Unlike the diet of traditional cultures, the modern diet is devoid of bitter foods, and bitterness has become a forgotten taste.
The idea of having a salad before a meal comes from the function of the bitter greens that were once the main component of salads. Salad wasn’t always just chopped iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise but used to be made from wild herbs and leafy greens such as dandelion and chicory, and many common weeds.
Bitter foods work by stimulating bitter receptors on the back of the tongue, causing initiation of a nerve impulse that stimulates the vagus nerve, which leads to multiple effects on digestive function, especially the increase of all digestive secretions – saliva, acids, enzymes, hormone gastrin, and bile, improving our ability to extract nutrients from our food. Eaten regularly, they can reduce symptoms associated with poor digestive function, including gas and bloating, constipation, loose stools, and food sensitivities.
There is a wonderful assortment of nutritious bitter leafy greens available to buy or to grow at home – rocket, watercress, radicchio, chicory, mustard greens, endive, bitter melon etc. Their bitter green flavour partners well with “acid” of salad vinegars/dressings, which also helps to extract their minerals, and can turn a humble salad into a gourmet creation and a pleasure to eat. Ginger will also warm up the flavour of bitters, and a bit of sea salt and oil in the dressing helps to balance and enhance the bitter flavours. You can also include bitter greens in stir fries and pesto’s.
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil toasted or plain
- 1 large shallot sliced (or 1 medium onion, diced)
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced
- ½ pound greens chopped or cut into strips
- ½ cup your home-made bone broth or your veggie, chicken broth
- 2 teaspoon tamari or coconut aminos
- 3-4 tablespoon sesame seeds
Heat olive oil over medium heat and immediately add onions or shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add half of the garlic and then the greens.
Toss gently to begin to wilt the greens.
Put the top on your wok or sauté pan for 3-4 minutes, lowering the heat.
Add the tamari and the broth/stock.
Continue cooking until stock has reduced behalf and the greens are slightly wilted and tender.
Add the remaining garlic and Toss once lightly with sesame oil and top with sesame seeds.
Recipe obtained from Carol Little, Studio Botanica, (2022).