Friday Favourites – Green Vegetables
How Popeye the Sailor Man shaped my lifestyle diet
I wasn’t born when Popeye was first created in 1929 but I do remember as a child watching Popeye cartoons before school along with The Smurfs, He-man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power. You could say I had some pretty powerful influences before 8am each morning.
I don’t remember too much now about the story line of these cartoons but there was just something about Popeye that stuck. Other than Olive, Sweet Pea and Bluto what I remember most about Popeye is his love of spinach. Popeye attributed his strength to this humble green veg and each episode he would burst open a tin of spinach which would result in bulging biceps and a new found strength that would see him fight off his enemies. A slightly exaggerated reaction we know but impressive never the less.
I’m sure I never wanted to have the physic of Popeye but I do remember wanting to be as strong and how was I going to do that? By eating my vegetables in particular spinach.
As a kid I was always choose green over any other colour; not only did I always eat my green vegetables including broccoli and Brussels sprouts I would always choose the green ice blocks and cordial over any other colour. Looking back this is when I found the true power of green.
Friday Favourites – Top 5 Green Vegetables
Today’s Friday favourites lists my top five green vegetables and guess which one tops the list, yep Popeye’s favourite power fuel; spinach.
Spinach comes from a family of nutritional powerhouses including beets, chard and quinoa with a bitterness and slightly salty flavour.
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is rich in antioxidants known to restore energy, increase vitality and improve the quality of blood. It’s a good source of Vitamins A, B2, C and K and also contains magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium.
How to use spinach
Spinach is composed of about 92% water so the best ways to cook spinach if not eating raw is to lightly steam or sauté this will help preserve the nutrients. Never boil or wash before storing but do wash before consuming.
How to cook with spinach
Spinach loves nutmeg and garlic and is the ideal addition to salads, soups and pasta dishes.
Love it or hate it this vegetable has everyone talking and some rolling their eyes at the same time, as suddenly you can’t talk health without kale being brought into the conversation. But there is good reason for this.
Kale is a nutrient dense, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vegetable being a member of he Brassica family that includes broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. It is a potent source of Vitamins K, A and C, fibre, calcium and minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
How to use kale
Kale has relatively low moisture content therefore does not shrink as much as other greens requiring a longer cooking time. I recommend you steam or sauté kale gently for several minutes until thoroughly tender to really taste the goodness of this vegetable.
How to cook with kale
Kale loves garlic, lemon and oils such as olive and sesame oil. It can be added to pasta, curries, soups, and smoothies and baked into chips with a sprinkling of savoury yeast flakes and chilli.
A member of the cabbage family and closely related to broccollini, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable and often referred too as the ‘super veggie’. Its name is derived from the Italian word broccolo, meaning the flowering top of a cabbage.
Broccoli is very high in vitamin C, A, K, folate, potassium, manganese, iron and high in fibre
How to use broccoli
Can be enjoyed both raw and cooked but recent studies show that gentle steaming provides the most health benefits. Raw broccoli contains almost 90% water, is very low in calories and is relatively high in protein compared to most commonly consumed vegetables.
How to cook with broccoli
It is easy to prepare and can be eaten both raw and cooked with whole or broken into florets. Steam, pan-fry until just tender, do not over cook. Serve as a vegetable, in stir-fries, salads, soups or raw with dips.
Bok Choy is a vegetable that has crunchy bulb-bottom tender greens on top with a sweet flavour, the ideal vegetable for those who ‘don’t like green vegetables’. Bok choy is a great source of nutrients, including vitamins A and C, with minimal calories.
How to use bok choy
The most important thing to remember is to rinse bok choy thoroughly to remove any grit that might be stuck on the leaves.
How to cook with bok choy
Cook into soups and stir-fries, shred for slaw, steam, grill and sauté or try braising baby bok choy with ginger, garlic and a little sesame oil. Perfect cooked into udon soups and fried rice.
Edamame are young soybeans, usually still in the pod with a mellow nutty flavour. They are rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat and minerals calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium. They are also a rich source of manganese and copper. Edamame beans also contain essential vitamins particularly folate and vitamin C.
How to use edamame
Generally you will buy edamame frozen and in the pod. To defrost ready for eating you can either boil or steam to make the pods and beans soft and tender. Place the pod at your mouth, then squeeze or bite the beans into your mouth. You don’t eat the pod, just the beans inside.
How to cook with edamame
Serve the beans in a salad, risotto (cooked with shiitake mushrooms), a tabbouleh salad or simply on their own with a sprinking of salt on the outside of the pod and bite the pod to get both the bean and flavour of the salt. You can also mash them and combine with garlic and lemon juice to make a low fat version of guacamole.
Choose your influences
A 2010 study revealed that children increased their vegetable consumption after watching Popeye cartoons. I was one of those children. When I think of TV advertising these days, I don’t recall seeing any ads for fresh vegetables so what foods are influencing our food choices of today?
The power of green is immense not to mention the power of plants. The recommended daily intake of vegetables is 5 serves per day, a serve being approximately 75 grams. So what does 5 serves look like:
- ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (broccoli, spinach, carrots, pumpkin)
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ cup sweet corn
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetable
- 1 medium tomato
If you have it, you will eat it. Stock up on your fresh vegetables from your local farmers markets or local grocer and remember to add a handful of green vegetable to any dish that you are cooking.
Power to the plants.