In meditating upon the nature of edible leaves, the thought bubble above my head says that these early spinach leaves (like everything else) are recycled from everything and everyone. The idea that I am eating a small part of everything that has ever been on the earth and perhaps of every person who has ever been here too is a thought too deep and profound to sustain. My thought bubble happily floats back up to figuring out what's for dinner, if it's only greens that we're eating rather than the totality of creation.
Part of the pleasure of a dinner including greens is knowing that you can still find them growing wild (often as weeds) and in reading about their part in our culinary history and heritage.
"People have been eating salads since the time of classical Greece. Tudor salads were edible art, with primroses, violets, and marigolds in among the greens. When William Byrd promoted the Virginia colony, he listed salad makings as three kinds of lettuce, two of garlic, several of cabbage and cucumbers, radishes, and many suitable herbs.
Many salad ingredients were thought to have healing properties. Herbalists promoted the medicinal qualities of raw salad vegetables and herbs - "Whole nations of meat eaters had become heavy, dull, unactive, and much more Stupid than plant eaters who were more Acute, Subtil, and of deeper Penetration." Thomas Jefferson was avid about salads preferring them to most other foods. He grew many of the necessary ingredients in his Monticello gardens. He recommended endive for winter use, and also celery and spinach."
From Ann Hertzler, Virginia Tech
If Thomas Jefferson thought salads give you insight, subtlety, and acuity, his place in history certainly lends credence to his argument. The 18th century notion of greens as a remedy for heaviness and stupidity has an equivalent with nutritionists now telling us daily how important dark leafy greens are and raw-foodists promoting them as a direct path to health. While in the 18th century, greens were mostly served in some version of boiled, the number of different greens - especially including new ones from Asia - and the possibilities for making something delicious, are legion.
Our favorite way to partake is to saute any green or combination thereof in olive oil and garlic, with a pinch of salt. When you're eating organic greens from your favorite biodynamic farm for dinner, it is so healthful and pure that a sense of blessed virtuousness descends like evening. Even the jaded palate, that fickle gateway to the inner factory of health, energy and vitality, is in accord.
For other times, greens may be eaten:
- Sauteed as above as a topping for bruschetta
- Stir-fried with chicken and ginger (bok choy especially)
- In Baked Garlic-Veggie Casserole (good with kale!)
- Spicy pasta with greens, sausage, and garbanzos - use a mixture including some bitter greens
- Salade niçoise. Big favorite here. With mustard vinaigrette.
This simple recipe will give you reasons to search for greens:
- Greens with peanut sauce, grilled chicken, and pickled radishes