Raw Greens

Raw greens are an impor­tant part of our cui­sine here. One of the pri­ma­ry ben­e­fits of liv­ing here in Hawaiʻi 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!


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.