Disgusting. Vile. Who would ever willingly drink that stuff?
I'm not proud to admit it, but these were my thoughts about "green juice." Perhaps you've seen people around town sipping a cup full of what looks like toxic green sludge. What they're actually drinking is liquefied vegetables -- usually things like kale, cucumbers, spinach, carrots and the like with all the fiber taken out.
For years, I've wondered why anyone would choose to drink something that looks like nuclear waste when they could have something much more delicious, like an orange-apple-strawberry juice or a gin-and-tonic.
But since it is a new year (in which I once again vow to eat healthier), I decided to take one for the team and find out what the real story is behind green juice. Is it really an amazing miracle drink or just something that one crazy yoga mom did and then others started to follow?
I started my research at The Stand in Fairfield (the flagship store is in Norwalk). Scanning the menu, I kept looking at the smoothies that seemed appealing (strawberry, banana, mango or raspberry, blueberry, agave), but then I forced myself back to the juice section.
When it came time to order, I admitted to owner Carissa Hvizdo that I'd never had a green juice before.
"Well, sister, let's get started," she said.
She began tossing all sorts of fruits and vegetables into the juicer and produced three glasses of varying greenness. The first one, The Freshie, was a pale yellow-green and consisted of cucumbers, apples and lemons.
"These are good training wheels," Hvizdo said, and she was right, as the juice was light, herby, sweet and tangy.
The second glass, called The Stand, was definitely greener and consisted of kale, cucumber, celery and apple.
"This is the juice that everyone should drink every day," Hvizdo said.
This was more along the lines of what I feared -- dark green and earthy. However, to be honest, it was actually quite palatable.
(Of course, here's the disclaimer: I generally love leafy greens, so this wasn't a huge leap for me to take. However, if you're the type that considers onion rings to be a serving of vegetables, this might be a bit extreme.)
The last one, however, was the money melon of the bunch.
"This is called The Nasty," Hvizdo said. "It tastes like hell, but it'll get rid of anything -- a hangover, a cold, the flu. It's a great pick-me-up."
And so I took a sip of the juice made from kale, collard greens, cucumbers, celery, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper. Well, she was right. It certainly did taste like hell, but in a very healthful -- dare I even say, addicting? -- way. It was dirty and spicy and grassy, and made me feel like I could conquer the world. (Or at least my breath could.)
At Kaia Cafe in Westport, juices range from green (kale, parsley, celery and cucumber) to extreme (like the Heart Chakra Boost which blends purple cabbage, red apple, celery, spinach and ginger).
"A lot of people add apple, lemon or ginger to their juice to give it some sweetness," Gena Kadar said. "The Karma (kale, spinach, parsley, pineapple and cucumber) is popular because the pineapple gives it body and a hint of sweetness."
Kadar said that for people who are new to juices, one of their smoothies might be a good starting place. Fruits and vegetables are combined with coconut water or different kinds of milk.
"If you close your eyes, you wouldn't even know it was green," Kadar said.
She prefers adding a boost of spirulina (a type of blue-green algae) to her juice.
"It gives a little pick-me-up," she said, "but there's no crash afterward, like with caffeine."
Both The Stand and Kaia Cafe offer juice cleanses, where you can get anywhere from a day's worth of liquid vegetables to a week-long juice adventure.
After several days spent sampling different types of green juices, I have to honestly say that I get the appeal. There's something about drinking a salad that feels healthy and energizing, and we can all use that during this flu season.
Just be sure to have a few breath mints on hand afterward.
Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaia Cafe, 1200 Post Road East, Westport, 203-532-0660, www.kaiayoga.com
The Stand, 87 Mill Plain Road, Fairfield, 203-873-0414; and 31 Wall St., Norwalk, 203-956-5670, www.thestandjuice.com
Robeks, 2061 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield, 203-923-8800; 1983 Post Road, Fairfield, 203-256-0503; 398 Post Road East, Westport, 203-221-0303; and 404 Westport Ave., Norwalk, 203-642-4787, www.robeks.com