cooking, oral hygiene, and skincare. Additionally, I am a huge fan of the delicious vegetable, hearts of palm.
It would be nearly impossible to overlook the symbolism of the palm in religions. The palm was sacred in Mesopotamian religions where it represented fertility in humans. In ancient Egypt it represented immortality. In Islam the palm is a symbol of peace, and in Judaism, palms represent peace and plenty. For Christians, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent, commemorating the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The Bible story recounted in Matthew 21:1-11 depicts a large crowd gathering to witness Jesus’ arrival and laying palm branches in his path as he begins his journey towards the cross. The palm in this scene represents victory of the spirit over the flesh.
With that my thoughts have drifting to ancient times, I conjure up a recipe using the Khorasan wheat I recently found at my local organic market. Caution: The brand is Kamut, and it is wheat--not a gluten-free alternative so if you cannot healthfully consume gluten, this is not the dish for you. I'm a gluten-minimalist so I get to have some from time-to-time. Kamut (Ka-moot) is an ancient grain originating in what is known as the "fertile crescent" area that runs from Egypt to the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.
Back in the kitchen, with mental images of palm fronds billowing over crystal, blue waters, I've got my Kamut out and pantry flung open looking for complimentary ingredients to surface. Wait! Are those dates? Yes, I'll use a couple of these to honor the ancient date palm. Lentils? They just seem right, and I never want to miss the opportunity to add another gram of protein plus they will increase the overall iron content of the dish and allow me to have it as a main course should I choose.
Kamut is a high-energy grain boasting 11 grams of protein per serving.
Another thing I love about this whole grain is it is loaded up with bone-supporting manganese and also contains zinc and calcium. My Gynecologist told me years ago, "Take your calcium. You're white. You're skinny. You're at risk for osteoporosis." Dr. Domingo was brilliant, kind, and no-nonsense, matter-of-fact in his delivery.
On to flavor and spice. Oh, how about these last few Kalamata olives for the salt content? Again, seems perfect for my ancient grains dish. I'll chop a bit of fresh ginger and garlic to saute and add my grains with organic chicken stock. If you're vegan or vegetarian, just use veggie stock. Now, I am going to need to add some freshness and color once my grains are done because by the time I add my lentils, this dish will be super earthy. I'll chop some yellow and orange peppers, a few pecans, and some fresh dill to top off the dish. I'll have this as a hearty main course, or serve a quarter cup under a piece of salmon with a side of and broccoli.