Spring Cleaning with Vegan Collards
When spring marches in, we naturally want to throw open the windows of our home and clean out all the dust and cobwebs. In the same way, Ayurveda recommends that we give our bodies an annual spring cleaning! Once the autumn chill descends, and all the way through the cold winter, we tend to eat heavier foods. This way we can put on a little fat to stay warm. Spring invites us to help the body transition to the new season by eating lighter foods.
I always recommend a mung soup fast along with light vegetables for a few days or a week at the beginning of spring. This helps to detoxify the colon, liver, kidneys. Cooked greens of any kind are a great side dish to support a spring detox, and today I’d like to generate some enthusiasm for collard greens. Collards belong to the dignified family of Southern “soul food,” brought to us by African cooks. Although theirs is a sad history indeed, their contributions to Southern cuisine were lasting and impressive.
Collard greens are hardly the sexiest dish to focus on in a blog, but like all greens, collards are extremely satisfying, healthy, and easy to make. They do take longer to cook than Swiss chard, kale, or beet greens, but they also have more fiber as well as richer flavor. (If you need a faster recipe on a work night, try this recipe using beet greens or chard.)
Please allow me to disabuse my omnivorous friends of the idea that collards are only tasty with bacon fat or ham. Pork is not required! Caramelized onions and an exquisite smoky salt are all it takes for this vegan or vegetarian version to rival any Southern comfort food. “The hottest thing in soul food right now is vegan soul food,” said Adrian E. Miller, author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time, in an interview at Epicurious.com. With homage to this healthy trend, I add to this dish my favorite Ayurvedic spice combo—cumin and coriander, along with (if you like) a pinch of cayenne—to take this traditional dish of collards to new heights!
I’m pleased that this recipe contains all six tastes that Ayurveda recommends for inclusion in each meal. The collards are bitter and slightly astringent. The onions, once caramelized, are sweet, and I add a bit of maple syrup for a bit of sweet elegance. Cumin is pungent. Coriander is sweet and astringent. Ginger is pungent, and if you add some cayenne to the dish you get an extra dash of pungent. There is, of course, salt for salty. Finish these Smoky Collard Greens with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and sour completes the six tastes. Enjoy this Ayurvedic take on an old Southern dish!