Monday, June 20, 2011

The "Eyes" Have It

Take a vote and the "Eyes" should be a top priority. According to a study published in "The Archives of Ophthalmology", research linking diet to eye health is growing.

One of the easy and established diet staples for healthy eyes is leafy green vegetables. And, here is where gardeners can have a steady supply all year.
"Spinach is king of the green leafies", according to Dr. Steven Pratt in his book "SuperHealth". See my previous article "Popeye Rocks!" #321 for additional spinach info.

Other greens such as kale, Swiss chard, turnip, mustard and collard greens are also rich in lutein. Lutein is a carotenoid compound that is found in colorful fruits and vegetables and they protect cells from damage.

Eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables helps shield your macula (the center of the retina) from cell damage that can cause both age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. The time to start eating your green leafy vegetables is not when you are aged - it's NOW!

Planting green leafy vegetables in your vegetable garden is one of the easiest garden tasks and it's not too late to add a row or six. They don't take long to get to the "picking" stage and they don't take much room. They are ideal in the flower garden because they make such a pretty border or filler. Once they reach the stage where they are no longer producing - pull and plant more.

Most garden centers carry seeds or sets. Plus, most every Farmer's Market within this area will have a booth or several selling a variety of green leafy vegetables.

If the taste or texture of green leafy vegetables isn't something you like - incorporate them in other things. Add to a lettuce salad, soups, stews, dips, casseroles, bread, eggs, pasta, seafood and more. Chop fine and they will add to your health and go unnoticed.
Adding green leafy vegetables isn't a once in awhile thing - it should be every day. Using fresh grown produce will insure you have them at the peak of freshness and you will also be in control of using chemical free produce.

Greens will also freeze well if you have an over abundance. Frozen greens must be used in cooked food but it still has its benefits. I throw fresh greens into my home-canned tomato juices and sauces, chicken and beef stock and soup base.

If you have more greens than you can use at the moment, wash, drain in your salad spinner, pick off any bad portions or large veins and tear into bite size pieces. Pack in zip lock bags and freeze. As you are canning later, simply add a bag to the mix. This way you aren't wasting when the produce is coming on stronger than you can work and none gets thrown away or too old.

We used to have wilted spinach often during the summer when I was growing up. Here's how we fixed it:

4 slices bacon
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper
4 c. (1 lb.) fresh washed spinach leaves, torn in bite size pieces

Cook bacon until crisp in large skillet. Remove, reserving bacon dripping in skillet. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add onion and next four ingredients to drippings, stirring until blended. Cook mixture 10 minutes over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Pour over spinach in large bowl. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Notice the spinach is not cooked. This keeps it at a high nutrient level and it doesn't become tough and stringy. Granted the bacon may not be on your list of healthy foods but it's a must for this recipe to have the flavor needed.

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