If I haven’t already told you, I have a love affair with Kale. It has been ongoing for a few years now. I don’t think we’ll ever break up. Kale is a member of the “dark leafy greens” family. Dark leafy greens include broccoli, kale, bok choy, napa cabbage, collards, mustard greens, watercress, broccoli rabe, dandelion, arugula, endive, chicory, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard & beet greens. They are some of the easiest and most beneficial vegetables to incorporate into your daily routine.
They are densely packed with energy and nutrients, they grow upward to the sky, absorbing the sun’s light while producing oxygen. What’s sunlight got to do with nutrition you ask? Well, Vitamin D aside, dark leafy greens contain chlorophyll. In case you’ve forgotten your high-school biology, chlorophyll is what makes life on earth possible. The oxygen we breathe comes from the chlorophyll in plants. To bring it down to its most simple terms: no chlorophyll, no human life.
How do greens benefit our bodies? Not only do green foods have heavy concentrations of chlorophyll that oxygenate the body, they also have enzymes that rejuvenate and are responsible for virtually every chemical reaction at the cellular level. They are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous and zinc, and are a powerhouse for vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed full of fiber, folic acid and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.
Their color is associated with spring, which is a time to renew and refresh vital energy. In traditional Asian medicine, the color green is related to the liver, emotional stability and creativity. Greens aid in purifying the blood, strengthening the immune system, improving liver, gall bladder and kidney function, fighting depression, clearing congestion, improving circulation and keeping your skin clear and blemish free.
Leafy greens are the vegetables most missing from the Standard American Diet, and many of us never learned how to prepare them. They can be prepared many ways, sauteed, steamed, braised, or even blended into your favorite smoothie! Start experimenting in the kitchen with greens. You can try out simple recipe below. Then each time you go to the market, pick up a new green to try. Soon you’ll find your favorite greens and wonder how you ever lived without them.
Shiitake and Kale
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
1 bunch kale, chopped
pinch of salt
1. Warm oil in pan on medium heat with minced garlic until aromas of garlic are released, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add chopped shiitake mushrooms, stir-fry for 5 minutes.
3. Add chopped kale, stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
4. Add a splash of water and pinch of salt to pan, cover and let steam for 4 minutes.
For more fabulous recipes check out the book Greens, Glorious Greens by Catherine Walthers. It’s jam packed with great (and easy!) recipes to try. So don’t be scared, get to eating your greens!