Thursday, October 28, 2010

Leafy greens: a new favorite food

Yesterday: 4.1 miles with boyfriend (8:46 pace)
Today: 7.7 miles over hills (planned for this evening)

There are many foods that I love.  Today I would like to talk about some leafy greens, which I have (surprisingly) found myself recently enamored with.  A few months ago, I made a concerted effort to incorporate more vegetables and fruit into my diet and to cut down on my consumption of animal products.  While I have always loved fruit, my relationship with vegetables was rather lukewarm, and I was certainly not getting the recommended five servings a day.  I have switched my eating habits and now consume a large salad for lunch about 6 days a week.  This meal alone helps me incorporate lots of veggies into my diet.  But, when you eat a salad every day, you need some variety and so I have been trying out lots of foods that were previously ignored by me.  Some I really haven't enjoyed (beets, turnips), while others have delighted me.  Today I want to honor some leafy greens because they are delicious, nutritious and my new found friends!

I have tried the following greens: arugula, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and swiss chard.  I have not yet tried, but would like to try: beet greens, collard greens, dandelion greens, and turnip greens.

Arugula is delicious!  I have been eating it raw in my salads all week and it has a lot more flavor and zing than romaine lettuce.  It has a peppery, spicy taste and is very fragrant.  Of all the greens I have tried, this is my favorite to eat raw.

My favorite way to eat kale is sautéed.  First, I heat about a tablespoon of oil in a pan.  I chop 10-12 white mushrooms and sauté them in the pan until golden brown and fragrant.  While they are cooking, I wash the kale and break the leaves into smaller pieces.  I then add the kale to the pan and cook.  The leaves will shrink a lot and their green color will intensify.  As a final step, I add 1/4 cup of pine nuts and some kosher salt.  The pine nuts need just a few minutes to warm and toast (3 minutes) and then this side dish is done!  For me, this is two servings and it is my favorite way to eat cooked greens (so far).  I have also tried kale in salads and raw in smoothies.  In both cases it was okay, but not great.  I definitely prefer the flavor of cooked kale.

I have eaten mustard greens once, as a substitute for kale in the above dish.  Mustard greens look very similar to kale but have a lighter green colored leaf (almost lime).  These greens had a wonderful spicy flavor when cooked.  However, when I reheated the dish the next day, the greens did not taste very good.  I think the kale holds up better to storage.

After arugula, spinach is a good choice for salads.  I think arugula has a lot more flavor than spinach, but both leaves are nice raw and go well with other veggies.  Spinach is also a great choice for a sweeter salad with things like citrus, berries and nuts.  I haven't ventured into the cooked spinach zone just yet, but I think it would be good with pasta.

Rainbow swiss chard
Lastly, is swiss chard.  I have eaten swiss chard both in soups and sautéed.  I think this green is okay, but I much prefer kale.  I found that the chard wilted rather quickly in my fridge.  Unfortunately, I can usually only go to the grocery store once a week, so I can't always eat vegetables 2 days after I buy them.  Swiss chard is a very pretty green though.  The stems come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, red, purple and pink.  I think I should give this green another try though, and perhaps use it right after I purchase it.

Some final thoughts on leafy greens.  First, if you have some recipes that utilize these greens, or the greens I still have to try, please share them!  I am always looking for new ideas.  Second, if these plants seem foreign to you, give them a shot!  You may be pleasantly surprised.

On a completely different note, last night I participated in the Runner's Round Table podcast.  The episode was about endurance relays and can be found here.  This episode was led by Dr. Dave with fellow co-hosts Mark, Colin and Chris.  Check it out and let me know what you think.


  1. Good for you! Veggies are very high in nutrients, anti-oxidants and roughage. I had to smile at your Swiss Chard reference since we grew it in our garden when growing-up, and my dad frequently prepared his 'special' Swiss Chard shake in the blender. It tasted was absolutely horrid, but was undoubtedly (with the benefit of distant hindsight and no threat of my being coerced to try it again :) nutritionally excellent.

  2. I love roasted kale- just wash it, tear it up into 2-3 inch pieces, toss (or spray) with olive oil and salt and roast at 350-400. I like to put it in a cake pan as when I tried it on a cookie sheet the pieces around the edges got really burned. You can cook it until its crispy, or stop slightly short of that and the kale will still have a bit of chewiness.