Ever wonder whether there is a miracle food to health and weight loss? The answer is yes, and the food is greens. Greens not only pack nutrition and mega-vitamins, they support weight loss, increase muscle gain, improve brain function, and even ward off cancer. There is a variety of greens ranging from mild to spicy in flavor that can be prepared in a multitude of ways for a delicious and diverse meal plan.
You’re probably very familiar with spinach. If not, it’s an easy green to work with and is delicious eaten raw or cooked. Saute, steam, or flash-boil and add to your favorite vegetable medley and lean protein.
Arugula is my favorite green. It has a rich, peppery flavor and adds a wonderful zing to any salad or sandwich. Place poached eggs over a bed of arugula for a fabulous breakfast or bake it onto a pizza with roasted garlic for a delicious dinner.
Kale (Purple Kale, Russian Kale, Lacinato Kale)
Yes, kale can be eaten. No, it’s not just decoration for buffet platters. This curly plant from the cabbage family has green or purple leaves depending on the variety. Eat a lot of it. Kale contains sulforaphane, a powerful anti-cancer chemical, that is best maintained during steaming or sauteing.
So many of us think of collard greens in their Southern version – alongside fatty meats like ham or bacon. But collards are so packed with anti-cancer properties and antioxidants, it’s a shame to counteract their healthy aspects with unhealthy meats. Treat them like grape leaves and stuff the whole blanched leaves with lemon and mint rice and pine nuts for a Mediterranean inspired meal.
Like beets, turnips produce a leafy top that is wonderful to eat. Turnip greens are excellent when wilted in olive oil. Try sauteing shallots and red pepper flakes to release a rich, spicy aroma before tossing in the turnip greens. Add some Dijon mustard and chicken stock near the end to spice up your greens and make them succulent.
Beets are a beautiful red root vegetable you should also know, but don’t forget about their lovely green tops! The beet greens are delicious when sauteed with oil and garlic and tossed with a red wine vinaigrette. Pair with the roasted beets themselves. Feeling extra wild? Add a few blue cheese crumbles for a stellar treat.
Mustard greens are at their peak from January through April, so now is the perfect time to acquaint yourself! They have a bitter, peppery flavor, and taste incredible when wilted with sweated onions and salt. Splash the greens with lemon just before eating.
Sorrel has a juicy, lemony flavor that brightens any mixed green salad. For a Polish twist, add sorrel at the last minute to a stock of hot water, chopped veggies (carrots, celery, leek), and boiled meat on the bone. Salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.
Mâche (Lamb’s quarter, Lamb’s lettuce, Field salad)
Mâche gets its many nicknames by mostly being considered a weed eaten by sheep. I first encountered this dark, soft textured plant while working on an organic farm. It grew as a weed throughout the farm and was washed and sold to our customers’ delight. Enjoy it in a mixed green salad with arugula and spinach and top with a light vinaigrette.
Swiss Chard (Rainbow Swiss Chard, Red Chard)
Swiss chard is a delight to cook with, because the stalks come in a variety of lovely reds and yellows. Separate the stalks from the leaves, but don’t toss the stalks! Saute them to soften and when they are mostly cooked, throw in the leaves until wilted. Swiss chard shines in lentil soup.
Yes, the greens on those annoying yellow weeds are edible. But please, don’t harvest them just anywhere. They are often sprayed with harmful pesticides and are not safe to eat. Buy them from your local organic farmer or pick them from your own yard (if you don’t use pesticides). The leaves have a bitter taste and pair well with rich foods like eggs, pototoes, or cheeses. Try wilting your greens with garlic and topping with poached eggs and herbed goat cheese for a killer breakfast.
Pea Greens (Pea shoots)
The leaves of fava beans are not only edible, they’re delicious. Though similar to spinach in texture, their flavor is a bit milder and sweeter. Treat them as you would spinach while cooking for an unexpected flavor twist.
Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
Broccoli rabe is a nutty, earthy green that does well when blanched. Like the rest of the greens, rapini tastes wonderful sauteed with garlic and tossed with lemon, but it’s also a tasty addition to homemade pizzas.