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What is Mizuna?

The other day, my cousin (who is new to the CSA this year) called me up and said “what do I do with all this mizuna? What is mizuna? It was a great start to the conversion and I instantly knew it would be on the topic for a blog soon thereafter.

Lately a lot more people have been asking questions about the CSA, they wonder if they can “choose” their own vegetables or if they are “stuck” with what they get each week. “Stuck” is definitely not the right choice of words, lets instead call it “lucky”. The idea behind the CSA is that your monetary contribution in the beginning of the growing season provides farmers with the ability to care for their crops and then you reap the benefits of their hard work and patience with a bounty of gorgeous, organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The best part about the CSA is not knowing what you’re going to get. It’s like Christmas for me every Wednesday. I open my box with anticipation and immediately start thinking about what I’m going to prepare. It’s almost healing to take that step back and appreciate what these farmers have grown for me. It’s definitely not the same as going to the grocery store with a recipe list in hand, but I am a type-A, so the deviation of this little surprise each week makes for a balance of fun and excitement over leafy greens. These leafy greens are primarily what is harvested in my part of the country (Eastern Pennsylvania) in early summer. Just before the berries start ripening, the grasses and flowering lettuces start blossoming into unusual and healthful foods. Mizuna is a bitter, peppery tasting Japanese green with narrow stalks. The best way to eat mizuna is in a salad dressed with a dark, aged, sweet balsamic vinegar. I also add berries and walnuts because the sweetness of the berries make the bitterness of this green much more palatable. How easy is that?! Use whatever fruit you have on hand, and pair with any nut or other green such as spinach, kale, or radicchio.

It’s important to not just eat leafy greens, but eat a variety of leafy greens. Incorporating some of the lesser known leafy greens like mizuna, radicchio, or chard will amplify the nutritional benefits of your salad far more than eating merely lettuce salads. In a New York Times article “The Island Where People Forget To Die” the author describes the Ikarians, a population of Greeks who frequently live to be over a hundred. What can we learn from the people of Ikaria about how to live long and balanced lives? For starters, it’s not the broad “Mediterranean diet” that we Americans refer to, with greens slathered in oil and cured meats. It’s the fresh fruit and vegetables, locally grown, the fact that Ikarians consume six times the number of legumes per day than Americans, or the fact that they consume far less meat and animal products and refined sugars as Americans do. In addition, they get more sleep, gather over tea and dancing, have sex more regularly, and perhaps most of all, they are not in a hurry. It’s a balance of wellness that comes not only from the foods they grow and eat, but from the cultural attitudes as well. Why are we spending billions of dollars a year on vitamin supplements, and billions more on cancer research when all we really need to do is get back to basics? Get your family engaged in what is really most important…your health and wellbeing.

For more information on longevity, check out “Blue Zones,” by Dan Buettner, from National Geographic.

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