Winter and leafy greens!

by Sanjeev Kapoor

Ever wondered why Mother Nature intended the winter season to be so full of lovely leafy green vegetables? Simply because this is an offering from Nature to get our vitality and energy back which the scorching summer months usually sap out of us. Summertime also means a scarcity of leafy vegetables because the growing conditions required by the greens are not possible when the temperatures are so high. Come winters, the greens are ready for the market in full bloom! Everywhere you can see piles of spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), amaranth (chawli), mustard greens (sarson ka saag), spring onions (hare pyaaz), dill (suva), lettuce and even loads of coriander leaves (hara dhania) and mint leaves (pudina). When good health is being offered on a platter, why not just gobble it up!

 

Shopping for greens

Greens are easy to shop for. Look for leaves that are clean and undamaged, tender yet crisp and brightly coloured. Look for tight bunches and always open out from the centre to check for rotting leaves, crawling insects and flowers. If the bunch looks good from the top and out, it may not be so inside, so check. Also the bunch should not be weighed down with too much water. That means the greens are definitely not as fresh as you would want them to be and the vendor has been reviving them with frequent sprinklings of water. Also check the roots. If they look shrivelled or covered with too much mud that means they have been out of the earth for too long. The extra mud is left on by the vendor to cover up the shrivelled roots. He might also tell you that the mud on the roots keeps the greens fresh! But the leaves shrivelling at the edges give the game away!

 

Storehouse of nutrients

There is one more important rule to tackle greens. No doubt the task of trimming, cleaning is time consuming but take a word of advice: no matter whatever amount of hurry you are in, never chop the greens overnight or chop them and then wash them. Both ways you lose out on many essential nutrients that greens can provide.

 

Greens are a valuable source:

  • Of minerals like calcium and iron; vitamins like A, C and K; B vitamins like riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamine (vitamin B1) and niacin.
  • Of beta-carotene which gets converted into vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A is required for normal growth and vitality, good eye-sight, healthy skin and guards against various diseases, especially those of the respiratory tract.
  • Of antioxidants that have cancer-preventive properties as they guard the body against effects of harmful molecules.
  • Of folic acid that is needed for making new blood, skin and muscle cells. These vegetables are particularly good for expectant women.

 

Versatile variety

Greens are quite low in calories. Hence they should be an important constituent of a weight-reduction diet. Also do not throw away the green leaves of radish, beet-root, cauliflower, broccoli etc. as they are a rich source of calcium and iron. They can be used in salads and chutneys or pureed and used in soups and dals or added while kneading dough.

 

Tips on better cooking

Leafy greens contain oxalic acid which hampers the absorption of calcium and iron in the body. To counter the effect of oxalic acid, greens should be cooked in combination with vitamin C-rich foods like lemon juice, tamarind, yogurt and tomatoes. This would maximise the absorption of calcium and iron. Greens should be cooked preferably without the addition of water. Do not use baking soda to brighten the colour of leaves as soda leeches away vitamins B and C from these vegetables. To retain the bright green colour, put leaves in hot water and then immediately immerse in cold water in a process called blanching.

 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.