If you have a garden, or you visit a farmers market in the spring, you will know that it is overflowing with spring greens.
Beet greens, radish greens, overwintered kale, spring onions, spinach, a variety of Asian greens, and dandelion greens abound.
The nutritionally-packed goodness of quinoa complements spring perfectly.
Quinoa soup is an appealing (and tasty) way to get these spring greens flowing in your body, together with the gut healing power of fresh lemon juice, and the antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties of garlic.
This quinoa soup is simple, yet well balanced, with an underlying sweetness coming from the quinoa, vegetables, and olive oil, sour from the fresh lemon juice, pungency from the radish and garlic, astringency from the greens, and multiple bitter flavors.
Let's talk about bitter for a moment ...
Joyful About Bitter
The different types of greens and radish in this soup are all a bit bitter—but bitter is just what the season calls for. Bitter can be a little detoxifying, and the warming weather naturally supports this state in the body.
Bitter is an important taste that is generally lacking from our diets because so many people find it unpleasant.
Historically, bitter was an important indicator that a food was potentially poisonous.
However, a lot of medicines are bitter, and the universally enjoyed cup of coffee is bitter.
Have you ever thought about why you crave coffee so much?
Far from something to avoid at all costs, Eastern systems of health recognize the necessity of the bitter taste, as everything plays a role in overall health.
The prevalence of coffee in the West can be seen as a response to the body's yearning for balance.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn to crave greens instead?
For vegetarians, cooked leafy greens are a critical part of a balanced diet. Once you learn how to prepare them, they can be enjoyed in so many ways.
More Recipes With Cooked Greens
Bitter can be overdone though. I have a funny story about how I once took my appreciation for bitter a little too far.
I was in my backyard garden harvesting a bunch of greens, munching as I went. I had never tasted radicchio leaves before, or the purply-colored Asian green I planted as part of a seed mix, so I ate them raw just to see.
The (extremely) bitter taste compounds must have coated my entire mouth and throat, because I developed a serious aversion to it.
I headed into the kitchen to cook my picked greens, yet I couldn't imagine acting eating them. I finally decided to add honey to counteract the bitter, which I almost never do. It worked, and my husband also loved the dish.
Cooking and mixing the greens with the other tastes reduced the prominence of the bitter taste.
This is precisely the power of balance. So don’t let my story dissuade you from trying this quinoa soup recipe.
The greens I suggest you use are not the greens I ate. And I (thought I had) learned my lesson to not munch so many potent raw greens from the garden when I am not used to it!
(Oops! I was out again today munching those chives pictured above. I was trying to figure out whether the cultivated chives or the wild chives tasted better. Answer: wild chives.)
Quinoa Soup With (Not Too) Bitter Greens
For this quinoa soup, you get a whole grain complex carbohydrate (which is naturally sweet) in the quinoa, paired with the greens, which can have a variety of slightly bitter and pungent flavors.
The fresh lemon juice, onions, garlic, zesty fresh herbs, and a good amount of salt, balance out the flavors beautifully. The lemon juice and salt play a dual role of helping the greens to stay … well green.
The red radish makes the dish aesthetically beautiful. It also accords with the season, as radish is one of the earliest producers in gardens.
This soup is a real winner, and it comes together fast. After the initial saute (seen below, top right), you add the water or stock, and bring it to a boil. At this point you add all the rest of the ingredients, and two minutes later it's done.
Dare I call this the perfect spring soup? Give it a try, and see if you agree.
Recipe for Quinoa Soup with Spring Greens and Radish
- ½ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup water, for cooking the quinoa
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 3-4 scallions, sliced on a diagonal, or use shallots or thinly sliced spring onion if you have them (See notes for more info)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 cups water or vegetable broth
- 6 cups (or 3 good handfuls) of greens of your choice , (see notes)
- 4-6 red radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- Himalayan pink salt, to taste
Cook the quinoa and prepare the vegetables
- Place the washed quinoa in a medium saucepan with a cup of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes until quinoa is fully cooked. Remove from heat and set aside until needed.
- Meanwhile, chop and prepare your greens and the other vegetables. For a quick way to prepare leafy greens, chop them up and place in a big bowl of cold water. Swish the greens around with your hands very well, then lift the greens out of the water to keep the dirt in the bottom of the bowl. If the greens are particularly dirty, repeat with fresh water. There is no need to spin the greens as you would with salad lettuce. When you are ready to cook the greens, lift them out of the water directly into the saucepan.
Make the quinoa soup
- When you are ready to make the quinoa soup, heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the scallion or onion, along with the garlic, and sauté until the garlic just starts to brown.
- Add the water or broth and bring to a boil. Add the greens and red radishes, along with the prepared quinoa, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Careful not to overcook the greens. You may not need to simmer at all, or you may need just a couple minutes until the greens are wilted and cooked to your liking. If you like, reserve a few radishes for a raw, crunchy garnish. (I like mine cooked.)
- Turn off the heat and taste. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. Add more lemon if you desire. This soup is better when well salted.