Just like a movie, I can still remember years back when I was an enemy to green vegetables. Coming from an African home, Nigeria, my mum was a sucker for “green vegetable everything” and I am one to always select what I eat. Being the only daughter, I was pampered and free to do and choose what I wanted to do. It was more like a “you can make decisions, we would guide you” kind of thing. But no matter how much decision I make, I could never escape being forced to eat green vegetables with a cane by the side. Being that, a cane was my greatest fear in life as a child (LOL), I would swallow as much as I can and run to the toilet to vomit it. Amazing.
With my defective knowledge at that time, all I wanted to do was what I wanted. I closed my ears to what the benefits was, but my constantly nagging mother would not let me be so I found myself eating it. As I grew up to discover facts about health, I found out that these vegetables are packed with vitamins A, C, E and K, minerals, and an abundance of phytochemicals so vast that nutrition professionals are still trying to uncover all of their goodness. Green foods are crucial to our health for a plethora of reasons including their role in strengthening the immune system, cancer prevention, improved blood circulation, blood purification, lowering cholesterol, promotion of healthy intestinal flora, increased energy, detoxification through improved liver, gall bladder functions, kidney function, and even clearing congestion.
They come in the likes of spinach, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, bitter leaf, corn salad, green beans, kale, okra, asparagus and a list of them.
Their benefits ranges from being an excellent source of fiber, folate and carotenoids, to antioxidants, removing radicals from the body that can be harmful. It keeps you staying young with vitamin k critical at preventing age-related conditions, preserves vision health with carotenoids which help filter high-energy light that may cause eye damage. The B vitamins help convert the carbs in food to glucose that the body can use as a fuel to produce energy, the slightly bitter taste of many leafy greens is a good sign: It reflects their high levels of calcium which is a requirement for the bones.
With all the goodies in vegetables, it’s easy to kill the nutrient by poor storage. Here are some good advice on prepping vegetables that would help maintain those nutrients:
Dark green vegetables should be stored at temperatures between 34 – 38 degree F. These vegetables should be stored away from tomatoes, apples, or other fruits that give off ethylene gas, which causes green to wilt and spoil quickly
- Wash all vegetables before cutting them up. Placed in a sink or boil filled with cold water for washing
- Once placed in cold water, stir water and greens with hand then remove vegetables.
- Do not let to soak
- Use fresh water each time and repeat until no grit is detected on bottom of sink after the greens are removed.
- After washing let water drain out of dry with absorbent cloth or towel
- If using it to dress a salad, you can wash and dry then spread on the salad as dressing
- If using to cook a meal, aim for them to be “tender-crisp.” Tender-crisp vegetables mean they are cooked through, but still firm enough to slightly resist your bite
- The best way to cook green vegetables is quickly and on high heat for the amount of time required to create that tender-crisp result and no longer. This means placing green beans in a pot of boiling water rather than putting a pot of cold or room temperature water and beans on the stove and then turning on the heat. The latter method means the veggies will slowly start cooking as the water heats up, and by the time it’s boiling, the beans will be limp, soggy and void of both nutrition and color
- If you prefer to steam your vegetables, many of the same rules apply. Make sure that your water has come to a simmer with the lid on before you drop your vegetables into the steaming basket.
A Simple Reminder…
If you need to chop veggies in advance, try to do it no earlier than that morning or the night before you plan to use them. The same goes for washing and prepping greens. Once you wash greens, they will begin to wilt, so you should not wash them until the day you plan to use them. If you simply must wash your greens in advance, put them in a bag with a paper towel around them to absorb excess moisture.
By Blessing Nwachukwu | [email protected]