By: Eleni Saltas
When I first learned the word horta I immediately learned another Greek word at the same time—οχι (no). Thanks to horta, I hated nearly all vegetables. Macaroni and cheese is way cooler than horta, any school kid knows that. But there lay horta, at nearly every Greek dinner I ever ate. Every restaurant. Every time we had visitors. Every time we ate as visitors. On every dining table of food, there were the dreaded greens. Then one day, magic happened—I took a bite. I haven’t stopped biting since then. Because the truth is, horta is delicious.
From roadside weeds to heirloom greens: Any time you add greens to your diet, you’re doing your heart, joints, and your digestive system a favor. So let’s do this, let’s add some greens to our diets. If you can’t do it every day, add them weekly. Just do it. And no, that wrinkly lettuce on a cheeseburger doesn’t count. We are going to pile it on. Let’s start with five common greens that are readily available (mostly) and which Greeks use often in their cooking.
5 of my favorite greens
Amaranth greens (vleeta)
Technically this isn’t a true green—it grows more like a tree than a ground plant. It’s more commonly found in floral gardens rather than grocery stores. Amaranth gives a great two-for-one deal: You can eat the leaves as well as the seed grains.
Dandelion greens (radikia)
Radikia have a bitter tang—which I love—and they are high in protein, loaded with minerals, and like all leafy vegetables, low in calories. Radikia detoxify and cleanse your blood, and benefit people with inflammatory diseases such as asthma.
Spinach, a sweet green, cooks
up simply and is very versatile. Spinach is high in Vitamins A and C, which are both notable antioxidants. Let spinach be your delicious, nutritious entry green into the wide world of horta.
Beet greens (pantzaria)
Beet greens deliver protein, fiber, iron, and many important vitamins like K, A, and C. Your immune system and bones will thank you every time you eat a pile of beet greens. As will your taste buds.
Chard comes in a red variety and green variety or a multi-colored blend, with notably brightly colored stems that shouldn’t be forgotten. First boil the tougher stems, followed by the chopped leaves, and add a splash of vinegar to get a full spectrum of this earthy green.
Pick your favorite green and let’s get cooking!
2 pounds of your preferred greens (dandelion, amaranth, spinach, etc.)
- Salt, to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- Lemon or red wine vinegar, to taste
Step by Step Instructions
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and coarsely chop your greens.
Add a pinch of salt and add your greens to the pot. Cook until the stems are fork tender (or in some cases, like with red amaranth, until the stems and leaves turn green). Times will vary depending on the greens.
Remove greens and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Strain the greens and serve either warm or cold. Dress with (lots of) olive oil plus (lots of) lemon or (lots of) vinegar.