The best green foods
by Charlotte Morgan | 15 October 2012 | 2 commentsTweet
In the first of a new series, we pick a lovely autumnal colour and focus our foodie efforts on it. To start, here are our five favourite foods coloured. green.
What is it? Kale is a brassica and part of the cabbage family. It also happens to be the chewiest, curliest and richest leafy green that Britain grows. The health benefits are endless, packed as it is with beta-caotene, folate, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and sulphur phytochemicals (which can help protect against certain type of cancer). All that in a little leaf!
In season: Kale is produced in the UK from June-March and is at its most plentiful in October.
Fun fact: Kale contains 17 times more vitamin C than carrots.
How to eat it: If cooked correctly, kale literally oozes irony flavour when you bite into it. It’s best steamed, to maintain that deep green colour, but also works well just chucked in a stir-fry, or added to soups in the last minutes of cooking time. This recipe serves kale with salmon skewers.
My best kale memory: Curly kale (the brightest kale variety, with very ruffled leaves) mashed potato, made by mum, and served with Sunday diner. Not quite colcannon – which should be made with kale, and not its curly kale cousin – but just as special.
What are they? Well, peas. Most of us eat them frozen, but the real deal – that is, fresh garden peas podded minutes before cooking – is summit else. Pop a couple of raw ones in your mouth and marvel at their freshness; sometimes I think they even taste a little lemony. There are three main pea varieties: Pisum sativum (the most common and versatile), P. arvense (the field pea, gorwn mainly for animal fodder) and P. elatius (a tall wide pea, which is usually grown for its flowers).
In season: Frozen peas are available all year round, but the fresh garden ones are in season from early June until late July.
Fun fact: Although widely considered to be a vegetable, each pea pod and its contents is collectively a fruit, the peas themselves being the seeds.
How to eat it: Boil for two or three minutes, perhaps with a sprig of mint, then drain and serve with a knob of butter on top. Or use them raw in this super healthy salad recipe.
My best pea memory: Buying a tray of freshly podded garden peas from the shops, then eating the whole lot raw before I even got back to the car.
What is it? The long straggly stuff found on the beach; you’ve probably slipped up on it before. Coastal folk have been eating it since prehistoric times, but despite there being 145 edible varieties of red, brown or green seaweed to choose from, modern westerners still aren’t sure about it. The same can’t be said for China, Japan and Korea, where it forms part of the daily diet. Indeed, a seaweed-based stock called ‘dashi’ is believed to contain the chemicals forming the ‘umami’ flavour.
In season: All year round really. Ireland is a particularly large producer, and its seaweed industry is worth nearly £15 million a year.
Fun fact: Seaweed is chock-a-block with protein; the ‘nori’ variety is nearly 50% pure protein!
How to eat it: In sushi of course, or, if you’re from Iceland, eaten dried as a snack or mixed into salads and bread dough. And then there’s laverbread, a Welsh delicacy made from boiled and pureed laver seaweed, traditionally eaten with bacon and cockles for breakfast.
My best seaweed memory: Trying crispy seaweed for the first time at a Chinese restaurant. Who could resist a handful of frazzled greens coated in sugar? (Note: this is cheating a bit… ‘crispy seaweed’ is actually made from spring greens, not seaweed! But it has the same name, at least).
What are they? I’m bucking the leafy green trend, here. And kiwis don’t grow in Great Britain, either. But these edible berries are so craved by my palette that I had to include them. Their official name is ‘kiwifruit’ and they are hairy, oval, unattractive objects, hiding a beautiful bright green or golden flesh inside with rows of tiny black seeds. I often wonder how amazed the first person to cut a kiwi open would have been. It’s grown all around the world, most notably in New Zealand, Greece and Italy.
In season: The New Zealand kiwi is available from June to October.
Fun fact: There is twice as much vitamin C in one kiwi as there is in two oranges.
How to eat it: When ripening, always keep your kiwis away from heat and sunlight. Cut them inside and scoop the sweet flesh out with a teaspoon; eat them whole, hairy skin and all; or use a snazzy ‘Spife’ (half spoon, half knife) if you really want to do it properly.
My best kiwi memory: Eating a ‘golden kiwi’ for the first time – they’re less tart than their green friends, and worth the extra pennie.
What is it? Shiny green stalks, which share the same shape as Twiglets, I’ve always thought. They’re edible plants that grow in coastal areas (two varieties – rock and marsh) with a crisp and salty taste. It’s long been eaten in England, and even gets a mention in Shakespeare’s King Lear, in reference to how dangerous it is to harvest rock samphire from sea cliffs.
In season: A summer indulgence, best in July and August.
Fun fact: Samphire is magical. Even if you cook it without fat, it always tastes as if it’s been smothered in butter.
How to eat it: Simply steamed for a couple of minutes, and served only with butter. You might also find it pickled in jars at some delis.
My best samphire memory: making samphire fritters on a whim one day… just like bay leaves and courgette flowers, they taste great coated in a light batter and then shallow fried.
So much for my five favourite green foods... what are yours? Talk to us in the comments box below.
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