When I first start working with my clients in the kitchen, I'm always surprised at how much even the well-seasoned cook cuts off of a vegetable and throws away. When I forget to mention this and see the greens severed from the root, the top two inches lopped off the end of a carrot, or half of a leek, lying in the sink, I want to jump off of my stool to rescue it saying, "Noooo! It's all good!" But, I remember how I used to do the same thing (because my mother did) until I learned just how important the "whole food" is.
Of the online definitions, I think Wikipedia has the most in-depth definition. I would also include the Eastern perspective, which is a more holistic view of life in general, and takes the energy of the food into account. It teaches that people should eat the whole vegetable, the root and the greens together, as this is truly what a whole food is. It is believed that there is a certain energy that remains when eating the whole vegetable, in its entirety, leaving nothing to waste.
If you look at a carrot, the root in the ground is growing downward, bringing us the earth's energy - likened to centrifugal force - in the vegetable. This energy is said to make a person feel more rooted or grounded. The carrot's greens, on the other hand, grow upward - bringing us the energy from the sun and the atmosphere. This is a more upward and outward energy, likened to centripetal force or what pulls a rotating object towards the center of what it's rotating around. This is said to bring us energy, which in turn, enables us to go out into the world. From this viewpoint, we should eat as much of the whole vegetable as possible to get a balance of these energies, and not waste an equally nutritious (link) part.
Try something new. Look at a vegetable in its entirety. For example, take the whole carrot and cook as much of it as possible, both the orange root and the green tops (as suggested in the recipe below). The best roots and tops are the fresh ones purchased in a farmers' market, or pulled from your own garden. Sometimes, you can also find these in a regular grocery store.
Or, next time you're garnishing something with a scallion - use the whole of it. If the ends (or roots) are fresh, white, plump and clean, and not dry and shriveled, use this part, too. Instead of cutting and throwing it away, eat the "whole food."
Other root vegetables that have nutritious greens as tops include beets, daikon and red radishes.
STEAMED CARROTS AND CARROT GREENS
1 large bunch of organic carrots with nice greens still attached
Separate the roots from their green tops. Finely slice the carrots and place in a pot with a small amount of water.
Cover, cook with high steam for 5 minutes, or until they are firm but tender.
Add a few drops of soy sauce vinegar to the carrots. Add finely chopped green tops, re-cover the pot and steam 2-3 minutes.
Remove from flame when greens are still bright and serve promptly.
Can you think of any other whole foods (edible as a whole) that I haven't mentioned? Have you tried eating both roots and tops together? Might you consider it now, knowing how important the whole food truly is? Please add your comments below in my Huffington Post comments section!
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