Leafing Home: The Potential of Homegrown Greens

Turn over a new leaf with these nutritional powerhouses for your kitchen.

| June 2015

With more nutrients per calorie and square foot of growing space than any other food, leaf crops can be an invaluable addition to every yard or garden. As hardy as they are versatile, these beautiful, tasty vegetables range from the familiar to the exotic. Some part of this largely untapped food resource can thrive in almost any situation. Eat Your Greens by David Kennedy (New Society Publishers, 2014), provides complete instructions for incorporating these nutritional powerhouses into any kitchen garden.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Eat Your Greens: The Surprising Power of Home Grown Leaf Crops

Leaf vegetables are plant leaves (sometimes including the stems and shoots) that are eaten as food. They are also called greens, potherbs, leafy greens, or salad greens. A leafy vegetable patch growing in a backyard garden may strike you as an unlikely place to begin rebuilding a food system. In fact, the green leaf crop is a humble hero patiently waiting for its potential to be unleashed. It is an elemental and underutilized agricultural tool that adapts well to a vast range of circumstance, starting with the home garden.

Why Eat Leafy Vegetables?

Leafy vegetables are good for your health. They are low in calories and full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The extreme diversity of leafy vegetables presents an interesting variety of flavors, colors, and textures on the plate. Simply put, leafy vegetables are the antidote to corn syrup in our food system.

In a way, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the logical conclusion and the ultimate failure of the industrial food system. It begins with the quintessential commodity: government-subsidized genetically modified corn. The corn is shipped to one of 26 corn processing plants in the US, and the starch is stripped from the kernels. This is followed by three stages of enzymatic conversion, then, by various steps involving filtration, ion-exchange, evaporation and blending, resulting in a perfectly uniform product. Just five companies produce 92 percent of this sweetener.

Corn syrup is extremely handy in manufacturing processed foods. It is cheap, colorless, flavorless, and extends the shelf life of many of the diverse products in which it is an ingredient. Because of these attributes, corn syrup is in a lot of products — from soda and pizza to health bars and yogurt. It provides sweetness and calories but none of the protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, or antioxidants essential to good health. Because it provides energy but nothing else, corn syrup is often described as “empty calories.”

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