Let’s talk green grub today! How many green leafy veggies do you eat on a regular basis? And that doesn’t mean once a year.

Do you know how good the green is for you? Greens are easy to grow, relatively inexpensive, and some of them can be grown and harvested all winter in an average garden or pots.

Heck, lots of the weeds in our yards came from our ancestors planting seeds for their greens. They can go a long way toward warding off many illnesses, both short- and long-term. So why do so many resist eating them, even gagging at the sight? They’re low in calories, high in nutrition and fiber.

Some stats for you:

  • From 1985 to 2010 the price of soft drinks fell 24% while the price of fruits/veggies rose 39%!
  • A 2010 study said an increase of just 1.15 servings of leafy vegetables a day was associated with a 14% decrease in type 2 diabetes.
  • Greens produce more food in less time than any other crop.
  • There are 1,000 species of plants with edible leaves.
  • Leafy greens have more nutrients per calorie and square foot of growing space than any other food. An exception to this is iceberg/head lettuce, which is pretty devoid of nutrition, but if it’s the only lettuce you tolerate, it’s better than nothing.
  • Leaf veggies are plant leaves which sometimes include shoots and stems — other names are potherbs, greens and leafy greens.

Let’s talk about the flip-side of grub choices, items filled with high fructose corn syrup. It starts at a worrisome spot — government-subsidized, genetically modified corn.

After being harvested, the corn is shipped to one of 26 locations, where the starch is stripped from the kernels. Next it goes through three stages of enzymatic conversion, followed by filtration, blending, evaporation and ion-exchange. The result: a uniform product that is cheap, colorless and flavorless, which is used to extend the shelf-life of countless food products.

Being quickly metabolized, it provides calories, energy, and sweetness — but no nutrients or fiber.

Leaf veggies have a very low glycemic index (ranks foods from 1-100 on their effect on blood sugar. The lower the number, the better they are for you), metabolize slowly, are colorful and flavorful.

There are varieties tolerant of most weather extremes. They can be seeded repeatedly, giving you a continuous fresh crop. Most of them are “cut-and-come-again,” meaning you can harvest off the same plants for a long time.

Most commercial greens are grown and shipped to us from the desert southwest, where they require irrigation, while we have local farmers who could provide fresher, quicker and probably cleaner. This would help us and the farmer.

Growing your own has good benefits, such as a better variety, knowing exactly who grew it and how it was grown, and a much less risk of contamination. The flavor will be better because it’ll be picked/used at its freshest. Often the nutritional content is a lot better than commercially grown. You can experiment with different varieties for not much cost.

Other green veggies you can add to your winter greens are garlic, shallots, onions, winter cabbage, asparagus, rutabagas, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. They might take a bit more effort and space, but they’re worth it, although they can be grown in pots as well.

Plant them where they can see the sun. Even when it snows, many of these delicious greens are doing well under the white blanket. Some of the leaves might get bitten by the frigidity, but the plant will be fine.

The cold also causes some of them to taste sweeter/milder.

A lot of the time we can make major strides in being healthier and living longer by simply making a change in perception followed by a change in behavior. So many times debilitating diseases begin with poor food choices and habits we’ve allowed our whole life, but that doesn’t mean good changes can’t be made.

The benefits might not be visible quickly, but better health will come. It’s not all about greens but that’s a great starting point.

Add one serving a day of good greens. Before long you’ll want more!

Sherrie “The Dirt Girl” Ottinger is a dedicated ecologist, speaker, writer and lifetime Tennessean. All comments and questions should be emailed to velokigate@yahoo.com.