When Martha Stewart was doing hard time, there were reports that she voluntarily pulled up weeds outside in the prison yard each day. Was she just trying to get out early for good behavior? Not quite. Martha was actually taking an unconventional approach to good nutrition. She would harvest the leaves of dandelions, wash them, and then eat the nutritionally-dense greens as a side dish to balance out her bland prison fare.|
Martha couldn’t have picked a better side dish, from a nutritional standpoint. Foraging for foliage provided her with a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, and magnesium. Besides these vitamins and minerals, dandelion greens also contain Lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Fiber and potassium are also abundant in the greens.
But don’t worry—you don’t have to become a weed eater to enjoy the benefits of greens. There are lots of nutritious choices of greens that you can pick up at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. You could try collard, turnip, broccoli rabe, or mustard greens—all of which, like dandelion greens, are strong-flavored and slightly bitter. Or you could enjoy popular greens like spinach, chard, beet greens, and bok choy, which are mild and tender. And then there’s kale, which lies somewhere in the middle of the flavor spectrum.
When purchasing or harvesting greens, look for leaves that are perky, lively, and deeply-colored. Generally, small leaves will be mild, sweet, and tender compared to larger leaves. Stay away from greens that are wilted, yellowed, or spotted—these will certainly be bitter, even when cooked. When you bring your greens home, store them inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use them within a few days.
Greens are versatile when it comes to cooking. You can heat them as a side dish, add them to soups, chop them to fill calzones or lasagna, and eat them raw in salads. Although greens can be delicious when they're properly prepared, most people who don't know how to do that, and wind up with a slimy, wilted pile of vegetable mush on their plates.
So here's a quick introduction to cooking and enjoying some of the most common greens, featuring recipes from our sister site, www.SparkRecipes.com:
Most people have tried spinach at least a few times. This green is very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked. When eating raw spinach, be sure to choose leaves that look dry, not slimy, and wash the leaves thoroughly. Toss a handful into your salad to boost its nutritional content, or put the leaves inside a wrap with cheese, tomatoes, grated carrots, romaine lettuce and Caesar dressing. You can also sauté fresh spinach with olive oil over medium heat until wilted, adding salt and pepper to taste. Frozen spinach can be added to lasagna, pasta sauce, soups or egg dishes (like omelets or frittatas). Skip the canned spinach, unless you’re going for slimy and flavorless cuisine. Try these spinach recipes:
There are two types of chard, green and red, which are distinguished by the color of their stalks. Sometimes you’ll find them packaged together and marketed as “rainbow" chard. Look for hearty, perky, crinkled, dark-green leaves, attached to upright stalks. If the stalks are large, they should be cooked separately from the leaves, which cook much more quickly. Try cutting the stalks into 3-inch lengths and sautéing in olive oil until almost tender, adding salt and pepper to taste. Just as the stalks are almost done, add the leaves (sliced or torn) to the pan and cook just a few minutes more, until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are tender. Try these recipes that contain Swiss chard: Continued ›