The winter season is over and spring and warmer weather is on the horizon. During the winter months we tend to hibernate indoors but spring usually beckons us to move outside and begin to cleanse our bodies from months of stagnation.
A great way to begin that process is to give our bodies lots of spring greens. Greens are cleansing and extremely nutritious. I usually begin by exploring the produce aisle at my market. There you will see a vast array of green leafy vegetables. Consider making green leafy vegetables your best friend. Greens are nutrient dense and are considered by many to be a “super food.” They are rich in folate, vitamins A, C and K. They are a great source of iron, potassium, calcium, phytochemicals, lutein and carotene. Greens, as you might imagine, are chock full of chlorophyll which helps to purify our blood and make our skin radiant. Greens are low in fat and high in fiber. Greens help strengthen the blood and respiratory system as well as our immune system. A day without greens is like a day without sunshine—kind of blah and uninteresting.
As I became more familiar with greens, I began to realize that there are many too choose from. The one that most of us know is kale. However, there are many different types of kale. As spring arrives look for dinosaur kale, also known as lacinato and cavolo nero kale, green curly-leaved kale, red curly-leaved kale and rape kale. Kale is particularly important for lutein which is an antioxidant that has been shown to lower the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration—an important finding for those of us over 50.
The list of greens is long and brilliant. There’s swiss chard, both red and green in color, bok choy, mustard greens, collard greens, rapini and don’t throw out those beet or daikon tops. There are over a thousand different plant species with edible green leaves so there is no excuse for not finding a few varieties that will wow your taste buds. Spring is the season that I associate with bitter greens. Your taste buds might have to adjust to their sharp taste, but they are prepared in the same manner as other leafy greens. Look to add some endive, radicchio or escarole to your repertoire. In Chinese medicine, bitter foods help to stimulate and detox the liver—another bonus!
Greens are economical, so experiment with a new recipe or create one yourself. I love greens for their versatility. They can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, stir fried and baked. I prepare greens in a multitude of ways depending on how I feel, what I am craving and what kind of day I have ahead of me.
Greens are generally associated with spring, but they are abundant all year long. You can prepare greens in a salad, as a topping for a pizza, and as the star in a bowl of pasta or in soup. I often add some of those greens to a morning smoothie for an extra boost of energy. When you think that you’ve eaten enough greens--eat 20% more. They are that good for you.
When shopping for greens, I avoid those that have yellowish leaves. I always pick up more than I think that I need because greens tend to shrink during the cooking process. I’m always amazed that my greens can last up to a week in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator.
What I love most about eating greens and a plant-based diet is the way this food makes me feel. Every time I finish a meal that is predominantly vegetables and grains my intention to live and eat a vegan lifestyle is reconfirmed. The food memories that I have of dairy and meat are easily forgotten as I plunge into a Portobello mushroom that has been topped with mashed potatoes and kale. I am creating new food memories and experiences, and it is fun to do so.