Matt & I just returned from 4 days of bicycle-camping with 11 friends through the Carrizo Plains. The super-bloom was breathtaking, and the sunburns each of us came home with were frustrating. Most of us had applied and re-applied our sunscreen lotions each day, but every...Read More
Bitter Greens such as kales, collard greens, arugula, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, are not only amazing nutritional powerhouses, but they greatly aid digestion, reduce sugar cravings, help metabolize fats, and work many other magical, healing effects on the human body....Read More
For those coming off the standard American diet, colon cleansing is one of the most important first steps on the road to vitality. The colon works with the liver and lymphatic system to keep our entire bodies free from toxic accumulations. It’s the first organ you’ll want to...Read More
For about the past 5 years in the healing foods community, there have been many proponents for a no-grain diet. Personally, I’ve enjoyed sprouted and simmered (or fresh ground and cultured), low-glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and brown rice as staple...Read More
Culturing (aka: fermenting) vegetables has long been a tradition meant to extend the shelf-life of fresh summertime produce throughout the winter months. In our modern world, we don’t experience this particular dilemma much. But so much has been recently discovered about the...Read More
I believe that the three, most important, first steps toward establishing great health are: 1) getting enough water daily, 2) getting enough dark leafy greens daily, and 3) quitting refined sugars then eating low glycemic. Last month, I shared strategies on how to get enough re-mineralized water daily. So, this month, I’ll share the healthiest ways to prepare all kinds of greens (including the Asian Greens!); why some leafy greens are best for the body when eaten raw, and why some are healthiest when at least lightly cooked. Yay!
Whether it be a big pile of steamed dino kale drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, or a huge green salad with chopped dandelion greens, I feel so alive, so alert, and so much energy just from eating my greens daily! In fact, eating way more greens was the very first step I took about 15 years ago, when I had no energy and several health issues. When I simply started eating a big spinach salad every day, my energy level shot up by about 50%! Wow! “Greens, Glorious Greens! Life-Giving Sustenance!”
All greens have tons of fiber, minerals, and chlorophyl. Chlorophyl mirrors human blood almost exactly in it’s molecular structure, so it helps cleanse and re-build the blood. Live green salads are alkalizing to the body’s pH, and they’re full of fiber and living enzymes, both of which aid digestion. Greens rejuvenate us, period.
It’s important to maintain the body’s naturally alkaline pH balance to maintain good health, energy, stamina, and general vitality. I remember one of my teachers saying, “…disease cannot take root in an alkaline environment.” He recommend eating an 80% alkaline-forming diet, and limiting acid-forming foods to less than 20% of the diet. Acid-forming foods include: all forms of sugar, alcohol, commercially produced meats, refined salts, white flour products, pasteurized dairy, and packaged/processed/restaurant foods in general. When we eat mostly whole, alkalizing foods like seasonal vegetables, beans, millet, quinoa, nuts, avocado, pasture butter, organic eggs, and grass fed meats, there’s less room in our stomachs for the refined, acid-forming foods, which makes the gentle transition to a whole foods diet way easier than most people think!
Dark leafy greens are a big part of what’s missing in the Standard American Diet. The cruciferous (broccoli family) dark leafy greens like kales of all kinds, collard greens, Brussels sprout greens, broccoli greens, cauliflower greens, and cabbages are 1) very alkalizing to the blood, 2) contain potent anti-oxidants, and 3) are brimming with bio-available, food-state vitamins and minerals. The darker the color of the greens, the more minerals they have! I believe that these cruciferous greens are absolutely the most nutritious of all the greens because of their density of minerals, and their strong, anti-cancer properties. I’ve experienced that the crucifers are easiest to digest when eaten at least lightly steamed (or rubbed with coarse sea salt and olive oil). These methods help to break down the copious amounts of sulfur they contain, as sulfur is very difficult for the body to digest.
Raw, green lettuces are also very alkalizing to the body, contain minerals, and have a cooling effect on the body. So, raw greens are best eaten more often in the spring and summer (the time of year when lettuces naturally grow), or when you’re feeling too warm. These types of greens don’t contain too much sulfur, so they’re easy to digest when eaten raw: all lettuces, baby spinach, turnip and radish greens, dandelion greens, baby bok choy, baby tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and watercress.
“What about beet greens and chard?”, you ask. There’s a substance called oxalic acid that’s found in large amounts in mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard. There’s a sensation associated with eating oxalic acid heavy veggies; it’s a feeling like the enamel is coming off of your teeth (similar to when you bite into a lemon). When these types of veggies are COOKED, oxalic acid binds with minerals in the intestine, and inhibits their absorption. If these types of veggies were cooked and eaten daily, they’d eventually contribute to mineral depletion. The great, recent news on this subject, is that when eaten raw, the living enzymes in the plant’s tissues help break down the oxalic acid, which leaves the minerals free to go to where they’re needed in the body. So, eat mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard RAW. Other than eating these types of greens raw, there are two more ways oxalic acid can be neutralized: 1) by cooking these vegetables with kombu sea vegetable for at least 20 minutes, and 2) by fermenting (culturing) these vegetables in beet kvaas, sauerkraut, or kimchee.
A wonderful new addition to my health-arsenal of greens, are the Asian greens! Va and Ivorrie at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, and Tou at the Saturday morning market in SLO, bring a beautiful, varied selection of Asian greens to us, such as Kang kong (water spinach), bittermelon leaf, amaranth greens, basil, long bean, daikon radish, singua, okra, shanghai bokchoy, lemon grass, dill, and yam leaf.
