Mark Bittman: Leafy Green Revolutionary? | Civil Eats

Mark Bittman: Leafy Green Revolutionary?

For a self-proclaimed minimalist with a minuscule kitchen, Mark Bittman’s had maximum impact. He’s the digital dervish of the New York Times Dining section: his recipes ricochet around the blogosphere, his cooking videos go viral, he’s constantly tweaking his How To Cook Everything app, he tweets and blogs regularly.

And, he pens op-eds exhorting us to eat less meat and embrace a plant-based diet. So, it wasn’t exactly a shock to hear that the Minimalist is moving on, departing from Dining and bringing his “lessmeatatarian,” ‘go-vegan-till-six’ advocacy to the Times op-ed page.

It’s a natural progression, in fact, because Bittman’s actually been touting tatsoi and pushing purslane for more than a decade. His How To Cook Everything books may be a kitchen bookshelf staple, but the Bittman book I reach for most often–and the one that transformed the way I eat–is a tattered, soy sauce-splashed paperback from 1995 called Leafy Greens: An A-To-Z Guide to 30 Types of Greens Plus 200 Delicious Recipes.

The introduction begins, “It’s no secret that vegetables, grains and fruits are the future of the American diet.”

No, but it seems to be a secret that Bittman ever wrote this book! It’s been out-of-print for ages, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Macmillan doesn’t reprint Leafy Greens, because it’s simply the best guide to greens that I’ve seen to this day. It demystifies obscure greens and celebrates overlooked ones.

I stumbled across it at the Strand bookstore in NYC when it first came out and was intrigued by the recipes featuring exotic Asian greens, sea vegetables, and common garden weeds–none of which were then in my culinary repertoire.

The recipes are classic Bittman: a few basic ingredients that you can adapt to suit your fancy and your pantry. Don’t have kale? Let collards or mustard greens pinch hit. Can’t find cress? Make do with mizuna. Virtually every recipe in the book offers alternative suggestions.

Leafy Greens introduced me to the whole family of sweet, crunchy Asian cabbages and spicy mustard greens. It taught me that beet greens and swiss chard are interchangeable.

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Bittman also inspired me to grow amaranth, orach, and cultivated strains of purslane, dandelions and watercress in my garden, and to harvest their wild cousins instead of composting them. In a “Note to the Gardener” at the end of the book, he declares, “Everyone who has a bit of dirt should grow greens,” and lists his favorite seed sources.

As an advocate for Meatless Mondays and the axis of eat well– i.e., fruits, veggies, and whole grains–I’ve been delighted to see Bittman use his tremendous influence to encourage folks to become more ecologically enlightened eaters. As Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel once declared at an Earth Institute conference hosted by Jeffrey Sachs–who sadly subscribes to the notion that industrial agriculture is the only solution to world hunger–“We don’t need another Green Revolution. What we need is a Leafy Green Revolution!”

I couldn’t agree more, and I know just who to put in charge of it. If only we could get Macmillan to reprint the manifesto.

Originally published on Huffington Post

Photo: Evan Sung

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Kerry Trueman is a climate change activist/writer/consultant who advocates low-impact living, healthy eating, sustainable agriculture and related topics in a lively, non-wonky way. She has been a Huffington Post blogger since 2007, and occasional contributor to AlterNet, Grist, Civil Eats, and MomsCleanAirForce. Trueman also wrote the chapter on how to eat ecologically for Rodale's Whole Green Catalog. Read more >

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  1. Gerardo Tristan
    Great news! I am so happy that is Bittman and not Pollan who is oging to the op-ed page of the Times. he is way more consistent with what he preaches than the " eat mostly plants" ( you not me!) Pollan who never takes his advice ( at least publically)and always have snob pieces cooking for three days and enjoying his exclusive white man's "organic-sustaintable" meat!

    Kudos to Bittman!!
  2. Bill McCann
    As a butcher by trade, it might seem strange that I am excited to hear people saying things like: "less meat, better meat", or "eat a third less meat and pay a third more for meat". I feel that my chosen trade would benifit from the notion that meat is really a special thing, and not something to be taken for granted. Mark Bittman seems to be just the one to make this work for all of us. If we would all just make a few simple things from scratch; then we would be on our way to a sustainable food culture in this country. Thank you Kerry for a great article.
    Bill McCann

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