Going Green

(Originally published in The News Review on June 2, 2015.)

Asian greens from Norm Lehne Garden and Orchard

U-pick season got off to an early start this year with local strawberries ripe and ready in mid-May, the earliest ever according to Kruse Farms. I'm busy cleaning out my freezer to make room for this year's crops. I bought myself a new copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and stashed my ratty sneakers, buckets and bins in the car so I'm ready to pick at a moment's notice. Do I sound excited?

Picking perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears and apples is my all-time, number one favorite summer activity. Whether I'm alone in the orchard or chatting with friends or family the next row over, I feel right at home at any of our local u-pick farms.

Along with fresh berries, which are so abundant right now, I'm trying to work more leafy greens into our diet. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal summarized the results of a new study that looked at nutrition and the brain. The MIND Diet (which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was developed by researchers at Rush University. In the study, strict adherence to the MIND diet, which emphasizes green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine, lowered the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as 53 percent. Quoting from the article, “Participants who ate one to two servings of green vegetables a day had a 'dramatic decrease in the rate of cognitive decline' compared with people who ate fewer greens, said Dr. Morris. 'It was about the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age,' she said. (Wall Street Journal April 20, 2015) That's music to my baby boomer ears!

So, how to get more leafy greens into our diet? Here are some suggestions for every meal of the day. Green smoothies for breakfast or post-workout are easy and delicious. Blend up a handful of kale or spinach with frozen fruit, pineapple juice and a banana and I promise you won't even taste the veggies.

A green salad, with a mix of spinach,arugula, a variety of lettuces, maybe some baby kale or cabbage thrown in, drizzled with an olive oil vinaigrette, makes a nutrition-packed side dish. Top with berries, nuts and grilled chicken or fish and you have a one-dish wonder for lunch or dinner that includes five of the ten recommended foods to nourish your brain. I never would have believed how much I'd enjoy a Massaged Kale and Mango Salad until I tried it, but I honestly could have eaten the whole batch myself. It's that good!

Kale chips are a delicately crunchy and very portable snack. You'll find three varieties made locally by NewLeaf Delivery at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market or at Umpqua Local Goods in Roseburg.

Cooked greens are going to be a harder sell at my house, but I'm determined to put my culinary creativity to the test. Big Lick Farm and Norm Lehne's Garden and Orchard both sell a dizzying array of leafy greens to experiment with. I've been adding beet greens to stir fries and chopped kale to soups. I've been sautéing Asian greens like Tat Soi in olive oil and garlic. My daughter, Christine, insists that greens cooked in bacon grease are the way to go, but,eaten too often, that might negate the health benefits.

Do you have a tasty way to serve cooked greens? Send me your recipe (jdcoalwell@gmail.com) and I'll give it a try.

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