In April, I launched a spring series called Frugal Gardening. You can watch for new posts in this series each Monday and Friday and an update on my own garden each Tuesday. In case you missed them, you can go back and read previous posts and updates on my Frugal Gardening page.
Eat more Greens by Drinking Them
I grow a fair amount of greens in my garden, and today I’d like to show you one of my favorite ways to enjoy them: smoothies! It’s a great way to get that nutrition in and make sure none of your garden goes to waste!
Early this morning, I went out to the garden to pick the ingredients I’d need.
These bok choy and kale plants have grown like gangbusters in the last week or so! The bok choy is starting to bolt (it’s more of a cool weather crop), so I’ve been focusing on getting it eaten. Now when most people think of green smoothies, they probably think of spinach or kale. But there are all kinds of greens you can use (and easily grow!), so I’d like to expand your thinking a little today.
Here are a few items growing that I will be drinking at some point this year:
Bok choy: also called Chinese cabbage, a serving of bok choy supplies about 30% of your daily needs of Vitamin A and over 50% of Vitamin C! It is also delicious sauteed in a little sesame oil. I’ve had great luck growing it in the cooler spring climate, too. (Source.)
Mint. It’s not just for mojitos! Mint is one of those herbs that is so hardy (and some would argue, weedy), so I’m always trying to come up with uses for it. I’ll sometimes put a handful in a smoothie along with some cocoa powder and banana. Delicious.
Pea shoots. Thanks for the Farmer’s Markets for showing me that pea shoots are entirely edible! Some people like to toss them in salads or add them to stir fries, but I have smoothied these bad boys before too. Since I have a smaller growing space and since my daughter will actually eat the peas, I won’t be uprooting these vines anytime soon. You can find them for sale by the bunch at the Farmer’s Market this time of year though. Incidentally, pea shoots provide good amounts of Vitamin A, C, and folic acid. (Source.)
Beet greens. I will smoothie BOTH the beets and the greens. Many people don’t know that the tops are edible! In fact, did you know that beets are closely related to kale? What surprised me to learn was that a cup of beet greens provides you with 220% of your daily needs of Vitamin A! That same cup will supply 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. (Source.)
Parsley. It’s not just for garnishes! Parsley is one of the most nutritious greens you can eat. One cup will provide more than your daily need of Vitamins A and C. It is also provides 8% of your daily needs of calcium and a whopping 21% off your daily needs of iron, making it an excellent choice for the vegetarian! Additionally, one cup will provide you with a couple grams of protein. Now you might argue that parsley has a stronger flavor, but if you cut it with 1 cup of a milder green (such as spinach) and then some strongly flavored fruit (I love orange with parsley), you’ll find it’s quite pleasant! I’m growing an entire row of parsley this year!
Other greens I’ve not pictured but I’ve put in smoothies before: dandelion greens (forage from an area that’s not been sprayed OR buy from your Farmer’s Market or specialty grocer), chard, collards, watercress, lettuce (I have been known to shove an entire head of Romaine in the Vitamix before), and spinach. You might notice I mentioned spinach last! Truth is, spinach is excellent for you, but it tends to bolt quickly in my garden. So I’m sitting spinach out this year (though I might do a fall sowing if the mood strikes me). As you can see, I’m not hurting for greens for my smoothies! There are so many options out there, so don’t fret it you don’t have spinach!
How to Build your Smoothie
I’ve found that once you get the hang of things, it’s quick and easy to make a green smoothie. Here’s went into mine this morning.
Greens = I try to put roughly 2 cups of greens. Today it was the bok choy, a couple pieces of kale and collards, because that’s what I had in my garden. If you’re using a stronger tasting green – say like a kale or broccoli – you might cut it with a milder tasting green (spinach or lettuce are both good). As you acquire a taste for green smoothies, that may not be so necessary, and you might find you wish to increase your greens and decrease your fruit.
Base Fruit = I generally put in a ripe banana. To save on cost, look for discounted baker’s bananas. You can also peel and freeze these and pop them in! Other good “base fruit” ideas are pear, apple, or avocado. These just give your smoothie some thickness.
Frozen Fruit = I use frozen fruit instead of ice. Pictured above are blackberries I picked near my house last summer (so yes, free!). I picked a ton of these and we’ve been throwing them into our smoothies for months now.
Fresh Fruit = I like to put in some fresh fruit as well for sweetener, but I suppose this is entirely optional. I love using berries, but try experimenting around! I will generally smoothie whatever is on sale that week at the store. Sweet fruits like oranges, mangoes, and pineapples are particularly delicious. And nothing beats a fresh peach smoothie in the summer!
Scoop of seeds = Optional. I love adding in a “boost” of flax or chia seeds for additional nutrition. These provide added fiber, healthy fats, amino acids, and protein. Think they are spendy? Think again! You can pay pennies for these by purchasing them in the bulk foods section of your store. I want to say the flax seeds were running about $0.60/lb the last time I checked!
Notice what I did NOT put in my smoothie. I didn’t put in powdered protein or shake mixes. I really feel that people have been told they NEED these things in their smoothies, but the price is generally never right. Look…. this is a series on doing things frugally. Why not just start by making wholesome smoothies with fresh produce and see how you feel? You might find it’s quite enough!
I like to put the fluffy greens at the bottom and let the fruit push the smoothie down.
Add about a cup of filtered water before turning it on. You can also use coconut water, milk, or juice, but I do prefer just plain old water!
Yes, in case you’re wondering, I do own and LOVE my Vitamix! These are NOT cheap by any stretch of the imagination. I do have some ideas for how to save on one if you’re interested, but I don’t want you to get hung up on thinking you can’t make green smoothies unless you have a $400 blender. Before I had a Vitamix, I just had a $20 blender and I made it work. I just chopped everything up extra good and let it run for longer than you would a Vitamix. My friend Keri told me she had success making a green smoothie the other day by first chopping the ingredients in her food processor and then tossing in her blender.
Some of you have also recommended this Ninja blender which is currently selling for $99 on Amazon and seems to have some nice power to it. Bottom line, please don’t despair if you don’t have a Vitamix!
I think this one turned out rather pretty! I’ve been sipping on it all morning while typing this post and I feel the energy coursing through my body….
Bok choy power!! 😉
How do you make your green smoothies? Other tips you’d offer newbies?