Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Massaging your Diet

I adore a good massage. Swedish, shiatsu, hot stone, deep tissue, Ayurvedic … I’m not picky, as long as the practitioner is qualified and experienced. I don’t consider massages to be a mere indulgence. I think they’re important for your health. A good massage can stimulate your lymphatic system, improve your circulation, boost your immune system. But my favorite massage is the one I perform while making dinner.

I massage my greens.


There is a method to this madness, and once I explain, maybe you too will get intimate with your greens.

If you’re trying to improve your diet, you’ll find a million different recommendations out there. But most will agree that adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a good thing. Adding the fruits is easy. But most fruit is high in sugar, so you don’t want to focus only on that. Salad is an easy solution, but lettuce and tomato and cucumber only get you so far in the nutrition department. We need our leafy greens. Kale, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, swiss chard … They’re loaded with nutrients, but they’re not glamorous, they’re tough to chew and what the heck do you with them, anyway?

Steaming or sautĂ©ing the greens works, but then you lose the enzymes and vibrancy that comes with rawness. To keep them raw, some people make “green smoothies,” but if you’ve ever tasted one, you’ll know why that’s not my preferred method.

I learned about massaging greens from a professional massage artist in Hawaii. He was able to tame an unruly heap of kale into an enticing, tender bed of deepest green. Massaging greens breaks down the fibers enough so the leaves are easier to chew and digest, while retaining all the nutrients and enzymes. Here’s how you do it. 

You strip the leaves from the stalks. (Some people chop up the stalks. Not me.) You tear or cut the leaves into pieces. Wash them well; maybe even soak them in water. When they’re clean, pat them dry. Dribble cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil over them. The oil softens the leaves and helps break down the fibers. Then – you massage them! Squeeze them hard, squish them between your fingers, knead them, get up close and personal with those greens. You can add a little salt, which also helps break them down. You can keep at it as long as you wish. Often I’ll massage for a little while, then let them sit so they can marinate a bit, then massage them some more. My massage artist friend likes his greens almost mushy, but I prefer a little more structure.

When they’re as soft and tender as you like them, you can add lemon juice, a bit more salt and olive oil if it needs it, and voilĂ ! A lovely, raw, deliciously edible plate of leafy greens. You can eat them by themselves, or add them to a salad. Some people use tamari or shoyu instead of salt, others like vinegar instead of lemon. You can experiment and see what works for you.

In our garden this year, our cauliflower and broccoli plants refused to produce heads. But they went crazy with the greens – big, tough leaves it never occurred to me to eat. But I looked them up, and it turns out the greens are just as nutritious, if not more so, than the heads. So – we massage them up, and they’re fabulous. 

Massaging greens always reminds me of being a kid playing with playdough or fingerpaints. You end up with your hands oily and messy. So if you try it, please, have fun! And enjoy!


June M. said...

I will def have to try this. I am crazy for veggies (not so much for fruit, weird I know). I do have to watch my intake of them though due to having a clotting problem and taking blood thinners. But, I do love to indulge in a good salad with lots of greens (including spinach leaves), tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber and so much more :-) Great, now I am craving one at almost 1:30 am here, lol.

Meg Benjamin said...

Fascinating. I'm a low-level foodie, but I never heard of this. Have to try it!

Juniper Bell said...

June - I'm crazy for veggies too, but I didn't realize they interfered with clotting medication. Definitely be careful with that! And if you try my method, let me know what you think! ;-)

PG Forte said...

Mm. sounds good! I'm with Meg, never heard of this method but will definitely have to try it out!

Kelly Jamieson said...

I love veggies, but...whaaaaa??

Skylar Kade said...

Ok, I've got to try this. It would be incredible if this made otherwise unappetizing greens edible!