Raw Greens

Raw greens are an important part of our cuisine here. One of the primary benefits of living here in Hawaii is the year-round availability of a wide variety of raw greens. We have, of course, the familiar:

  • lettuce
  • kale
  • collards
  • broccoli rabe / Chinese broccoli
  • radicchio
  • mizuna
  • chickory
  • arrugula
  • asparagus

There is also a selection of tropical perennial greens that we have around:

  • katuk (Sauropus androgynus)
  • Okinawan spinach (Gynura crepidioides)
  • moringa (Moringa oleifera)
  • edible hibiscus (Hibiscus manihot, H. sabdariffa)

The perennials form the backbone of our greens supply, needing very little care, they just keep on pumping out good food for years. Some of them take a little getting used to, and they probably wouldn’t stand on their own, but when blended into a mixed salad, the result is delicious and offers a broad spectrum of nutrients.

The perennials also include several of the annuals above; the kale and the various chickories just keep on growing. Event the lettuce and radicchio will keep going: when we harvest, we cut high on the plant so the main stalk is mostly intact in the ground. It starts sprouting new leaves soon, and before long, you have a whole second harvest ready. Most of these annuals succumb to the wetness and rot within a year, but the kale lasts for many years.

Bitter is Better

I think raw greens are one of the best healing foods you can eat. Most of them are bitter, which supplies nutrients and medicinals that are largely missing from the western sweet/bland/rich diet, and in fact provides a balance to that diet by stimulating the proper digestion of fats. The fiber also slows down the absorption of starches and sugars.

Learning to like and crave bitter greens supports a very healthy shift away from an unbalanced diet through the maturation of the palate. You will eat more healthily not because you think you should but because those are the foods you hunger for. This shift in the palate also allows you to make more intuitive choices about what you should eat at any particular moment because your intuition will be less hampered by habitual choices. You’ll crave sugar less, and find much less sweet things (like fruit or even vegetables) more satisfying to your desire for sweetness. The downside is you’ll probably begin to find most industrial food products distasteful; overly sweet and salted with alarming off-flavors you probably never noticed before.

Additionally, eating raw greens fresh from the garden revitalizes your intestinal flora by supplying live indigenous microorganisms. It gives your immune system a boost by fostering a more balanced and diverse culture of microorganisms in your digestive tract. We wash our own garden greens as little as possible for this reason. If this alarms you, I suggest you look into the importance of the symbiotic partnerships with various microorganisms our bodies rely on to stay alive. It’s a zoo in there and that is natural and healthy!

Vinegar

We typically dress our raw greens with some kind of vinaigrette. Vinegar is helpful in balancing the bitterness of the greens, and performs an important function in mineral absorption. Greens are an excellent source of minerals and the acetic acid in vinegar makes these minerals more available for uptake by chelation.

We like apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar and various wine vinegars. I guess that means we only don’t like white vinegar! White vinegar makes a good cleaning product when mixed with certain essential oils.

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