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The Power of Spring Greens

Grow and eat them for a long, healthy life

     The Blue Zone challenge is to adopt a lifestyle of community, easy exercise and eating fresh from your garden. In the Blue Zone of Ikaria, Greece, greens, including wild greens, are part of the everyday diet. I have found in years of teaching that people are no longer familiar with the preparation of greens. You’re more likely to include greens in your diet if you have some easy recipes.
     In Ikaria, the common way to prepare most greens is to boil or steam them. Season them with some dried Greek oregano, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil and squeeze in the juice of a lemon or lime. Even wild dandelion greens can be prepared this way.
     Why am I pushing greens? The benefits to your health are enormous.
     Greens help you lose weight. They are full of fiber and water and help keep you feeling full longer. They help slash the risk of diabetes because they are high in the antioxidants B-carotene and alpha-carotene. They help keep your brain young. Studies have shown that people who eat one or two servings each day of dark leafy greens had the mental abilities of those over a decade younger. Greens also help build better bones as they are a good source of calcium. One of the best reasons to eat greens is that they can help fend off cancer. The carotenoids and vitamin C may lower your risk of head, neck, breast, ­stomach, skin and lung cancers. The cabbage family also contains compounds known as isothiolcyanates that help sweep up cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to do harm.
     Greens are good raw or cooked, whole leaf or pureed, as in this recipe for kale pesto. 
Kale Pesto
     Plunge eight cups of chopped kale into a large pot of boiling water for three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to an ice bath. The cold water allows the kale to keep its bright green color. After three minutes, drain the kale in a colander, then squeeze to firmly press out any excess water. Place the kale, one cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup pine nuts, four garlic cloves, two teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes into a food processor and puree until smooth.
      Boil fettuccine until al dente. Mix the pesto over the pasta and sprinkle extra cheese on top for a delicious dish of greens.