I really love leafy greens, both as a gardener and as a vegetarian. From lettuce to kale to raw spinach, they are easy to grow and pleasant to eat. And don’t forget all those nutrients some of them offer.
Trying to pick a favorite from the leafy greens list is sort of like discussing which of your pets you love best. I love most of them, though not all, and a few are on my list of top foods ever.
An Historical Perspective
They say that most people learn to love or hate vegetables as a child, and that it is very difficult to change that initial impression. I must say that however true this may be in general, it certainly wasn’t true of me.
I grew up in a tiny town in central Alaska, where fresh vegetables were extremely hard to come by. The nearest big town was Fairbanks and my mom would occasionally make the two or three hour drive to visit Piggly Wiggly’s, the nearest big grocery. But most of the time we made due with frozen carrot squares and frozen peas delivered by E&E Meats and stocked in the two freezers we kept in the garage.
Leafy Greens of Childhood
I grew up eating, largely, meat-and-potatoes sort of meals. Frozen hamburgers, steak, liver and chicken were also delivered by the big E&E Meat truck. But sometimes, for holidays, my mother would splurge on the only leafy green available in Piggly Wiggly’s: Iceberg lettuce.
One of these pale, tight balls of lettuce cost $5.00, the amount my dad earned per hour as a plumber. My mom would divide the lettuce into four pieces and serve it with a small lake of mayonnaise as a first course.
Learning to Love Leafy Greens
I moved to California for college and was totally astounded by the selection of vegetables one could buy in the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market. They were cheap and colorful and – in the end – delicious. I first fell for fresh corn, artichokes, avocados and squash.
In time, I even began to eat leafy greens. Lettuce looked nothing like the icebergs we bought in Alaska. But the leaves came in deep reds and greens and were crunchy and sweet. My very favorite leafy green turned out to be spinach, both in salads and cooked. Raw spinach is so sweet and crunchy, cooked it is flavorful and satisfying.
A few leafy greens I never learned to like. One I still don’t like much is mustard greens. While I appreciate the health benefits of these nutritional power packs, I never learned to like the strong, bitter taste. Maybe a mustard green epiphany is yet to come!