Think back to your last trip to the grocery store.
Visualize it: you’re standing in the fresh produce aisle. In front of you is a wall of bright green leaves, freshly misted (does anyone know why?). Above, the names of the plants outline your choices: romaine, cilantro, kale, parsley, dill. Maybe, if it’s a good day, there’s a surprise endive hiding somewhere too. On a nearby shelf, sterile containers of arugula, spring mix, and spinach wait to be picked up. All together, your decision making is pretty simple–there can’t be more than 40 varieties to choose from.
What you probably don’t realize this is just a tiny fraction of the thousands of varieties of edible greens that exist in nature. At Freight Farms, we are able to grow plants that you commonly won’t see at your big-box grocery store (and if you have, please tell us where this magical place is, we would love to visit).
Check out just ten of these awesome greens:
#1 - Baby Dandelion Greens
While most of us think of dandelions as common weeds, their greens are also an uncommon and delicious addition to your daily vegetable repertoire. Dandelion greens are incredibly rich in vitamins A, B2, C, and K, and have more iron than spinach! The greens have a bitter taste, so they’re great sautéed or braised (especially with eggs), processed in a flavorful pesto, and stewed in a hearty soup.
#2 - Violets
(Or pretty much any other edible flower)
Violets are just one of several commonplace flowers that also happen to be edible (other varieties include calendula, lavender, nasturtium, and more). Violets specifically have a sweet and floral taste you would expect from a flower. They’re great to use in salads and cocktails (and instantly elevate any serving platter). Check out this easy recipe for violet simple syrup.
#3 - Okinawan spinach
Even more so than your typical spinach varieties, Okinawan spinach is super-loaded with vitamins A and C, protein, iron, potassium and calcium, but has a distinct nutty flavor with a hint of pine. Also like your typical spinach, Okinawan spinach is best raw or lightly sautéed: It shines in a fresh salad mixed with other greens, in a stir fry, or mixed into an omelette.
#4 - Wasabi Arugula
It may look like innocent arugula, but it packs a punch like a mouthful of wasabi. One of our favorite plants here at Freight Farms, this cool variety is great for pranks, and even better for taking any salad to a whole other level. Don’t just take our word for it–the experts at Bon Appetit agree!
#5 - Glasswort
Also known as salicornia, sampire, or (most adorably) sea beans, glasswort is a seaside plant commonly found on the romantic wind-swept coasts of Great Britain and France. With a salty taste that makes us nostalgic for summers at the beach, it’s a perfect pairing with any seafood dish (or just sautéed with butter...yum). Check out some really cool recipes, like this salmon-sea bean combo from NYT Cooking, or this mussel-sea bean meal by Food & Wine.
#6 - Mexican Pepperleaf
If anything should clue you in on the importance of Mexican pepperleaf, it’s the fact that locals refer to it as ‘hoja santa’, which literally translates to “sacred leaf”. And, based on everything we know about it, there’s a reason for all the hype. Hoja santa elevates traditional Mexican dishes from all over the country with its unique rootbeer/ anise flavor that is a perfect compliment to lime, cilantro, garlic, chile, and other hallmarks of Mexican cuisine.
#7 - Lovage
Introducing lovage into your cooking is a little bit like uncovering an ancient artifact. The herb has a long history in Southern Europe, going all the way to the Ancient Greeks who used it as a digestion aid. Today, lovage is used in tinctures, infusions, and lozenges to help with sore throats, arthritis, digestion, and more. In spite of its long medicinal history, lovage is also a delicious herb with a strong celery flavor. It’s awesome in a lovage-potato soup and divine in a lovage Bloody Mary!
#8 - Mitsuba
Mitsuba, a wild Japanese parsley is more than just a flavorful herb used in Japanese cooking. It’s part of an important Japanese food tradition of foraging for sansai (wild plants). While foraging was once a survival tactic to stave of starvation, it is now a way for people to have meaningful interactions with nature. Mitsuba is one such plant commonly found in the wild, although it’s awesome chervil-meets-celery flavor has made it a must-have garden plant for many. An easy way to enjoy it is in a traditional tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette).
#9 - Red-veined sorrel
We’ll just come out and say it: red-veined sorrel is beautiful. Not only can it visually elevate pretty much anything (salad, garnish, cocktail), but it has a distinct bite-into-lemon flavor that makes it a perfect green for cooking with fish, processing into a salsa or pesto, and even giving new twists to classic favorites, like spanakopita.
We recently used sorrel in a custom Freight Farms cocktail called Farmer Fuel. It’s super easy to recreate:
2 oz of gin (we used Bombay Sapphire)
Handful of red-veined sorrel leaves
3 cucumber slices
A tablespoon of lime juice
A splash of soda water
A splash of simple syrup
Muddle everything in a glass. Transfer to a shaker and shake with ice. Pour through a strainer over ice. And voila!
#10 - Centella
Also known as Asian pennyworth, centella is found around the world is tropical and temperate swampy regions. Centella is common in the cuisines of many Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, to name a few. Pennyworth has a grassy, slightly bitter taste that is balanced with a flavorful dressing in a traditional Myanmar salad or with fresh coconut in a Sri Lankan sambol.
Anyone else feeling hungry? We sure are! However, all of these unique plants and global dishes serve a purpose beyond just tasting good. While it can be easy it is to stay in our comfortable food niches, eating a diverse assortment of vegetables is important for two big reasons:
Variety is good for our health
Last year, the world got a first look into the results of the American Gut Project, in which scientists analyzed samples from 11,000 people to see how a person’s microbiome (i.e. the millions of bacteria that reside in our intestines) can affect various health outcomes. Needless to say, there were a ton of interesting findings (read them here), but the most fascinating was that the greater the variety of plants in someone’s diet, the greater diversity of microbes in their gut. A diverse microbiome leads to a stronger immune system, healthier body weight, better mental health and more. By contrast, a less diverse microbiome is linked to obesity, IBS, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. So, diverse microbiome–good. Varied food (especially fiber)–great.
Variety helps us expand our worldview and appreciate new cultures through food
One of the best ways to get to know a different culture while traveling (or even in your hometown) is to seek out dishes that showcase unique regional ingredients, or that are part of a spiritual or historical food tradition. There are few better ways to bridge gaps in language and experience than to share a meal and understand what each part of the dish signifies about the larger culture.
The cool thing about Freight Farms hydroponic technology is that we can help people achieve healthy variety in their diet by recreating diverse environments indoors, temporarily transforming a deserted industrial parking lot into an English seashore or Myanmar jungle. Once you start to see just how many edible greens are actually out there, we guarantee you’ll never look at that grocery produce aisle the same way again.
Looking to bring all of these amazing greens to your business? Explore how a Greenery can expand your access to year-round unique crops. We’ll even operate it for you with our Grown by Freight Farms program.