Rudi Harst

It’s that time of the year, when there’s an abundance of leafy green vegetables to be found at our local farmer’s markets. Chard, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, beets, collards — I love them all, and eat them year ‘round. But we especially enjoy them during these cooler months, when they’re incredibly cheap, deliciously fresh and readily available.

Here’s the Reason

It’s one of the ironies of our marketplace system that whether you’re shopping for cars, clothes or curtain rods, the better the merchandise, the more it costs – with the singular exception of fresh, locally-grown fruit and vegetables, harvested at the height of the season, when they’re at peak flavor and quality, but their sheer volume and short shelf-life dictate lower prices. Which is why I’ve been able to buy a whole armful of freshly cut, organic chard, kale and collards at the Olmos Basin Farmer’s Market for just $5 in recent weeks – or sometimes even less, if I happen to arrive just before the market closes, and the farmers have lots of left overs.

I’ve long been fond of cooking and consuming leafy greens, widely regarded as super foods, packed with more vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients per ounce than almost any other food. Not only do are they reputed to provide cardiovascular support, they are anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventative, plus they taste good and can be readily adapted to a wide variety of recipes.

Saute’ and Season

Rudi Harst prepares a leafy bounty. Photo by Mateo Baer Harst.
Rudi Harst prepares a leafy bounty. Photo by Mateo Baer Harst.

Then, too, I recently learned that when a leafy green (kale in particular) is torn into pieces, bagged and refrigerated overnight, its nutritional profile is raised significantly, as various anti-oxidants and “wound-induced phenols” flow toward the damaged areas to help heal the cuts. Apparently, this property bestowed an evolutionary advantage to these leafy greens, by enabling them to heal themselves when grazing animals had foraged on them, then imparting a particularly bittersweet taste that those animals found disagreeable upon their return to the same patch of greenery, but which make these super-veggies even more nutritious for humans.

I know it sounds a bit complicated and somewhat counter-intuitive, and I don’t pretend to understand all of the biological details involved. But, I’m definitely grateful for this information, which has further encouraged me to come home from the farmer’s market with loads of inexpensive greens, that I clean, trim, tear and bag for overnight storage. Then the next morning, I sauté them in a huge stock pot in a little coconut or olive oil, along with some garlic, chopped onions and a splash of vinegar, then cover and simmer them for 5-10 minutes – and voila! – I have a stash of top quality, highly nutritious, fully-prepped veggies ready to use as the basis of our meals for several days to come.

Another Reason

In part, I’m sharing this information about leafy greens because I enjoy swapping healthful cooking tips the way other folks might trade baseball cards, stamps or coins. But I also think these crushed greens serve to spotlight an important principle in the burgeoning field of positive psychology, because they’re an apt metaphor for the way that people, too, are resilient by nature.

Time and again, we humans have demonstrated the ability to benefit from being crushed, hurt and wounded by the circumstances of our lives, however painful or difficult they may have seemed at the time. We have the capacity to bounce back as stronger, and more resourceful individuals, more able to “feed” ourselves and others through our willingness to see ourselves, not as powerless victims of our past, but as powerful co-creators of a fulfilling future, possessing an enhanced capacity for compassion, caring and healing, derived from our past injuries.

I’m fully aware that there are many who are currently dealing with challenging times, either for themselves or for loved ones, and I don’t mean to make light of their difficulties by employing this metaphor. I’m simply affirming that Life always nurtures and supports us – even when it hurts. Especially then.

Rudi Harst opens eyes and hearts as a writer, musician and Spiritual Director of the Celebration Circle of San Antonio, an inclusive interfaith community with a creative approach to spirituality.  This piece was originally posted on his weekly blog, www.celebrationcircle.org/blog.html You can hear more of his words and original music at www.rudiharst.com.

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Rudi Harst

Rudi Harst is a writer, performance artist and co-founder of the Celebration Circle of San Antonio, a multi-faith community with a creative approach to spirituality and sustainable living, who performs...