Jenné Claiborne is a chef and creator of Sweet Potato Soul, a vegan food and lifestyle blog and Youtube channel. Her mission is to make it easy and practical for people to adopt a nutritious, delicious, and sustainable vegan lifestyle. Read the first part of her blog post on Sweet Potato Soul.
In Madrid my host mother (my señora) was a fantastic cook, and a huge fan of Olive Oils from Spain. She’d use it to make her incredible paella, chilled vegetable bisque, croquettes, and everything in between. Before living in Madrid I didn’t pay much attention to the oil I was using, but I quickly became a true believe in the robust and nutritious Olive Oils from Spain and continue to use it in my salad dressings, on pasta, in dipping sauces, and with my favorite sourdough bread.
Olive Oils from Spain are not only delicious, it is high in antioxidants like vitamin E, and oleic acid. Polyphenols—found in Olive Oils from Spain and other plant-based foods—are a category of plant phytonutrients which act as powerful antioxidants in our body. Polyphenols help to protect against cell damage, premature aging, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Already an important part of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is also a great addition to a wholesome nutrient dense vegan diet.
My favorite vegetable is definitely the sweet potato. It’s delicious, nutritious, filling, and so incredibly versatile. Baked and drizzled with Olive Oils from Spain? Yes please! Sweet potatoes are available all year round, and if you have the space in your home garden, it’s easy to grow!
I do honestly love all vegetables, but below you’ll find some of my favorites and some tips on how to start growing your own herbs, even in a small space.
I grew up eating this hearty dark leafy green so it has a special place in my heart. Though many of us are used to eating collard greens stewed for an hour, they can be eaten raw in salads, and used in smoothies and juices. Collard greens are high in calcium, vitamin K, beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin C. Make sure to look for fresh collard greens at your local market during the warmer months. They are available in grocery stores year-round.
Onions aren’t just delicious, they’re rich in polyphenols—like Olive Oils from Spain—which makes them super good for you. Onions are rich in a type of polyphenol called quercetin. Unlike some other polyphenols, quercetin stays intact when onions are cooked. I recommend using them daily!
Beets get their brilliant red pigment from a phytonutrient called betalain which sticks around after beets are cooked so your body benefits from their antioxidant power when eaten. I adore roasted beets tossed with Olive Oils from Spain and fresh herbs! They can also be eaten raw—try shredding them and adding to a salad, steamed, or blended into soups and dips.
If you’ve ever tasted just harvested arugula you’ll understand why I love this tender green. It has as peppery flavor and bright green color, and it goes well with so many types of dishes. I love making salads with roasted beets, arugula, and dressing made with Olive Oils from Spain. I also regularly use it in pesto and pilafs. Arugula is high in antioxidants, and contains compounds that are helpful at reducing inflammation.
I have a beautiful basil plant in my kitchen garden, and love adding this tasty herb to pasta, pizza, and salads. Basil is extremely high in vitamin K, which is necessary for bone health, and healthy blood clotting. Basil also has very impressive antibacterial properties. It grows easily at home! Combine it with olive oil for a healthy treat.
It was my 2017 new year’s resolution to start a small kitchen garden. So far I’m growing fresh thyme, sage, chives, basil, and oyster mushrooms. Fresh herbs and mushrooms do well indoor because they do not need a lot of space to grow. As long as you have a fairly sunny and warm spot you can start growing.
Another great way to awaken your green thumb is to re-plant certain vegetable scraps. The tops and bottoms of green onions, celery, and romaine lettuce can be potted and will continue to grow in healthy soil. It’s a great way to utilize food scraps and give growing a try.
The importance of fresh, high quality produce cannot be overstated. What better way to ensure you’re consuming nutrient dense vegetables and herbs than growing them at home? Use your freshly harvested veggies to elevate your meals and celebrate your healthy eating!