From the Land 1/25

food for thoughtcauliflower, carrots, I’itoi onions, spaghetti squash, tender greens, choice of herb (dill, shingiku, or cilantro), lettuce heads, and beets (golden and red)!

veg of the week
tendergreens: Brassica rapa var. perviridis or komatsuna

This versatile green is otherwise known as “Japanese mustard spinach” (or Komatsuna) because it is actually a cross between mustard greens and spinach! It is most commonly grown in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and is usually stir-fried, pickled, boiled and added to soups, or used fresh in salads. I can’t help but think of a delicious wrap using these huge leaves as the wrap itself! All parts of the plant can be eaten, and will easily substitute for any Asian green in a recipe. You could even pickle it in the leftover liquid from last week’s radishes and beets!

Not surprisingly, tendergreens are rich in calcium and fiber (as are other greens), and vitamins A, K, B2, and C. Eating with fish increases the absorption of the calcium, making it especially beneficial for bone health.

To store raw tendergreens, wrap in newspaper (or paper bag) and put in fridge. Best if eaten within 3 days. They can also be slightly boiled before storing in the refrigerator. When cooking, the color can be preserved by quickly boiling and then submerging in ice water. Oil also changes the color, so keep dressing off until just before serving.

We mentioned “greenwashing” a couple weeks ago in our article about eggs. Greenwashing is becoming increasingly common as businesses look for more ways to exploit our collective environmental conscience, and even the savvy customer can find herself falling for some of these marketing ploys.
According to Wikipedia, greenwashing is “a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly”. Examples range from gas and oil companies giving the impression that their practices are somehow good for the environment, the use of words like “green technology”, the rampant – but unverified and unregulated – green labels on food (like natural, free-range, wholesome), to misinformation, irrelevant information, and flat-out lies. TerraChoice Environmental Marketing has identified what they call the “six sins of greenwashing”:
  • the hidden trade-off: claims are based on a single environmental attribute while ignoring other considerations (recycled content, for instance)
  • no proof: an unsubstantiated or unverifiable claim (such as claims of cost savings)
  • vagueness: a claim that is so broad or vague that it essentially loses its meaning (great examples are “chemical-free”, “non-toxic”, “green”, “natural”)
  • irrelevance: an environmental claim that is truthful but completely irrelevant (references to CFCs, for instance, which have been banned in the US for almost 30 years, as if this qualifies as a unique advantage)
  • the lesser of two evils: when “organic” or “green” labels are put on something that is not environmentally responsible in the first place (think cigarettes, or pesticides)
  • fibbing: environmental claims that are just plain false

Confusing? For sure. And why is this an important issue to pay attention to? The “ethical consumer” makes choices that reflect the idea that our purchases are an extension of our commitment to environmental, societal and personal health. We’ve all heard the phrase “vote with our dollar” – we walk our talk by supporting businesses and products that are environmentally friendly, reduce waste and water use, and promote workers’ rights. On the other hand, buying green can be merely a way to assuage consumer guilt, and greenwashing is a great way for businesses to exploit this internal conflict. Remember, personal choice and purchasing power is only a small part of where the responsibility lies for a healthy environment. But our choices can support those businesses that are honest and verifiable in their products.

So what can we do as consumers? The logical rule-of-thumb is that if the company provides a product or service that is hard to imagine being environmentally friendly, you’re probably right.
  • Regulations regarding environmental safety and responsibility abound – all we have to do is recognize them. Look for independently verified ecolabels you know: USDA Certified Organic, EnergyStar, EcoLogo, or GreenSeal are all examples of programs that have developed standards for environmental leadership that consider multiple factors.
  • Learn to recognize the “six sins of greenwashing”, and learn to ask questions. Is the claim restricted to just one environmental consideration? Does it help you find more information? Is it specific enough to be informative? Does the claim matter? Is it unique? Can you verify it? Is it merely trying to make you feel better about an unhealthy product?
  • Perhaps most importantly, support the businesses you trust and that don’t need a “green” claim. Local businesses that provide quality food and products, produced close to home, and that support conservation rather than the newest “green products” deserve your business, and are truly environmentally friendly.
for more information:
komatsuna mushroom noodle soup
  • 2 T sesame oil, separated
  • 2-4 I’itoi onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 6 C vegetable stock
  • 1 C small dried mushrooms
  • 2 T mirin
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 lb komatsuna
  • 8 oz rice noodles (fettuccine width)
  • 1/4 C almonds, ground
  • 4 T miso paste
  • 1 T sesame oil

In a large soup pot, sauté green onions in 1 T sesame oil for a minute or two. Add the garlic and ginger. When they start to stick to the bottom, add stock.

Add mushrooms, mirin, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.

