I love kale as much as the next veggie god or goddess, but honestly, how much kale, kale chips, and kale juice can we squeeze into a day?
Rotating dark leafy greens does wonders for the body and the mind. There is a world of leaves out there to discover and our bodies LOVE the variation. The beauty of dark leafy greens is that the darker the leaf, the more nutritious it is—and the best part about them is that the growing season is longer so you can often find them in the winter . . . fresh and locally grown.
True, these leaves can be intimidating. I remember seeing some HUGE leaves one time at the organic farmers market in Paris. I had no idea what they were. Although I do my best to overcome my shyness, try asking pushy French market shoppers IN FRENCH what “huge leaves” are and let me know what you come up with. Needless to say, I am still guessing that they were collard greens.
How to clean and store dark leafy greens:
Although cooking times vary these five simple rules normally apply:
1) Soak and rinse greens in the sink to get the dirt out
2) Spin them in a salad spinner until dry
3) Dry them COMPLETELY on a tea towel or flour sack towel
4) Wrap them in a dry towel OR a green bag (I know, seems like a silly gimmick but they work!)
5) Keep in the veggie drawer wrapped until you use them
Following are my top five dark leafy greens you could be eating instead of or in addition to kale:
– This is one of my favorite leafy greens. It’s perfect paired with lemon and olive oil for a salad or in a juice with lemon and romaine. Oddly enough, the leaf is full of omega fatty acids (I know!?) and vitamins like A, K, and folate, which is HUGE for women. So eat up. I also love it wrapped in a nori sheet with an avocado, sort of an Italian sushi roll . . . and the combo of the “rucola” and nori is like an iron explosion. When the edges of the leaves begin to yellow and get holes, its past its prime and time to toss.
arugula wrapped in a nori sheet with avocado = lunch!
– This is one of those leaves you would see and pass on by, as it is a bit mysterious. It’s beautiful to look at but what on earth would you do with it? We want to eat these greens because they are SO good for us! They have a natural peppery spice—so naturally that means they are good for the digestive system (spice=boost in digestion; think cayenne pepper
). That said, they pair well in salads with a neutral leaf like romaine. They really DO taste like mustard, so it follows that they would be good on a sandwich. Mustard greens have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties, and are as high in all the essential vitamins as the greens. Just like the popular kale, it’s hugely detoxifying and will help to pull toxins from your digestive tract.
– These greens can be found right on the tops of your beets OR you can buy them alone. These are fantastic liver cleansers, which means they help to cleanse the body of unwanted fluids and toxins. We love this because it helps with fluid retention. The greens taste slightly sweet, like the beets themselves. If you juice them, they add a slight red color to a green juice, which helps with your mid-winter tan. Sautéed or raw, they are thicker than most other greens, so will need to be chopped, but this will not damage the leaf. The greens are very high in iron, vitamin K and C. The roots themselves can be chopped and sautéed, the greens will not last as long as the roots.
– This mellow Mediterranean green is SO nutritious it ranks higher than spinach on the health meter. It’s not as popular, but I promise you, it is delightful. Chard is fantastic for juicing as it is watery, and easy to cook because it is neutral in taste. I like to substitute it anywhere I might use spinach. Think lasagna, sautéed greens with garlic and lemon, chard salad (with dulse and avocado
). As for being nutritious, it’s one of the highest forms of calcium you can find in a green. Calcium is not just found in milk (ahem) and we LOVE calcium because it helps to keep things in the body moving and helps lessen fluid retention. Chard also is very high in vitamin C, E, zinc and beta carotene.
– The KING of all detox leaves. Greeks have been using dandelion for centuries in salads, sautés, and as garnish. It is high in Vitamin K, C, E Iron, calcium and can help lower cholesterol. It’s fantastic for juicing and in smoothies as well; this green is the best green for flushing the liver and the body in general of toxins. In other words, we can say adios to bloat and water retention. Yes, dandelion juice can REALLY do that. Its bitter taste is best offset with spinach or celery.
What are your favorite dark leafy greens and how do YOU use them? I would love to hear about that in the comments below!