For our second “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series installment, we’ll be addressing the nutritional powerhouse, dark, leafy greens. All the basics are below, including nutrition and variety info, how to select, store and prepare, and links to several recipes. Be sure to share any of your greens questions, comments and recipes below, in the comments!
Nutrition: Exact nutritional values depend on the variety, but generally, one cup of cooked, dark, leafy greens contains 35-50 calories, 1g fat, 3-7g carbohydrates, 3-5g fiber, 7g sugar and 2g protein. Dark greens are a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Protein and Vitamin E, and a very good source of Calcium, Copper, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Riboflavin and Vitamins A, B6, C and K. The combination of Vitamins A, C and E make greens an antioxidant superfood.
Common varieties: Beet greens, collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip greens.
Selecting: Your greens should have firm leaves that are uniform in color with no signs of yellowing, and sturdy, un-cracked stems. Greens cook down substantially; depending on the variety, expect to lose a quarter or more of the volume with which you started. An approximate formula to remember is, 1 lb. raw greens = 1-2 cups of cooked greens.
Storing: Greens should be kept unwashed, uncut and dry (or almost dry) in an airtight container or tightly sealed bag (push air out). We’ve found the size large Tupperware FridgeSmart container (www.tupperware.com/pls/htprod_www/!tw$shop.p_category?pv_ic_code=25000) an excellent option for storing dark, leafy greens. Not only does it accommodate the big, broad leaves, but also, as with all FridgeSmart containers, you can adjust for proper ventilation and moisture, and the built-in grid keeps produce away from condensation.
Preparing: Wash your greens by placing them in a large bowl, pot, bucket or sink filled with water, and swish them around, allowing the dirt and sand to sink to the bottom. You may have to repeat this process.
Because greens are so versatile and plentiful, adding them to your daily diet really is a cinch. Simply start by choosing one and experimenting. Although kale and collards offer the most nutrition, you may find Swiss chard or spinach an easier place to start. Just pick the least intimidating and agree to enjoy the process – have fun!
When cooking greens, we love the advice given in the cookbook, Greens, Glorious Greens!, to take a “global view” of cooking them, which we’ve paraphrased here:
Tender greens such as spinach, chard and beet greens can be directly sautéed with garlic and oil or with just a bit of water. Strong-flavored greens, such as kale, collards, and turnip and mustard greens, are more assertive, and generally too tough to be wilted in a skillet. They are best cooked briefly in shallow boiling water to reduce bitterness and increase tenderness, and then drained and sautéed.
You should also avoid steaming greens, which adds bitterness and chewiness and removes their vibrant color.
Flavor dark, leafy greens as you do more common greens: You wouldn’t eat a plain, undressed, unseasoned spring mix salad, would you? All greens need a little accompaniment in the flavor and texture departments. Try sautéing with shallots, onion, leeks or garlic. Experiment with different oils such as olive, sesame or walnut. Add nuts and seeds; sesame seeds, walnuts and pine nuts go great with greens. Adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar compliments greens, as does adding dairy like Parmesan or feta cheese.
Greens are also the perfect food to add into your existing favorite recipes. They’re a secret weapon in the kitchen, able to add nutrients to just about any meal. After prepping them, you can chop them up and add them to all kinds of dishes; spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, sloppy joe mix, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, omelets and quiches… the possibilities are endless! They also make a great addition to your favorite soup or stew.
We all know that spinach can be eaten raw, but so too can the others. Massaging kale with oil produces a delicious, tender salad, and chopped collards make a yummy addition to grain salads. Swiss chard makes a great substitution for celery in tuna fish salad. Green smoothies made with raw kale, collards and/or spinach are an excellent and efficient way to get in your daily dose of dark greens.
Remember to have fun with adding greens to your diet. Be open to experimenting with the huge variety of flavors, and remember to always ask yourself when prepping a favorite meal: “Can I add a green to this?”
- Wilted Greens with Warm Balsamic Vinegar: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-recipes/RE00004
- Kale Pomegranate Quinoa Pilaf: http://ezinearticles.com/?Kale—Pomegranate-Quinoa-Pilaf&id=4203072
- Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=10674.0
- Chicken Stew with Kale and Cannellini Beans: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/healthy/recipe-chicken-soup-with-kale-and-cannellini-beans-131067
- Swiss Chard Tuna Salad: http://www.farmgirlfare.com/2008/06/more-fast-farm-food-healthy-swiss-chard.html
- 3-Minute Swiss Chard: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=100
- Quinoa Salad with Squash and Collard Greens: http://blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/2010/10/14/simple-nutritious-satisfying-quinoa-salad-with-squash-and-collard-greens/
- Spicy Collard Greens: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1416
- Balsamic-Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2009/07/balsamic-glazed-chickpeas-and-mustard.html
- Wilted Mustard Greens: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Wilted-Mustard-Greens-109100
- Gina’s Turnip Greens: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/neelys/ginas-turnip-greens-recipe/index.html
- Turnip Green Tart: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/turnip-green-tart-recipe.html
If you have any dark, leafy greens tips, recipes, comments or questions to share, please do! Simply comment below.
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