“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan
Unless you’re from Saturn, you’ve probably heard this quote from the 2009 book, Food Rules. I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan. I’m also a huge reader of diet books. I’ve tried almost all of them, from Atkins to vegan to paleo to Whole 30. Nothing works for me. Apparently, I don’t have the self discipline and the more I read the more scared I am to eat anything. For my husband, low carb works best. I am no means a slave to my husband, but I am the chief cook. What makes my husband happy and keeps his weight and health numbers best is my goal. He is the main instigator in the exploration of healthy eating. I am the one who makes it happen. He did not gain weight on the vegan diet and he did not gain weight on Whole30. What I love about both of those seemingly polar opposite eating plans is I can eat as many vegetables and fruits as I want. I can’t imagine going 24 hours without greens. Yes, protein is important, but it can come from either meat or plants. The big thing on either one is I consume greens, other vegetables and fruits. Even my doctor says vegetables and fruits are good!
My goal for the last year is to eat a large variety of fresh, preferably organic and seasonal vegetables with each meal along with fruit for breakfast and a protein source. Think of it as a salad at every meal, only using much more than just lettuce. Spinach is my friend. I feel really guilty when I clear out all of the bulk spinach at the First Alternative Co-op. I’m eating 2 giant clamshells worth per week, except now I’m trying to be earth-friendly. And that is only 1 of the many kinds of greens I eat.
As a gardener, I’m excited because I can grow a lot of my own vegetables and fruits. I grow it, I know what goes in it. There’s no added salt, sugar or preservatives. It’s fresh, thereby not losing any vital nutrients in transport or storage. Plus, there’s no waste. I can pick it when I need it. Here in the Willamette Valley, we’re able to grow a wide variety of vegetables. Yes, there is a seasonality to it. But there are a lot of different vegetables that we can grow in our garden that most people don’t even try. Here are some of the different things you could be growing (or at least eating from local growers) that go beyond the standard lettuce, potatoes, asparagus and beans.
Celeriac: a root vegetable that makes great faux mashed potatoes or fries.
Watercress: it’s actually a Nasturtium! Peppery tasting and one of my favorite salad greens. I like it with mandarin oranges, walnuts and a honey-mustard dressing.
Kohlrabi: excellent sliced thin and eaten raw or as a baked vegetable chip.
Beet greens: I wasn’t a huge fan of beetroot (until I ate a citrusy beet salad) but I’ve always enjoyed the greens. Early Wonder tall top and Bull’s Blood are varieties that have great greens. They’re excellent sautéed.
Broccolini: Sorry but you really should eat broccoli in some form. It’s amazing. For you broccoli haters, try broccolini. It’s usually sweeter and milder.
Any of the raabs (broccoli, kale, mustard): the flowers of the cabbage family. After you enjoy the leaves, let the plant flower in late winter and enjoy the “raab”.
Mache: aka Corn Salad. Popular in European salads.
Dandelions: Eat your weeds (but not if you use chemicals). There are also garden varieties. Bitter, but an excellent detoxifying veggie.
Swiss Chard: I don’t consider this unusual, but if you rarely venture beyond spinach and lettuce as a green, you should try Swiss Chard. It is mild and sweet.
Romanesco: That funky green, cauliflower/broccoli looking head in stores specializing in vegetables. It is tasty roasted. Along with cauliflower, kind of a steak substitute if you’re going vegan.
Arugula: Tired of lettuce salads? This peppery green makes an amazing Italian style salad with cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives. Also yummy mixed into a breakfast hash.
Bok Choi: It doesn’t last long in storage and I don’t always know what to do with it, but…it is a mild and tasty addition to stir-fries and soups.
Mustard: Lots of antioxidants and a good liver detox green.
Radicchio: It’s beautiful and bitter. I found a lovely recipe for it marinaded in honey and lemon and then grilled.
Purple carrots: Supposedly purple vegetables have more antioxidants, etc. I love purple carrots because they are pretty. Slice them up and they look like like star jewels in your salad. Who says healthy can’t be pretty?
Purslane: Eat wild greens. So says Michael Pollan in chapter 31 of Food Rules. There are several things commonly called purslane. Make sure you find the edible one. Territorial Seed Co has it in their seed collection. There are other wild greens, such as lamb’s quarter that are very healthy. Maybe eating our weeds is beneficial after all.
I encourage you to go beyond the ordinary. If you don’t like it, compost it. At least you tried. I’m pretty sure you’re going to find at least one new vegetable to add to your repertoire. You’ll be healthier for it.