Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easy being Green

Published: 15th January 2011

A walk through Rusty’s Market and what caught my eye this week was the amount of fresh greens available. Not your common lettuce, beans and broccoli varieties – but the leafy Asian greens that are on offer. This time of year when the ground is too soggy to grow anything, Asian greens thrive - and are cheap too.

So is there a barrier to buying these unusual green vegetables that are so rich in nutrients of vitamins A & C, minerals, iron, calcium and other trace elements? Let me guess – ‘how do I prepare and cook them’? Answer: Simply. With any delicate leaves; the simpler the better, for taste and retaining nutrition.

Many can be simply eaten raw as in salads; either whole leaf, torn or shredded. Most of them you will find are best when added at the last minute to any stir-fry, curry, stew or soup. Garlic, chilli, and ginger are great partners as are prawn paste (sambal belacan) soy, fish and oyster sauces.

Some of these greens are almost perennial at the markets such as Kang Kung; a leafy vegetable with hollow stems that's often called ‘swamp cabbage’ or ‘water spinach’. But what’s this - Sweet potato greens? I remember my mother growing a sweet potato in our kitchen where its spreading vines engulfing the room like something out of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. Never thought to eat the vine! But similar to Kang Kung these leaves are simple additions to any Asian cooking.

I also found purple stem Ceylon Spinach which similar to the English variety can be shredded and added to coleslaw, great with egg and cheese dishes; quiche, filo pastry as well as stir-fry. Sitting next to the spinach was bunches of Choko leaves; a commonly consumed vegetable of the Asian regions. It is said that the leaves and tendrils have a medicinal qualities when cooked or dried and made into a tea. I even found young Passionfruit Leaves – in the Caribbean and the Maldives they eat the leaves raw as a salad, or boiled. Lastly I spied the hairy Pumpkin Leaves with their curled tendrils – didn’t think they would be much to eat, however I found that they have a flavour elements similar to green beans and broccoli. These vines are used in Asian and African cuisines.

We become so entrenched in our eating paradigm that we often throw away the tasty highly nutritional leaves of a sometimes less tasty and less nutritional vegetable.

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