Making Every Bite Count
Many of us have memories of our parents telling us to eat out vegetables. There was always a suggestion that somewhere a child was starving for you broccoli so every bite of vegetables counts. I remember being a child and absolutely refused to eat certain veggies. Broccoli seemed like some kind of parental punishment. As I’ve become older, it’s no longer an option. Eating healthy is a requirement for better health and it takes a lot of us a while to realize this. In fact, French phenom Arpège has earned three Michelin stars for its all-vegetarian menu.
Why It Matters…
The importance of eating our greens have been emphasized over the last few years. Romaine lettuce has also recently been associated with E-coli and a lot of people are looking for alternatives. Although we don’t only eat our greens in salads, it is the most common way. Between the mild flavor of butter lettuce and the bitterness raw kale brings, our consumption of greens needed a little boost. Chefs all over the world are discovering some interesting alternatives to the greens we usually eat. This does not only give us more textural variety, but also heaps of flavors to experiment with.
In Jamaica, we ate a lot of callaloo, which is similar to collard greens. It is almost impossible to find callaloo outside of Jamaica. To bring out the flavor of this leafy green, we would sauté it with a bit of garlic, onions, and tomatoes. If you travel a lot, as I have, you find out that culturally, there is a specific green vegetable the locals eat more of. With all this health information coming forward, nutritionists and chefs are always looking for more “superfoods”. Alternative greens are coming to the forefront bit by bit. If you want to switch up your greens, you might want to try one of these options.
This vegetable is typically used in Asian countries and packs a huge amount of flavor. You can expect some sweetness, followed by an intense flavor. Just 2 cups of this leafy greens would give you up to 43% of your daily vitamin-A consumption. Endive is a seasonal veggie and grows better in the colder months. Add some shredded apples, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to this vegetable and you have a delicious salad. The flavor profile of this green is really intense and you don’t need to do much with it to create a tasty meal. It’s also great to braise in some olive oil for a heartier dish.
Red Sea Lettuce – Dulse
Green seaweed has been trending in the last 5 years, but there is another underwater gem. Red Sea lettuce has grown in popularity and is a lot less leathery than the seaweed we know. This is usually only harvested from August to October. The Scottish people have been consuming this seaweed as a snack for a long time. The rest of the world is only catching up now. If you look at Dulce, you’ll think it’s just another red lettuce. It changes very quickly when you heat it up on a pan. When you eat it raw, it tastes exactly as you would imagine. It’s like eating the ocean. Something magical happens when you fry it in a pan. The flavor composition changes to something very similar to bacon. Can you imagine all of the great dishes you can make with this greens and bacon alternative?
We already love turnips, but you can use the leaves as a greens substitute. The flavor is almost the same as turnips. The spicy and bitterness are still there but in a more refined way. It’s tasty in salads and great to cook with, as long as you don’t add any salt to it. The leafy green already contains sodium, which is why you won’t need to use any salt when cooking. If you ate 1 cup of turnip greens a day, you would have exceeded your Vitamin-K need for the day.
The flavor pallet is very similar to kale. Some people prefer the bitterness of this green in salads. You want to use the finer leaves for salads and save the thicker ones for cooking. With a ton of calcium and Vitamin A, this leafy green has become a global favorite.
There is some food we can consume, but for years the assumption was that it was unsafe. Lichen is one of those foods. I’d say the doubt is associated with the fact that it grows from either fungus or algae. The way you prepare Lichen would determine the taste. One of the most common flavor comparisons would be mushrooms. It’s earthy and mild but can pack a punch if prepared a certain way. A lot of chefs and foodies are experimenting with this ingredient. Lichen commonly grows on trees or just flat on the ground. You cannot simply pick some off a tree and start cooking. Be sure you know what type of lichen it is. As with mushrooms, there are some forms of lichens you should stay away from. The safest would be to ask someone or simply purchase it at a reliable grocer.
Which one of these alternative greens would you try?
It’s safe to say that we are going to discover more ingredients we did not know we can cook with. The food shortage and wastage is an equal concern. As we are discovering more edible foods, we may be able to feed more of humanity. Our beautiful earth is filled with all the vitamins and nutrients we need. I appreciate and solute those chefs who are eager to learn more and bring these discoveries to the world. Just so we are all on the same page, store bought ketchup does not count as a vegetable.