It’s St. Patrick’s Day – a fitting day to talk about greens. In the photo above are some collards, one of my favorites. As you have probably guessed by now, I love greens of just about any type, and I’ll take any excuse I can get to extol their benefits. If someone asked me what was one thing they could change to improve their diet, I’d tell them to eat more greens. Here’s why.
So many reasons to love greens
Why do I love greens so much? They are just about the healthiest thing you can eat. Kale and collards are my two favorites. Ounce for ounce, you’d be hard pressed to find a more nutrient-dense food. Eating any type of vegetable is a good thing. But with greens, you’re really maximizing your nutrient intake. I recently found this chart by the Center for Science in the Public interest that compares the nutrient value of different vegetables; as you can imagine, greens – kale in particular – are at the top. Calcium, folate, iron, vitamins A and C, and much more…with so many foods to choose from, why wouldn’t one choose to eat the ones that are the most nutrient dense?
I eat greens pretty much twice a day. Rarely an evening goes by when dinner does not involve some type of green vegetable. It took me a little while to get in the habit of incorporating them into my diet, but now it’s become a habit. And since I have done so, I have felt the health benefits, particularly in terms of good energy levels and a strong immune system, which has come in really handy during cold and flu season.
I have to admit that when it comes to getting my hands on greens, I’m really lucky in two respects: first, I live in southern Louisiana, where locally grown kale, collards, mustard, and many other greens are available three seasons out of the year (not during the summer, when it’s too hot to grown them). Second, I live near a farmer’s market where I can stock up on greens every week.
Fortunately, you don’t need to live near a farmer’s market to get your greens. Earlier this week, I mentioned that I spent the weekend in Florida, cooking for my friend and her recuperating mother. I wanted to incorporate plenty of greens into the meals, but there was no farmer’s market around, and the nearest Whole Foods (where I’ve always found a variety of fresh greens) was a half hour’s drive away. The best option was to drive five minutes to the local grocery store, Publix.
At Publix, I could not find bunches of green leafy vegetables except for some wilted lettuce. However, I was happy to find bagged kale and collards, so that’s what I bought. (The photo above is from my local grocery store. I didn’t think to snap a photo of the bagged kale and collards in Florida.) And I have to say, they did the job! The bagged greens came coarsely chopped; because I like small pieces, I chopped them a bit more before using them in the recipes. But that’s just my personal preference.
What to make with the greens
With the collards, I made Bryant Terry’s citrus collards with raisins redux. Yes, I’ve mentioned this recipe in passing a couple times in this blog – but the multiple mentions are for a good reason. This is the recipe that got me going with collards, and I still make it once or twice a month. If the thought of eating collards doesn’t excite you, do me a favor and try Terry’s recipe a.s.a.p. It’s really hard not to love it, and it will help ease you into the flavor of collards which you’ll come to appreciate more over time, I guarantee. The recipe worked just as well with bagged collards as with my farmer’s market collards.
With my bag of kale, I made Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s garlic and greens soup, and it came out great too. You can watch a demo video of how to make the soup here. I didn’t use an entire head of garlic as the recipe calls for, but I still liked the soup. I think there was an added psychological bonus at play – knowing how good the kale is for me made me enjoy eating it all the more. Does that ever happen to you when you’re eating your vegetables?
On today, St. Patrick’s Day, wear your greens, but most importantly, eat them! Tell me: are you in the habit of eating your greens, and if not, what’s stopping you?