Getting more nutritious dark leafy greens in your diet doesn't just mean extra helpings of cooked spinach.

Rainbow chard smoked duck breast risotto
Smoked Marin Sun Farms duck breast and rainbow chard risotto

Here are some ways to not just eat more leafy greens, but to enjoy them.

You can eat most dark, leafy greens by just sauteing them with good olive oil, some fresh garlic slivers and a pinch of sea salt.  But the trick to incorporating more of these super nutritious vegetables into your diet is to expand your repertoire of leafy greens and how you cook them.

How many leafy greens do you eat?

No, not how many servings, but how many different leafy greens do you enjoy in your diet? Most people are only familiar with a few, which makes life a little boring!  Here are some to try:

  • Dandelion greens (red and green)
  • Kale (my favorite is Red Russian)
  • Beet tops
  • Fava leaves
  • Chard (I love rainbow chard, it looks gorgeous in food)
  • Spinach
  • Strawberry stick leaves (from the strawberry stick plant, different from strawberries!)
  • Collard greens
  • Borage
  • Broccoli leaves
  • Mustard (my favorite is red giant mustard)
  • Turnip greens
  • Rapini, or broccoli rabe
  • Chicory
  • Tender baby ferns
  • Nettle (cooked or blended only!)
  • Parsnip leaves
  • Pea shoots
  • Radish leaves
  • Clover leaves (red and white)
  • Nasturtium leaves (flowers are also edible)
  • Violets (sweet violet and Canada violet – the flowers are also edible)
  • Grape leaves
Ham and bean soup with dandelion greens
Marin Sun Farms ham and white bean soup with dandelion greens

See, that’s a huge list! And it doesn’t even encompass all the green leafy vegetables out there.

Young, tender leaves can be cut and used fresh, as in salads (except for stinging nettles, which must be cooked or blended). Older, tougher leaves and stems can be cooked in soups, sauteed or roasted in olive oil.

Bitter greens, such as mustard and dandelion, are packed with nutrients, but they also pack a bite.  Even punchy leaves, such as mustard and radish leaves, mellow a great deal with a little cooking, and add color, flavor, nutrition and fiber to many dishes.


Of course, eating most greens raw is ideal, since you don’t cook away the nutrients.  (Greens high in oxalic acid, like spinach, should not be eaten raw in large quantities) One way that I enjoy getting a huge boost of vitamins and antioxidants is by juicing and making smoothies.  First, I use my juicer to press fresh juice from a variety of vegetables or fruits, and then I blend the fresh juice in a high power blender, such as a Vita Mix, with fresh leafy greens.

Risotto

  • Smoked duck and rainbow chard risotto
  • Pea shoot risotto
  • Shredded grape leaf (preserved) and toasted pine nut risotto

Soup

  • White bean and dandelion soup
  • Chicory leek soup
  • Provençal greens soup (can be made with greens from chard, beet, dandelion or nettles)

With pasta

  • Red Giant mustard greens roasted in olive oil, tossed with fresh pappardelle pasta and pesto
  • Chopped sauteed young beet leaves with garlic, fresh parsley, finely chopped walnuts, olive oil and fresh pasta
  • Roasted broccoli rabe with toasted sesame oil and Vietnamese garlic noodles

Salad

  • Young fava leaf and red Russian kale salad with pecans, blue cheese and mustard vinaigrette
  • Chopped red dandelion with radish and blood oranges, tossed in blood orange and champagne vinaigrette
  • Arugula, tossed with herbed chevre, balsamic vinaigrette, toasted almonds and halved, ripe strawberries

Smoothies

Fresh pressed carrot and cabbage juice, blended with fresh red Russian kale leaves and frozen berries.

Sprouting

Sprouting microgreens is another way to maximize nutrition from leafy greens.  Microgreens are four to five day old plants that you can sprout in your own kitchen from seeds.  If you make them yourself, they are very economical and contain a different nutritional profile than the fully grown plants.  Sprouts are eaten for their dense nutrition, high protein content and nutrigenomic potential.  Some of my favorite sprouts are broccoli, sunflower, clover and arugula.  Sprouts are best eaten raw. You can sprinkle them on a salad, stuff them into a taco or include them in Vietnamese spring rolls.

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid naturally occurs in leafy green vegetables, some much more than others. Spinach, for instance, contains high levels.  There is a high enough level of oxalic acid in spinach, beet and chard to actually interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the calcium in those plants.  Oxalic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium in the intestines, preventing the body from absorbing them.

It is advised that plants high in oxalic acid be eaten in moderation, and be cooked in steel rather than aluminum pots.

Fava leaf and red Russian kale salad with Point Reyes Farmstead bleu cheese and pecan
Fava leaf and red Russian kale salad with Point Reyes Farmstead bleu cheese and pecan

 


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