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Salad greens are vital to health

Every person can grow salad greens, no matter what size their garden. Even a few pots with plants, outside the kitchen door on the balcony of a unit, will give a regular picking of leaves.

But why are salad greens important to health? Plants play an essential role in our lives. In fact, all food on our table is made possible by plants, whether it is a loaf of bread, piece of steak, eggs, ice cream or sugar. We can't live without food and we can't live without plants. Plants capture sunlight and energy through photosynthesis and together with chlorophyll (the green stuff in plants) produce food for us. Rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes, plants give us our daily food, providing many other processes in the body & to keep its amazing mechanism functioning and like cell building, and removal of wastes and toxins.

The chlorophyll in green leaves forms the basis of all life on earth: without this amazing substance, life as we know it would not exist. Chlorophyll, the green pigment, is important to plants, and in fact can be regarded as the 'green blood' of plants, supplying nutrients to plant cells. It is the chlorophyll molecules of plants that trap the sun's energy, and when we eat green plants this solar energy becomes our energy.

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Research has shown chlorophyll is a valuable aid to prevent and to treat many diseases. Chlorophyll-rich plants have featured in cancer treatments, as they help detoxify the liver. The darker the greens, the higher the number of cancer-combating nutrients they contain. A diet rich in greens has been used to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, regulate blood sugar, relieve heartburn, ease chronic muscle pain, reduce food cravings, and increase strength and stamina. American herbal lecturer and author Dr. Bernard Jensen, valued greens for good health. He said, When you are green inside, you are clean inside.  Being green inside, can result from a daily regime of raw salad eating - salads with plenty of fresh, green leafy chlorophyll-rich plants. Numerous studies have shown that fresh greens boost lymphocyte production and so increase resistance to illness, and strengthen the immune system.

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Recent research at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research has found that the consumption of green leafy vegetables have a range of constituents (eg zeaxanthin, lutein and other components) which help boost the skin's natural defence against damage caused by UV rays. Dr. Jolieke van der Pols said, This new evidence suggests that an increase in consumption of greens may help to reduce the risk of skin cancer recurring among those with a previous history, by up to 55%.  We all need to protect ourselves from skin cancer.

Salad greens picked fresh from the garden or from a few pots near the kitchen door (if no garden is available) are absolutely the freshest and most nutritious plant foods to serve for a meal: teeming with living enzymes that are so essential to health. Living enzymes from fresh picked live foods literally have electrical energy vibrations, created through the activity of sun, air and water.

Enzymes have been called 'the spark plug of life' as they initiate so many bio-chemical processes in the body. Greens are rich in digestive enzymes - these make it easier to digest the heavier foods we eat, such as starches and proteins. Enzymes convert food to energy, essential to fuel every biologic mechanism, and regulate metabolism on a cellular level. Eating salad greens in their freshest state gives the body "power foods" it can easily assimilate and use for rejuvenation. The more we eat from nature's raw garden, the better we are going to feel.

Many greens are a good source of protein (see p 25), some with a good balance of the 8 essential amino acids. Protein is essential to cell growth and repair. Should readily available protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, become inaccessible due to drought or calamities or war, then, we can use greens, together with nuts, seeds, and sprouts to sustain our protein requirements.

Salad plants are alkaline, and alkaline foods are fundamental to good health.

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Add to your garden, or grow in pots, some of the following plants:

Lebanese Cress
Lebanese Cress

Lebanese cress Aethionema cordifolum, p 96, perennial to 30cm, loves shade, fast growing, lush attractive fern-like leaves with a carrot-like flavour; wonderful in tossed salads, sandwiches, as a garnish or with basil in pesto. These are fabulous greens, which I use daily.

Sweet leaf bush Sauropus androgynus p 82, perennial 1-2m high; sometimes, the bushes are planted close together to make a living food hedge. Leaves taste like fresh peas, are over 34-39% protein, and an excellent source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. 100g ( cup) serving of fresh leaves supplies 22% of our daily requirement of vitamin A, and is a substantial source of vitamin C providing 138% of our daily requirement.

