So I was researching for a project (that I’ll probably announce soon – CANT WAIT) and while scribbling down my notes, something made me go OH.MY.GOD.
It was this realisation that the parts of the vegetables that most of us throw away are so PACKED with nutrition! Mainly, the vegetable greens that come with cauliflower, green tops of root veggies like beets, radish and turnips and so on.
All of us know of spinach as a superfood and how good it is for health. That explains the insane popularity of ‘Green Goddess’ dishes, right! But these green tops that usually end up in compost or wet waste are such nutritional goldmines that it is indeed a crime not to put them to use.
For your reference, I put up a small table with the essential nutritional parameters like protein, calcium, fibre and iron, comparing them to spinach, which is one of the most common green leafy vegetable we consume. As you can see, all 4 greens fare (very) significantly better in all four departments, with cauliflower greens nearly topping the chart.
The cauliflower leaves have nearly 3 times the protein and fibre, 9 times the calcium and 35 times the iron compared to that in spinach.
Turnip greens are also phenomenally rich in calcium and a very good source of iron.
Radish greens, while not being rich in iron, are a good source of protein and have over 3 times the calcium as compared to spinach.
Beet greens provide good amounts of iron, calcium and protein.
Apart from being superior nutritionally, each of these greens also add a unique flavour to the dish, the pungent mustardy flavour of the radish greens to the slightly bitter, metallic flavour of the beet greens.
While I’m talking about 4 greens specifically in this post, this pretty much applies to any other edible green leaves that come along with vegetables. Not only are you reducing food waste, you are also following the current wave of eating ‘Stem to Root’ and using every edible part a vegetable has to offer, AND reaping huge nutritional benefits. Win win!
If you have a kitchen garden, you have access to green tops and leaves of vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, cowpeas, all of which are nutritional powerhouses and can be consumed in various dishes. No need to to wait until they start fruiting, to reap the benefits of a kitchen garden! Isn’t that great news?
I’ve used carrot tops in a super flavoursome pesto, and even in a traditional thogayal. It’s totally upto you how you want to put these leaves to use. (I do give you some ideas below)
If you don’t have a kitchen garden, fret not! The best way to get access to these greens is to shop at the open air markets, where you’ll find bunches of radishes, turnips and beets being sold with their leaves. I’ve seen big bunches of radish greens sold in Mumbai markets, with very tender radish. These greens have the maximum freshness and flavour. Supermarkets usually don’t stock these root vegetables with their green tops, as it occupies more space, and wilts faster, making the produce look not so fresh.
Now that you have resolved to get your hands on these pretty greens, we come to the interesting part on how to use them.
- The Tamilian in me will first vote for sambar. Any green leafy vegetables are always welcome in this pot of lentils. Pressure cook it along with the dal or stir fry separately and add it to the sambar, it’s your wish.
- The tender, smaller leaves can be added to your salad. Your lettuce will be happy to make some new friends in the salad bowl
- Finely slice and stir fry the greens with some ginger, garlic and sesame seeds to top a rice or noodle bowl, or even a bowl of savoury oats for breakfast.
- Add a bunch of sautéed greens and cooked beans to your pasta next time (with LOTS of minced garlic), you wont miss the tomato sauce one bit.
- Some of the bigger sized leaves can be blanched and used a wrap for any filling, which can then be pan fried or used in a baked dish covered with a sauce of choice. Consider them your carb free parcels.
- If everything fails, make a simple poriyal. Heat coconut oil, temper with mustard seeds, chilies, curry leaves, add the finely sliced greens. Toss until wilted, season with a touch of salt and garnish with fresh coconut.
- Chop up cauliflower greens and add it to your alu-gobhi the next time. I’ sure the cauliflower wont mind 😀
- Soups! All kinds of greens can be chopped up and added to soups. Not only do they make them heartier, but also more filling and nutritious.
Here are some recipes you can try:
[All the nutritional data has been collected from Nutritive Value of Indian Foods published by National Institute of Nutrition.]