By - Laura Bissessar
As the weather continues to get warmer, we're exchanging hearty soups and stews for crisp, refreshing, and cooling salads. But are you getting bored with the usual store-bought vat of spinach? Or are you anticipating kale so fibrous it's making you question your life decisions?
If you want to keep eating your leafy greens but want more variety that will nourish your body to the max, hit up your local farmer's markets and look for these luscious leaves.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
This common weed desperately needs a new PR team. We're all familiar with the unassuming dandelion plant, but did you know that they're a rich source of *takes deep breath* calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and several more trace nutrients?
Every part of the dandelion is edible and nutritious, but for salads, use the young leaves to add a crispy, bitter, and lightly spicy flavor to your lunch. A word of warning to stay clear of roadside dandelion, though. No one wants a salad filled with the city's pollutants.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Prepare yourself for this fascinating, flavorful plant that is deemed one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. Purslane is a top plant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and contains trace amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
This interestingly tasty, juicy green can be eaten raw or cooked. Eat your greens and support your cardiovascular health? That is a win-win situation.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Yes, if you handle these babies raw, you will at minimum get a nasty rash, but when handled with gloves, nettles' stinging trichomes are easy to defeat.
And the rewards are exponential! Packed with enough essential nutrients and fatty acids to have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, stinging nettles are a favorite multi-purpose herb amongst your local herbalist community.
Steam or sauté these feisty greens to add to a roasted veggie salad, or turn them into a nettle pesto to dress your salad in a decadent spinach-like flavor that's both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album)
While no one will judge you for not being intimate friends with this green, lamb's quarters grow wild across North America and is a popular veggie in Europe. It has all the goodness you would expect to come in a leafy green, like fiber, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium, manganese, copper, and both mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. A mouthful, literally and figuratively.
Use lamb's quarters like you would the similar-tasting spinach, but this one wilts quickly, so plan on eating it soon after you buy (or harvest!) it.
It might be hard to believe that all of these magical greens are considered to be prolific weeds! And they are all contributing players in supporting dynamic overall health. If you're into foraging, talk about a wealth of nutrition that's right in your backyard.
But if you're more of a weekend warrior, the next time you're strolling the aisles of fruits, veggies, and handmade artisanal crafts, keep an eye out for these not-so-unique greens to add to your next week of indulgently healthy salads!