Leaf vegetables

Leaf vegetables are leaves from various plants that are edible with some leaves having tender shoots, such as beet greens, attached. Leaf vegetables are very high in nutrition and may be used in various culinary dishes.

While there are over a thousand species of leaf vegetables, they generally come from plants that are short-lived such as lettuce and spinach. Leaf vegetables are high in vitamin K which is caused from the photosynthesis that takes place during the growing phase. Anyone on anticoagulant therapy such as Coumadin will need to monitor their intake of leaf vegetables, as they will interfere with the anticoagulant levels in the blood stream.

Other benefits of eating leaf vegetables is that they are low in fat and calories, high in protein and fiber, high iron and calcium content as well as vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and carotenoids.

During periods of famine, leaves from fodder crops such as alfalfa, clover, and most grasses, can also be eaten. The leaves can be dried or ground into a powder or pressed for their juice.

Leaf vegetables can be prepared in a variety of ways such as stir-fried, stewed, steamed, boiled, or dry as in a salad or on a sandwich. Large quantities of raw leafy greens can be made into a “green smoothie” for a nutritious drink packed with vitamins. Large leaves can be used to wrap other foods such as tortillas or hamburgers — eliminating the need for bread.

A partial list of leaf vegetables include: dandelion, wild sorrel, chicory, fennel, chard, kale, lamb’s quarters and wild leeks. Greens are generally cooked with salt pork, ham, or bacon. The liquid produced from boiling greens, known as potlikker, is used as a broth for soup.

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