“Men lose an estimated 0.6 mg of zinc with each seminal emission–about 6% of their recommended intake for the day.”
So writes nutritionist and dietitian Brenda Davis in Becoming Vegan. The book was dragged off the shelf when, a while back, my fella asked me about zinc, and where we were getting ours from.
Hm, I thought, wondering had prompted this inquiry.
In my early vegan days, I was careful and diligent about both knowing the nutritional content of existing foods and new ingredients I was exploring excitedly, and about varying my diet vastly with an array of beans and peas along with tofu and a lovely smattering of seeds and nuts.
Gazing into my dull and monotonous cupboards, as I contemplated zinc, I wondered…what happened?
Well, probably life. It gets that way sometimes, doesn’t it? The initially exciting new lifestyle becomes, simply, life. I moved away from the cheap, affordable grocery store where I had access to almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds. The cost of everything, from flour and rice to those same, once so affordable nuts, went up, along with rent, transit costs, and everything else under the sun (except, of course for my salary). I moved yet again, even further away from varied stores and even deeper into Monopolyville, where lack of competition drives prices into the stratosphere. Other life events happened, and my mental attention became less devoted to ideal nutrition and maintaining a scholarship-worthy GPA, and became much more about making the proverbial ends meet. Oh, how boring.
I love a challenge, a call to refocus. I examined the list of zinc-rich foods, and noted that, along with tahini (which offers between 2 and 4.7 mg per three tablespoons…eat up those tahini cookies, guys!), pumpkin seeds offer a decent portion, with 2.6 mg zinc per quarter cup. The RDA in the US is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men, although Davis suggests that vegans consider getting even more than this. She also suggests making zinc more bioavailable through methods such as sprouting, soaking, fermenting and, in the case of nuts and seeds, roasting.
I was a little disobedient when I took out the pumpkin seeds to whip up this pesto, mostly because I feel nuts and seeds are so much more delicious eaten raw. I also love basil, and go to town on it when the season is right, but what the supermarkets are asking for sub-par, wilty herbs imported from who knows where just can’t justify me purchasing enough for a decent pesto batch, so I took the opportunity to try a kale-based pesto. I used delicate baby lacinato kale leaves, also called black kale and dinosaur kale, which is delicious, plentiful in our garden right now. It’s very rich in vitamins C and A, and also provides some calcium and iron. Kale is also rich in eye-protecting lutein. And it’s amazingly yummy.
3/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups baby black kale leaves, washed
3 large cloves roasted garlic*
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1. Set aside 1/4 cup of your pumpkin seeds.
2. In a food processor, finely grind pumpkin seeds. Set aside in a large bowl.
3. Mince kale leaves in the food processor and add to pumpkin seeds.
4. Mash garlic cloves and add to mixture along with the olive oil, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Adjust other seasonings to suit your preferences.
5. Toss pesto with pasta or, as I did, with potatoes, sundried tomatoes, and a bit of sauteed onion. Top with remaining pumpkin seeds and enjoy!
*Oven-roasted garlic is amazing, but a grotesque waste of energy if you don’t have any larger items to bake at the same time. Well-organized chefs pre-roast their garlic: I resorted to the cheater’s method.
Heat a pan (I favour a small iron skillet) to medium high, and dry-roast cloves 6-8 minutes, stirring often. Finish by adding a small amount of water and covering with a tight-fitting lid for a couple of minutes. This helps make sure that particularly fat cloves are cooked all the way through, and that no lingering raw harshness will be left when you put them into your pesto.