Leafy greens add great variety and color to your meals, yet they are one category of whole foods still missing at most tables. Among the very common wild edible leafy green plants are nettle, dandelion greens, lamb’s quarters, ramps and sorrel. And among the commonly cultivated vegetables, cabbage can be considered a leafy green. But then there are kale, collard, Swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, broccoli rabe, bok choy, arugula, and watercress. Other leafy greens grow on top of common garden vegetables – for example, beet greens, turnip greens, radish greens, rutabaga greens, and the leaves that a broccoli plant produces. These are not only edible but delicious too.
Leafy greens are the most nutrition-filled land vegetables. As the green part of the plant, they contain chlorophyll, a pigment they use to capture sunlight and form oxygen. Leaves are, in essence, the lungs of the plant, and consuming them brings energy to our own lungs. You will feel a burst of energy within minutes of eating greens. If you make them a regular part of your diet, they will uplift your spirits and infuse you with potent sun energy. Green is the color of spring, of renewal, of hope, of the heart chakra – one of the energy centers in the body.
No wonder green leafy vegetables have such positive effects on us.
On a nutritional level, leafy greens provide us with an abundance of minerals, vitamins, and other valuable substances. They contain iron (the darker the green, the more iron), calcium (Where do cows get the calcium to make milk? From the green grass!), magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. Leafy greens also deliver fiber, folic acid, and, of course, chlorophyll. Chlorophyll nourishes the friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, thus promoting healthy intestinal flora, strengthening immunity, and preventing cancer.
Leafy greens have cleansing properties, helping to support liver and kidney function. The bitter-tasting leafy greens, such as watercress, dandelion, arugula, and broccoli rabe, are great liver tonics. All leafy greens are excellent blood purifiers, and they improve circulation. They help reduce mucus and clear congestion, especially in the lungs.
Please be aware of two cautions regarding leafy greens: ● Beet greens, Swiss chard, and spinach contain oxalic acid, which can leach calcium out of our bones and teeth. Eat these in moderation and combine them with other calcium-rich foods such as legumes, dairy, and fish. ● Vitamin K-containing foods such as leafy greens should be eaten sparingly by people who take the blood-thinning medication warfarin (commonly known as Coumadin), which prevents blood clots by blocking the action of vitamin K. Because leafy greens are an abundant source of vitamin K, eating them can undermine the drug’s protection against blood clots.
Leafy greens are easy and quick to prepare. The most time-consuming part of preparation is washing the greens. I recommend that you fill your sink with cold water, cut the greens into pieces that suit your recipe and submerge them in the water. With your hands, move the greens about to dislodge any earth or sand particles. If you find a lot of debris at the bottom of your sink, repeat the procedure. After washing the greens, place them in a colander to drain. It is good to leave a little water on the leaves, as it provides some steaming action if you choose to sauté. You can steam, boil, or sauté greens. Save any cooking liquid to enjoy as a soothing and alkalizing drink. The cooking time for leafy greens is very brief – anywhere from two to five minutes. Always keep a watchful eye – the brightness of the green color will give you a clue as to when they are ready. When the color turns a more vibrant green, that is your signal to check whether they are done. If you cook them for too long, their color changes to olive green, and they lose both visual appeal and flavor. Once they turn bright green and are ready, serve them right away, unless you plan to use them in a cold salad – you would rinse them in cold water at that point to stop them from cooking.
When serving greens to my guests, I cut and wash the greens beforehand, but I don’t actually cook them until right then and there – while my guests are sitting at the dining table. There is nothing more delicious than freshly cooked greens that were prepared just a minute ago.
When cooking greens, use some form of oil or fat, whether in the cooking process or drizzled over the finished dish, as this will help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K. Squeezing a little lemon or lime juice or white balsamic vinegar over the dish will help to pull more calcium out of the greens.
Leafy greens are easy to grow, so if you have a garden, give them a try. If you grow root vegetables as well, remember to take advantage of the green part that grows above the earth. But when you harvest the root greens, never remove all of the leaves from a single plant, as the root needs the leaves in order to grow properly. Picking a leaf here and a leaf there will not compromise the root. If you do not own a garden, you can ask a farmer at the market to bring you the green tops of root vegetables or the leaves of broccoli plants. The farmer will happily provide you with these otherwise discarded delicacies. When buying greens, make sure they are fresh. Do not buy greens that are limp or have turned yellow – you do not want any wilted energy in your body! And try to use them the same day you purchase them or the day after.
Marika Blossfeldt Author . Speaker . Coach Website Link
Kale with Raisins and Roasted Pine Nuts
- ½ cup (120 ml) pine nuts
- 2 cups (480 ml) water
- 1 bunch curly kale (or any other kale), stalks removed, leaves cut into 1-inch (2-cm) strips
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup (120 ml) raisins
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Spread the pine nuts on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish and roast for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn the nuts – once you smell the aroma, they are done. Set aside to cool.
- In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the kale and cook covered over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
- Sauté the garlic in the oil for 1 minute. Add the raisins and sauté, stirring continuously to prevent burning, until the raisins are glossy and slightly puffed, about 1 minute.
- Add the cooked kale and a little salt. Mix well and cover for a minute until the kale is heated through.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the roasted pine nuts.
- Serve hot.