At this time last year, I was headed to Argentina to visit my friend Iliana and her family. I knew I’d come back rested, relaxed and happy. What I didn’t know is that I’d come back with a new habit that quickly wove its way into my lifestyle. Each morning, Iliana pressed what looked like piles of vegetables through what appeared to be a small Volkswagen, producing a tall glass of bright green juice. I was initially uninterested. It looked funny and though I liked everything that went into it, drinking the concoction cold from a glass didn’t sound appealing. But the cumulative effect of Malbec paired with tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak night after night (it was just so good!) began to take its toll. So I tried her “green lemonade” one bleary-eyed morning. I was surprised by how refreshing and clean it tasted. And just like that – I had to have a juicer. I had to start my day in this way. That was a year ago and I’m still at it. Though I try not to post recipes that require specialty equipment, I’m overdue to share some of what I’ve learned about juicing and now is the right time since many people are in post-holiday clean up mode. So here goes.
Juicing is a great way to start the day with a burst of vitamins. It’s also a terrific substitution for an afternoon snack or that latte you really don’t need. Skip the pretzels and bring on the juice! You’ll feel better for it, I swear. I have also used fresh pressed juices to “hit the reset button” after a period of indulgence. In this case, I use a variety of juices in combination with whole, raw foods for a day or two to help my palate re-acclimate to clean eating. I have juice in between small meals of bean or vegetable soups, a handful of raw almonds here or there and maybe a smoothie made with bananas, almond butter and frozen berries (this is a good recipe to try). Once you’ve decided to juice, there are a few points to note. First, you need a juice extractor. I have this model. I like it quite a lot. It’s not too big, it breaks down easily for storage and it’s great for the beginner. Second, you need to understand what foods are best for juicing and how to blend flavors.
A few things I’ve learned through trial and error:
1.There is “green.” And there is “orange.” Mix them and you’ll get muddy brown.
It’s really fun to experiment with different vegetables and fruits. I got a little carried away when I got my juicer and quickly found that it’s best to mix like with like when it comes to color. You don’t want to drink a tall glass of what looks like dirty lake water no matter how good it smells. Don’t bother buying a juice book. I did and it was a waste of time and money. You will quickly figure out what you like. Here are some ideas in each of the two categories I’ve named. Each category has varying degrees (as seen in the photos) from very bright to more muted shades.
“Green” – Kale, spinach, cucumber, fennel, watercress, carrot tops, turnip tops, granny smith apples, celery, pear, parsley, broccoli, honeydew, mint, grape, pineapple
“Orange” – Carrots, apples, orange, grapefruit, beets, peaches, pear, pineapple, mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya
Lemon and/or ginger go beautifully with both green and orange varieties. Lemon brightens up just about any juice combination you can think of. There are few combinations I make that don’t include at least one whole lemon (peeled! see #3). If you like a little heat, try adding an inch of ginger root (I don’t bother to peel it) or more if you really want some kick. Apples and pears also go nicely with either variety. Use your imagination, as these lists are just a starting point.
2. Go organic if possible.
I don’t buy exclusively organic vegetables, but when I buy them for juicing I really try to do so. You may be familiar with the “dirty dozen.” This is the guide I use while at the grocery store or market, but when it comes to juicing the rules change and I prefer only organic (though many of my juicing favorites, like spinach, apples, kale and celery, are already on the high pesticide list as it is).
3. Know when to skip the seeds and skin.
I leave the skin on apples and pears (wash them well), but I always core them so the seeds aren’t included. With citrus fruits, always remove the skin and as much of the pith as possible to avoid a bitter taste. Anything with a tough skin, such as pineapple, mango or melon, should also be peeled first.
4. Drink fresh pressed juice right away or store it for no more than a day.
It can be time consuming to make juice! After washing and trimming the produce, you must run it through the juicer, then clean the juicer parts. I like to make a few kinds of juice at once for efficiency. I store them in large, labeled mason jars and keep them sealed tightly in the fridge. It’s best to consume the juice within 24 hours since the taste and nutrients are best when it’s fresh pressed. Also keep in mind that the juice will settle as it sits, so you will need to shake it vigorously before use.
Finally, I’ll share rough recipes for the rainbow of combinations I’ve made here. The “green” variety you see pictured above is kale, spinach, cucumber, fennel, parsley, granny smith apple, pear, lemon and ginger. The darker “orange,” which is actually quite red, was made from carrots, beets, mint and lemon. I don’t actually like beets, but I’m learning to tolerate the flavor through juice. The bright “orange” is red grapefruit, carrot and ginger. And the lighter “orange” is simply pure orange juice, which I used for mixing with smoothies.
Finally, there is a downside to consuming pressed juices in place of whole food and it’s worth a mention. Juices lack the fiber provided by their whole food origins. It’s important to obtain fiber from other sources when juicing. Just because you are getting your greens in a glass doesn’t mean you can check that box for the day! Be sure to get the fiber elsewhere, too. Try a glass of green juice with a bowl of oatmeal and a few raw almonds. Or have a crunchy green salad with olive oil and lemon. Beans and legumes are also an excellent source of fiber, as are whole grain cereals and breads.
I’m happy to share more exact proportions for any of the rough juice “recipes” listed above. Please let me know if you’d like more specifics by commenting here or dropping me an email at info [at] weeklygreens.com. Happy juicing!