Their booths are in the North West corner of each market. I asked them which types can be eaten raw vs. cooked, and started including Asian greens in my salads ands stir frys. The yam leaf, amaranth greens, and water spinach are super mild, and will disappear into salads without a clue from picky eaters. The okra greens are mild too, and they have a slightly slippery texture (mucilaginous), just like their fruit. Turnip, radish, and mustard greens are slightly spicy, and the more mature (bigger they are), the spicier they get, so watch out!
For a full color guide to all the Asian greens including:
Latin name, also known as names, flavor, texture, how they’re best cooked, when they’re available, and where to find them, check out:
Here’s a brief summary of which types can be eaten raw, and which types should be cooked:
Asian Greens which can be eaten raw OR cooked
yam leaf, radish greens, turnip greens, amaranth greens, fava greens,
malabar spinach, mizuna, snow pea shoots, water spinach, napa cabbage, BABY bok choy, BABY tatsoi, BABY yu choy, & BABY mustard greens
Asian Greens which need to be cooked
chrysanthemum greens, chinese celery, chinese broccoli, AA choy, kokabu greens, bitter melon vine (bitter melon vine is usually made into a medicinal tea for diabetics who are NOT on blood sugar lowering drugs)
You may have seen them for sale at Mexican markets, on produce stands at the swap meet, and even in the produce section of many grocery stores; beaver tail-shaped cactus leaves called “nopales”. For years, I would pass by these unappealing guys, but I always wondered what they tasted like. I also wondered how in the world one could possibly work with them!
Nopales aren’t actually leaves, but they’re the soft stems of the underdeveloped prickly pear cacti. What would be considered the leaves, scientifically speaking, are the spines…go figure! Many people are only familiar with the prickly pear fruit themselves, which taste like a cross between watermelon and strawberries…Yum!
Okay. Either green or purple, nopales are roughly the size of a person’s hand, and, when cooked, they have a consistency somewhere between green beans and green peppers. Native to Mexico and Central America, they’re regularly added to eggs and steak stir fry.
Nopales have a wide range of health benefits. They aid in weight loss, regulate blood sugar, prevent cancer, improve skin health, protect heart health, regulate and improve digestion, boost the immune system, optimize metabolic activity, build strong bones, cure insomnia, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Wow!
A couple of months ago, my dear friend Terre Dunivant (gaiagraphicsLINK), asked me if I had ever eaten nopales raw or cooked. She said that she had a ton of them in her yard if I ever wanted any. She said that they’re spectacularly healthy, as they’re brimming with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and many other phyto-nutrients. Even after hearing about these awesome health benefits, when I pictured the cactus paddles in my mind, I shied away from working with those spines. I said, “I love you Terre, but thanks anyway!”
Then, just last week, I was at my cooking demo booth at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, right across from sweet Lupe’s produce booth. Lo and behold, I saw that she had 3 ziplock bags of de-spined and diced nopales for sale for just $3/bag! My eyes kept going back to those neatly diced nopales all morning. When there was a lul in the crowd, I walked over to ask Lupe about them, and she let me taste a piece raw. It was crispy and watery and surprisingly tangy, which tells me they’re full of vitamin C. I was immediately turned on. I thought, “what a refreshing element to a summer salad these would make!” I was also super excited by the idea of finally learning to cook with them.
To guide buyers in cooking them, Lupe had a small, laminated sign that told us to put them in a saucepan with a bit of salt and simmer them for 10-20 minutes on low heat until they let go of their water. Then, one can drain them and easily saute them with onions, eggs, stir fry, meats…anything! “Oh Boy!” I thought, “the possibilities are endless…let the adventure begin!”
Nopales & Caramelized Onion in Scrambled Eggs:
I brought the diced nopales home and did exactly what Lupe’s sign had instructed. Then, I set them aside, and sauteed a large diced onion in my favorite cast-iron skillet in about 2Tbsp nitrate-free bacon fat. When the onion started to brown and caramelize, I threw in the simmered and drained “nopalitos” along with: 1/2tsp each turmeric, cumin, and coriander. I stirred everything together, then covered the pan and let it simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so. On the side, I had whisked about 4 eggs with about 1/2tsp sea salt until they were frothy and fluffy, then I poured the eggs over everything and scrambled the whole ensemble together for a lovely, pre-Cinco de Mayo breakfast!
Here’s a link to the many details of the heath benefits of nopales:
A Few Words of Caution:
Due to nopales ability to regulate and affect blood sugar levels, they can sometimes make people hypoglycemic, and they should also not be consumed excessively before an operation, since they makes it difficult to control glucose and blood nutrient levels.
Integrity note from Courtney:
Since I finally ended up cooking with nopales last week, I just had to write about the experience for my May newsletter, instead of writing about the various kinds of dark leafy greens and the healthiest ways to prepare them, as I said I would do this month in last month’s newsletter. For this, I apologize deeply. And, I intend, in June, to finally bring you the reasons why some kinds of greens are best for the body when eaten raw, why some kinds are best when at least lightly cooked, and why some kinds are best when fermented. Thank You So Much for your readership, your time, and your patience!
8 Keys To Developing Stronger Immunity:
1) eat lots of greens & alkalize the body with 80% of diet whole foods and green veggies, and only 20% of diet refined foods, meat, alcohol, sugar, etc.
2) eat probiotic foods or good quality probiotic supplements
3) eat food-state Vitamin C throughout the day (lemon juice, kiwi, tomato, peppers, cabbage, etc)
4) get good sleep in a dark room – try to rise and fall with the sun as much as possible
5) exercise regularly with an activity you love to do
6) drink 3-4qts re-mineralized water daily
7) practice having healthy relationships
8) herbs: elderberry, astragalus, echinacea, garlic, ginseng, lemon balm, and mushrooms: reishi, shitake & maitake Read More