Winter wellness involves a nourishing journey with leafy greens

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Jessica Merritt

As the executive director and wellness retreat leader for the Special Liberty Project here in Franklin, I often find solace and strength in the simple yet profound essence of wellness. Our commitment to serving military widows from around the world, as well as supporting local veteran families, is intertwined with a dedication to holistic well-being. This winter, let us explore the importance of incorporating leafy greens into our diets in order to foster a path to vitality that transcends the chill of the season.

In the heart of Franklin, Yonder Market stands as a haven for fresh, local, and organic produce, and I love their greens! Vibrant kale, spinach, and more promises a plethora of health benefits. Plus, at the every-Saturday, year-round farmer’s market in Franklin on East Palmer Street, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m., are local farmers growing seasonal greens in gardens and in greenhouses. Often, they are fresh-picked just before being exhibited for sale at the market.

A PLETHORA of seasonal leafy greens are available for sale every Saturday at the farmer’s market in Franklin, from 8 a.m. – noon, at Yonder, and at local grocers.

All the fresh leafy greens available this time of year are not only tasty but essential for our health, especially during the winter months.

Leafy greens are a powerhouse of nutrients, boasting vitamins A, C, and K, along with essential minerals and fiber. These nutritional gems play a crucial role in bolstering our immune systems and elevating our mood – a perfect antidote to the winter blues.

For a delightful twist, consider blending leafy greens into a revitalizing smoothie. Kale? Yeah! Combine kale or other milder tasting greens (Swiss chard, spinach, for examples) with antioxidant-rich cherry juice, a banana for creaminess, and a splash of coconut water for hydration. This invigorating concoction not only screams “Yay!” in taste but also serves as a nutritional elixir to combat a hodgepodge of seasonal ailments.

But why stop there? Let us add a dash of excitement to our winter meals with a simple and savory sautéed kale recipe. Heat olive oil in a pan, toss in chopped kale, minced garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Sauté until the kale is tender yet vibrant – a delicious and nutritious side dish that complements any hearty winter feast. In fact, you can mix several greens together, including collards, beet tops, and more, for a super green sauté. In general, most greens sauté well and absorb seasonings. Go light on the mustard greens and arugula, as they tend to be stronger in flavor, but provide a nice spice.

Even though cabbages are not in the leafy greens category, they are abundant during winter months and available fresh at Yonder, the Saturday market, and at local grocers. Chop and sauté them just like the leafy greens. Just one cup of cabbage contains protein, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and the other vitamins I already mentioned that are prevalent in leafy greens.

Contrary to what many home chefs think, greens can also be eaten raw. Strip them from their hard stems, chop them up, massage them, and add a little olive oil and lemon or balsamic – or a favorite dressing. These wilted, dressed greens keep in the fridge for a few days and provide a yummy, vitamin-packed side dish to many entrees.

And for the adventurous souls, why not grow your own micro greens at home? With a countertop micro green grower, you can cultivate these tiny nutritional powerhouses at home. Sprinkle them on salads, sandwiches, or your favorite dishes for an extra burst of freshness.

I encourage and invite you to savor the goodness that winter greens bring; they are a testament to the power of nature in nurturing both body and soul.

Jessica Merritt, “Wellness Jess,” is co-founder and executive director of Special Liberty Project, a program for veterans and veteran families based in Franklin. To learn more about Special Liberty Project’s mission, visit