Eat leaves as a snack any time, and add to salads, and toss through a stir-fried dish just before serving. Dried leaves are excellent survival food, as they can provide a high-protein to add to meals. Lactating mothers are encouraged to eat the leaves, for promoting high protein, milk production. Leaves are also beneficial for anaemia to relieve fatigue, build stamina, to assist nutrient absorption of nutrients from other foods eaten, and to prevent cardiovascular disease. Sweet leaf is also used for diarrhoea, diabetes, and to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Indonesian folklore says: to stop teeth grinding or snoring in sleep, eat sweet leaf! Research in Thailand found the plant has powerful antioxidants, which can delay or inhibit cell destruction by oxidation. This plant is one of my favourite greens, and it is popular with people who visit the herb farm and taste-test it too.

Salad mallow Corchorus olitorius, p 81, annual to 1m; lush green leaves are over 20% protein; rich in vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C; exceptionally high potassium (3068mg per 100g) making it perhaps the richest plant source of potassium that we can grow. (Potassium aids blood and oxygen circulation; is essential to digestion; the function of the heart and skeletal muscles; and for energy). Mucin, in leaves, is valuable for clearing mucus and toxins from the body. Eat raw, cooked, or dry leaves and store for a protein source, to add to other meals, and as a survival food.

Drumstick tree Moringa oleifera, p 53, this tree can be trimmed to keep to bush size of 1-2 metres; leaves 38% protein with all essential amino acids, use leaves fresh or cooked in a variety of dishes, and also dried (nutritious high protein survival food); high in calcium (297mg per 100g leaves), vitamins A (8855 IU per 100g leaves) B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B15, B17, C, D, K. The drumstick tree is an important staple food source in many countries. Studies show leaves to be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein. Various aid programs, working in Third World countries, use the dried leaves, to fight against malnutrition and its associated diseases (blindness, etc). The plant has been valued for treating and building resistance to many diseases, including cancer, and for fortifying the immune system. Leaves have strong antibiotic, antifungal, anti-fatigue, antioxidant and tonic properties. Young seed pods are eaten cooked, and swollen roots of seedling trees are washed, peeled and eaten raw and cooked (have a horseradish-like flavour). The antimicrobial seeds of the tree contain cationic polyelectrolytes which have proved efficient as a flocculent in treatment of turbid water, to make it drinkable. (The seeds are completely bio-degradable, while, aluminium sulphate, an alternative used to clean water, is not as user-friendly).

Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus, cover picture no. 9, p 108, ground sprawler to 60cm high. Use leaves and the bright-coloured flowers for antibiotic, antioxidant and tonic properties; add to salads, sandwiches, pesto, and as a garnish.

Sheep sorrel Rumex acetosella (cover picture no. 6 and p 64), leaves stand 12cm high; powerful antioxidant properties, said to kill viruses; leaves are good to eat at the beginning of a meal as they have a mild sour flavour, which helps stimulate the digestive juices in the mouth, and the sour flavour can benefit kidney, bladder, and the circulation.

Ceylon salad leaves Basella alba, p 82, and B. rubra, perennial (annual in cold climates), fast growing climber or ground sprawler; nip off nutritious leaves (very rich in calcium and iron), which have many health-giving and healing benefits, and eat raw or cooked. Leaves are a mild laxative.

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Watercress Nasturtium officinale, p 81, 63, perennial to 20cm, will grow in well-limed soil in pots. Leaves rich in vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B17, C, D, E, K, and in minerals: calcium, potassium, iron, iodine, zinc, sulphur and germanium; leaves valued for purifying the blood and toning the whole system. Herbal folklore, says watercress is an excellent food for stimulating the intelligence.

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Betel Leaf Piper sermentosum, p 81, shade loving perennial to 1 m; mild pungent flavoured, large glossy leaves used in salads, as wraps, and cooked. Drunk as a leaf tea it is valued for alleviating coughs, asthma, candida, cancer, for healthy teeth and gums, and as a natural deodorant to free the body of unpleasant smells of perspiration and menstrual odour.

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