March is not only national nutrition month but a time when we start to think about the coming spring and possibly St Patrick’s Day. Both of these events make us think green so lets focus on green eating and what we can look forward too when it comes to spring. The color green conjures up thoughts of health, grass, spring, and a plethora of spring veggies. In the Yampa Valley thoughts of spring might start at the sight of a few shoots of grass poking through the adjacent snow, warmer days, the desire to shed the layers of winter and the arrival of spring produce in our grocery stores, either from local greenhouses or from warmer climates.
Let’s explore a few spring favorites. Asparagus is a spring classic and best eaten when it’s at its nutrient height. Recent studies have shown that some of the nutrients and phytochemicals in asparagus are more perishable than other veggies, so eat this spring beauty as fresh as can be. Asparagus is full of phytonutrients called saponins that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti cancer properties. You can keep asparagus fresher longer in your fridge by wrapping the ends with damp towel and asparagus is wonderful chopped and served in frittatas, as well as roasted and pureed in soups. Asparagus is also packed with vitamin K, folate and inulin, a non digestible carbohydrate that is a great natural prebiotic. Prebiotics are food for the beneficial bacteria in our gut.
Artichokes: another spring classic. Most people do not know what to do with artichokes in their whole state and typically just see the canned variety found on salad bars. Try stuffing fresh artichokes by sautéing some lemon, basil, oregano, sea salt, pepper, olive oil, almond meal and a dash of grated parmesan and stuffing the mixture between the leaves, steam for 25 minutes, scoop out the inedible parts in between the stem and heart and enjoy! Artichokes are packed with fiber, and contain niacin, magnesium and vitamin C.
Fennel: this spring powerhouse is unique in that the entire plant is edible including it’s the stalk, bulb, seeds, and leaves. In addition, the volatile oil made from this plant has been shown to have multiple health benefits. Fennel has been shown to have anti cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on the body and is a great source of the antioxidants rutin, quercitin and the phytochemical anethole. Fennel is common in Mediterranean cooking and is wonderful sautéed and roasted and is also delicious in raw salad preparation of avocados and orange.
Mustard greens: a sometimes forgotten member of the cruciferous vegetable family. These greens are packed with vitamin K, in addition to containing almost 100% of your daily needs of vitamin A in a 1 cup serving, as well as vitamin C. These greens along with their brethren in the cruciferous food family have been studied for their anti cancer and cholesterol lowering capabilities, and are a great source of carotenoids and other phytonutrients. These greens are also a good source of calcium, as are many other greens. If your GI tract is healthy and you properly chew your food, the oxalate content, a natural component of many vegetables that is often blamed for blocking calcium absorption, should be negligible. Serve mustard greens sautéed in your favorite oil or broth, and let sit for 5 minutes after chopping to allow phytonutrients to become enhanced before cooking.
So lets enjoy spring and go green!