Culinary etymology and traditions are always evolving. For example, the term ‘agrodolce’ translates from Italian to ‘bitter-sweet’ in English. However, the same term also refers to a sauce that’s typically a reduction of sugar and vinegar that has more of a sweet-sour flavor, common in Chinese cooking. In my own experience, in the world of American restaurant cooking, agrodolce has always had a kick of spice to it and that’s how I continue making it. It’s a wonderful, versatile flavor combination that compliments almost any vegetable and even proteins.
Why it Matters
‘Bitter’ is one of the flavor profiles our body recognizes and needs. According to Ayurveda, bitter foods can help balance pitta and kapha dosha and can aid in digestion, bloating, and fluid retention. Bitter greens are important for detoxification in the liver, improved digestion, and maintaining cardiovascular health. They help stimulating the release of digestive enzymes and secretion of bile. Bitter greens support the liver by managing cholesterol, detoxifying the blood, and metabolizing fats. These foods, especially cruciferous greens, are alkalizing and can benefit the microbiome.
Bitter greens include dandelion greens, nettle, radicchio, daikon, arugula, and bitter melon, to name a few.
Putting into Practice
Bitter greens are naturally high in vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate, and fiber. Pair bitter greens with sources of fat, such as olive oil, for better absorption of their fat-soluble vitamins. Additionally, combining iron rich greens with vitamin C, such as a squeeze of lemon, will improve absorption of iron. The darker the green the better, as it signifies more folate, antioxidants, and chlorophyll.
Incorporate bitter greens, raw or cooked, to support liver detoxification and digestion. Grow them on your own deck or porch! And if you don’t like the taste of bitter greens, combine with an acid or sweet fruit to balance out the flavor.