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These classic Southern recipes make it easy to get your greens
If you’ve spent any time in Deep South, then you know that a “mess o’ greens” is a classic sidedish. And for luck and good fortune, you simply must have black-eyed peas and greens.
The cruciferous veggies usually found in the stewpot are a concentrated source of good health. Collards, kale, and mustard (the typical triumvirate found in the southern pot) provide a plenitude of protection against many ills. The cruciferous family of vegetables, which encompasses broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage as well as many greens, plays a vital role in reducing cancer risk. It is here that greens shine the brightest; they provide nutritional support for detox, and are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
The array of antioxidant phytonutrients to be found in this family of greens is staggering—well over 45 and counting. They contribute to a reduction in oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, two factors that can lead to numerous maladies, including cataracts and heart disease. These same compounds can make a marked contribution to lowering cholesterol, by binding the bile acids in our intestines to allow them to pass safely out of the body. And by contributing to a higher effectiveness in both phases of the body’s detox process, they can provide protection against the environmental stresses that our bodies inevitably endure in this polluted age.
So even if you live in cold northern climes and have never whiled away a muggy Southern afternoon in a rocking chair on the porch with a mint julep in hand, it’s time to get yourself a mess o’ greens on a regular basis. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Always choose greens that are bright and crisp, with no yellow or brown spots, and no discolored edges or small holes. Colors should be vibrant; yellow leaves mean they’re long past fresh, and have lost much of their nutritive value.
- If you can, select smaller leaves rather than larger—they’re sweeter and less bitter.
- Let the leaves sit for a few minutes after you chop them, before using; it amplifies the nutritional value.
- Store for no more than a few days. Keep them in the coldest part of the fridge in a zip-lock bag with the air squeezed out.
did you know…?
… mustard greens are used to remove heavy metals from contaminated soil in hazardous waste sites?
… greens were growing wild in Asia and the Mediterranean before recorded history?
… during the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common vegetables across all of Europe?
… in Brazil, a juice made from collards is favored as a remedy for gout and bronchitis?
… on Halloween in Ireland, the traditional dish called colcannon is made with mashed potatoes and kale?
Easy to Go Green
Greens like broccoli, cabbage, mustard, collard and turnip greens, and kale have been declared “diabetes superfoods” and even keep you smart: one study linked them to slowing cognitive decline. They deliver vitamins A, C, E, and K, and pantothenic acid to help metabolize food, plus fiber and calcium for healthy heart and bones. But it can be a challenge to get enough green vegetables on our plates every day. Capsules and powders including freeze-dried broccoli, kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts offer a convenient option.
Additionally,“green foods” supplements are available. Green foods typically refer to barley grass, wheat grass, and blue-green algaes—close cousins to dark-green leafy vegetables nutritionally, but more nutrient dense, providing more concentrated amounts of beneficial phytonutrients per ounce than green vegetables. Green foods supplements come in liquids, powders, tablets, granules, drinks, and extracts—an easy way to get your greens on the go. —Mary Mihaly