Recently I was giving a talk on spring greens to a gardening group in my community. I was extolling the virtues of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), so I wandered into my usual semi-rant about people eating raw greens. Dandelion doesn’t have any oxalic acid in its greens, so it can be eaten without irritation. In contrast, spinach and kale do. Spinach contains much more than kale, but nonetheless, both should be eaten raw only sparingly.
Eating a Raw Spinach or Kale Smoothie?
When I was a teenager, spinach salads were all the rage. We learned through the diet gurus of the time that no one should be caught with regular lettuce in their salads. Instead, it was much healthier to use spinach as our raw greens. Recently, the kale smoothie has caught on. I’m not quite sure where that leaves spinach, but I suspect it’s not going anywhere.
The truth is that both spinach and kale are very healthy for you. Unfortunately, it really needs to be steamed before it’s eaten. Steaming or cooking deactivates the oxalic acid content that they have, making them more nutritious. Oxalic acid binds with the calcium in our food making it unavailable for digestion. Over time this can lead to a plethora of health issues, osteoporosis among them. The acids can also irritate the kidneys.
After I finished speaking, a woman approached me. She shared that she had been having the same breakfast smoothie every day for a couple years now. At about the same time each day she began to have pain in her kidneys. She had been to several doctors who had not found anything specifically wrong, and yet the same symptom appeared every day like clockwork a couple hours after breakfast. Her smoothie was made with raw kale.
How to Use Greens in a Smoothie
Does this mean that everyone should stop using spinach and kale in their morning smoothies? Absolutely not! I LOVE to mix greens and fruit in a smoothie. It’s a delicious way to get a powerful punch of vitamins and minerals.
To use greens in your smoothie you just need to steam them first. This may seem like a strange texture, but bear with me. Usually, we make smoothies when we are on the run. There isn’t enough time in the morning to steam your greens and add them into the blender. Instead, I like to steam enough for the week and then freeze a supply. Each morning I take a handful of frozen greens from the bag. They not only add the nutrition I want, but I also don’t have to add ice cubes.
How to blanch your kale and spring greens
- Set up a pot of boiling water with a steamer basket insert.
- Fill the steamer basket with your greens and immerse them into the boiling water.
- Blanch for 2 minutes.
- Remove the steamer basket from the boiling water and immediately plunge into an ice water bath.
- Remove the steamer basket from the ice water bath and put the greens into a strainer to drain.
- After they are well drained, move the greens to a clean, dry towel. Pat dry as best as you can.
- Spread the greens out onto a tray and transfer to the freezer.
- Once frozen, the greens can be broken up and placed in a zipper top freezer bag for storage in the freezer. The small chunks of greens are easier to portion out for small recipes or smoothies than if you had just placed the wet greens into a freezer bag and frozen them as one large chunk.
Be sure to label your greens so you know what you are reaching for. If your freezer is anything like mine, once these early spring harvests go in they look like everything else!
Are you eating raw green smoothies?
If so, did you know about the importance of steaming your greens first?