With the advent of Spring, Farmers Markets, CSA* deliveries, and a plethora of organics in the markets, let’s take a closer look at these superfoods and how to use them and why. The “how” might include what to do with them once purchased, and the “where” prefers organic, please. There is a lot more to greens than lettuce and a lot more to lettuce than iceberg!
LOOK for healthy, dark green, organic, fresh greens you can use in salads, stir fry, steam, add to soups, fillings, or other dishes like lentils, beans, rice, grains, pasta and use within days of purchase.
LOOK at farmers markets or elsewhere for your own delivery of farm fresh goods.*
*(Community Supported Agriculture*e.g.: It’s Organic).
THINK how healthy greens are for keeping your gut clean, adding fiber, keeping your weight down, using as a bed for any other food from beans and peas to tuna and steak. Many are considered cruciferous, which research shows may reduce the risk of various types of cancer and eye disease. Many are high in vitamins A, C, and E; beta-carotene, calcium, iron and fiber.
CLEAN greens by washing thoroughly after purchase and use as soon as possible.
KEEP it by wrapping or storing in bags with paper towels to keep it dry.
REMEMBER that moisture brings bacteria, so change the towels if necessary.
FEAR NOT! Young greens can be used in salads. More mature greens (radish, beet greens, mustard, etc.) can be wilted, steamed, braised, even grilled, and added to soups or side dishes. Buy more to use this way, they lose volume when cooked. If your experience is “too bitter”, try adding lemon juice/zest, garlic powder and brown rice syrup to sweeten it up a bit. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is a lower sodium alternative to soy sauce. Putting them with beans creates a fulfilling entrée, especially soups.
GET CREATIVE! Flavor with olive oil, garlic, chiles, onion, ginger, curry, spices, lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, bacon fat, ham, and more.
GET HEALTHY: The Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Leafy Greens come from vegetables of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae). These vegetables are widely cultivated for food production such as cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts and similar green leaf vegetables. such as kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, brussels sprouts leaves and broccoli — high in nutrients and contain glucosinolates, and indol-3 carbinol, which inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Magnesium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate and tryptophan are also abundant in these greens; these minerals enhance heart health and brain function. Cook these greens separately, or combine them to create a flavorful blend. Add them to soups or casseroles or sauté them with your favorite herbs and seasonings.
ARUGULA: Tender, peppery, try a steak salad, pizza topping or add to pasta sauces.
BABY BOK CHOY: Asian dress with Bragg’s, sesame oil, rice vinegar, use like spinach.
BOK CHOY: Add to stir-fries, soups. Steam, combine with other greens, braise.
BROCCOLI: High in C, A, potassium, folate. Drop florets in pasta during last 4 minutes. Stalk and leaves are also edible, and highly nutritious — the leaves are actually higher in beta carotene than the florets.
BELGIAN ENDIVE: Perfect hors d’oeuvre wrap. Great with blue cheeses, walnuts.
CABBAGE: Fiber, folate, calcium, iron, vitamin K. Versatile leaves can be shredded, rolled, stuffed, added to salads, side dishes, stews, soups, stir-fries.
CHICORY: Related to endive/radicchio. Use in citrus salads with light vinaigrette.
CHINESE CABBAGE: related to broccoli and cabbage. Bright green leaves, mild.
COLLARDS: Traditionally cooked slowly with pork/bacon, or like spinach. Use wide leaves as wrapper vs. tortillas. Similar to kale in nutrition. Rich in Calcium.
CURLY ENDIVE: Cousin to chicory. Mix w/other greens, balsamic, seamed.
DANDELION: Nature’s diuretic, sauté, steam, braise. High in potassium, nourishes urinary tract and liver. Contains vital nutrients and minerals as well as vitamins A, B, C and D. Dandelion has been used for centuries as a primary herb that purifies the blood and flushes toxins out of the body, via the liver and kidneys.
ESCAROLE: Another endive, firm, crunchy. Cook like swiss chard, or wilted, warm.
FRISÉE: Chicory cousin. Mix with other salad greens.
KALE: Cabbage relative. Bitter if stored too long. Remove ribs, sauté, add to stew. Excellent source of vitamins A C, and K, has a good amount of calcium for a vegetable, and also supplies folate and potassium. Kale’s ruffle-edged leaves may range in color from cream to purple to black depending on the variety. Kale is an anti-inflammatory/anti- oxidant cruciferous vegetable, helps mediate 5 different types of cancer risks. Researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale. Best steamed to help mediate cholesterol risks. (http://whfoods.org)
KOHLRABI: Related to cabbage. Cook like turnip. Shred/sauté, top with Parmesan.
MUSTARD GREENS: Peppery, dark leaves, scalloped edges. Flavor w/bacon,onion. Cooked mustard greens have 10 calories in one-half cup. Reduce spiciness with vinegar, or lemon juice toward end of cooking.
RAPINI/BROCCOLI RAAB: Stalks with florets on end. Blanch/sauté.
SWISS CHARD: Rainbow is mildest, braise, steam, add to beans, soups. Perfect for sauteeing. Both Swiss chard and spinach contain oxalates, which are slightly reduced by cooking and can bind to calcium, a concern for people prone to kidney stones. Chard contains 15 calories in one-half cup and is a good source of vitamins A and C.
SPINACH: Raw or cooked. Add to soups, pasta dishes, casseroles, lasagna, eggs, etc. High in A, C, and Folate. Cooked spinach has reduced oxalate content, therefore more nutritious than raw. Packed with magnesium. Spinach and chard are rich in iron, carrying oxygen to the blood.
TURNIP GREENS: Fuzzy leaves, trim from rib, steam, stir fry. Braise with ham/pork. More tender than other greens and needing less cooking, this peppery-flavored leaf is low in calories yet loaded with vitamins A,C, and K as well as calcium.
WATERCRESS: Mustard family. Add to salads, sandwiches, soups. garnish. Helps keep skin cells healthy.
LETTUCES are not just for salads. Create beds for grilled fish, make wraps. Wash, spin dry, cut or tear and store in bowl or bag with paper towels. Mix with other lettuces. The darker, the more nutritious. The least nutritious is iceberg. Keep at the ready to create flavorful farm to table salads filled with fresh vegetables like cucumber, radishes, celery, artichoke hearts or bottoms, steamed/roasted beets, nuts, boiled eggs, onions, jicama, sprouts, apple bits, toasted almonds, orange segments, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds.
BOSTON/BUTTERHEAD/BIBB: Crisp, smooth, slightly sweet, very tender.
ENDIVE: the Curley, Leafy one, or in a tight little bulb they both make great wraps.
ESCAROLE: High in A AND C, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
GREEN LEAF: Ruffled leaves, delicate crunch, more perishable than iceberg.
ICEBERG: Crisp, add to salads, in tacos, lettuce wraps.
RED LEAF: Red-tinged, similar to green leaf.
ROMAINE: Crunch to sandwiches, Caesar salad.
RADICCHIO: Use to add color, crunch, slightly bitter.