Greens: Good For What Ails Ya

I love to cook. I especially eat good food, and lunch at work is no exception. Microwave ovens have made this possible; and it’s not at all difficult. All you need is a Pyrex bowl with the magic lid that has a vent in it to let the steam out.

So there I was, cooking my food for the normal 2 ½ minutes. When I pulled my lunch out of the microwave, some friends got a whiff and expressed envy. “Wow that smells good!! Whatcha got in there??” I’ve been asked a few times. Then I rattle off the ingredients and I get that “deer in the headlights” look.

“Well let’s see,” I’d reply, “I chopped up some greens, some onion, peppers, tomatoes, a little soy sauce, a little sesame oil, then smoosh a veggie burger on top and nuke it for 2 ½ minutes.” “Greens? What kind of greens??” I get asked in return. “Oh just stuff from the garden,” I said, “some Swiss chard, wild cabbage, and pak choi.” More deer in the headlights lookings. Many folks haven’t heard of any of that stuff.

Can’t help it, I’m a weirdo. While we love our cukes, tomatoes, corn, green beans and such; my Beautiful Girlfriend and I have also become very attached to greens. Happened when we lived in Tampa, Florida for 3 years while I was in the Air Force. We got hooked on some southern foods like collard greens, for example. When we moved back north, I learned pretty quickly that greens are a perfect crop for our unpredictable weather. Collards, kale, wild cabbage (ancestor to kale and collards), all do very well all summer long; and they even survive the winter quite regularly. We also have been growing Swiss chard for many years now. That stuff is easy to grow and is also quite hardy.

More recently I’ve started growing pak choi (or bok choy as Americans often call it). It’s an asian vegetable in the cabbage family; and it’s grown for its white crunchy stalks and nice green leaves. All greens, by the way, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Pak choi is excellent in salads, and also great for stir fry dishes and soups. Unlike other greens, however, it does not freeze well (unless of course you like it mooshy).

We also eat “wild” greens like purslane and lambs quarters that are yummy and packed with nutrition. I put “wild” in quotes because both of these plants have been revered for their food value for eons. However, they are considered weeds by most farmers. Once we learned more about these, we began allowing them to share some the garden real estate with other crops. So yes folks, we are weed eaters.

The picture below shows, from left to right Swiss Chard, pak choi, and lambs quarters in the foreground. As I looked more closely I noticed some purslane in the picture too, growing on the edge of the bed. Aren’t they pretty??  Click on the picture for a better look.

pakchoi+swisschardWe blanch and freeze several gallon bags of greens every year. The quantity can, at first, be misleading; because a whole wheelbarrow full of greens will cook down to maybe 5 or 6 gallons of stuff for the freezer. The beauty of it, though, is we know we are getting very high quality food that was not grown with chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Greens, as Grandma Loftus (and of course our Mom) used to always say, “are good for what ails ya, and if nothin’ ails ya, it’s good for that too!!” And of course our friend Popeye says “I’m strong to the finich, ‘cuz I eats me spinach.” Speaking of which, let’s see what Popeye is up to… Or should I say was…