Chop and add the komatsuna stems, then chop the komatsuna leaves and add. This will give the stems a little bit more time to cook.

Wait until the komatsuna looks fully cooked, then add the rice noodles and cook until they are soft. Then, remove from heat and add the ground almonds, miso paste, and remaining T of sesame oil. The ground almonds add some creaminess to the soup. Dissolving the miso paste can be difficult. It may help to remove a cup or two of the soup liquid to mix with the miso. The sesame oil gives the soup nice sparkling orange oil bubbles floating on top.

namul or namuru (komatsuna salad)
adapted from
  • 2 C cooked komatsuna
  • 1 1/2 T dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 t sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 T toasted sesame seeds
  • optional: pinch of sugar
  • optional: chili oil

You can use one kind of green leafy vegetable or several. Wash the leaves well to get rid of any grit and so on. If the leaves have stalky parts, cut them off and slice thinly. Cut the leaves up if necessary. Bring a pot of water to boil. Put stems in first to allow additional time to soften. Boil for about 2-3 minutes, then put in the rest of leaves. Boil for about 2 minutes or just until the leaves are limp, but not turning into mush!

Drain well.  Return to the pot and add cold water, to refresh and cool them. Drain again and squeeze out the moisture well.

Grate the garlic clove on a fine grater, or smash it to a pulp with a knife, or pass it through a garlic press. Mix with the salt and oil. Mix into the well drained and squeezed out greens very well – your hands are the best tools for this. Mix in the sesame seeds. Taste, and adjust the seasoning: if it’s not salty enough, add a little salt; if the greens are bit too bitter for you, add a little bit of  sugar. If you want it spicy, add a few drops of chili oil.

You can make this ahead and store it in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days, though no longer – think of it as a salad.

spaghetti squash and greens gratin
adapted from
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 2 T olive oil, separated
  • 2 t Rosemary Garlic Rub, or any all purpose seasoning that’s good on vegetables
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • 1/2 t Spike seasoning (optional but good)
  • 1/2 t dried thyme leaves
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 bunch chopped tendergreens leaves
  • 2 T finely chopped I’itoi onions greens
  • 1/2 C sour cream (don’t use fat free)
  • 3/4 C cottage cheese curds (put the cottage cheese in a fine strainer and rinse with cold water to get the cheese curds)
  • 1/2 C coarsely grated Parmesan cheese plus about 1/4 cup more for topping the gratin
  • 1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the outside of the spaghetti squash if needed, then cut off the stem and blossom end, stand squash upright, and using a large chef’s knife, carefully cut in half lengthwise. Use a sharp spoon to scrape out seeds and the slimy material that surrounds them, and discard. Rub cut sides of squash with about 1/2 T olive oil for each half, then sprinkle each with 1 tsp. Rosemary Garlic Rub or other seasoning of your choice. Spray the roasting pan with non-stick spray, put squash on baking sheet and pour 1/4 cup water around bottom of squash. Roast squash about 45-50 minutes, or until it separates easy into strands when pulled with a fork. Let squash cool for a few minutes, then shred into spaghetti-like strands.
While squash cooks, wash tendergreens leaves if needed and spin dry or dry with paper towel. In two batches, stack up greens on top of each other and slice into thin ribbons, then turn the cutting the board the other way and slice again into small pieces. Chop onion.
Heat 1 T olive oil in heavy frying pan, add chopped onions, season with Spike seasoning, dried thyme, and black pepper, and saute until onion is softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more, then add chopped greens all at once. Cook about 1-2 minutes, turning a few times. until greens are wilted to about half the size they were. (The greens shouldn’t be completely cooked, since they will cook more in the gratin.) Turn off heat.
Put 3/4 cup cottage cheese in a fine strainer and rinse with cold water until only the cheese curds remain, then let drain. Spray a glass or crockery gratin dish with non-stick spray or olive oil.Using a large fork, gently mix the chopped chives or green onion and shredded spaghetti squash into the onion/chard mixture. Combine the sour cream, drained cottage cheese curds, Parmesan cheese, and beaten egg and mix into the chard/spaghetti squash mixture. Then put the combined ingredients into the gratin dish, and press down so it’s evenly distributed in the dish. Sprinkle top with about 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese.

Bake about 30-35 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and cheese is browned on top. Serve hot.

saute of cauliflower and tendergreens with peanuts
adapted from
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets, (1/2 small head)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or water
  • 1 bunch firmly packed, coarsely chopped tendergreens, stems included
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce and water in a small bowl.
Heat oil in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until very hot. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add cauliflower and vegetable broth (or water) and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add greens and simmer, covered, until the greens are tender, an additional 5 minutes. (Do not overcook the greens or they will lose their vibrant color.) Stir in the peanut sauce and cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with chopped peanuts.

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