Leafy greens are my favorite type of veggies, and it's my personal mission to share this green love with everyone! Greens like collards and kale have a bit of a nasty reputation as being bitter or tough. And this can sometimes be true: if the plant is not healthy, if it is old, or grown under less-than-ideal conditions, the greens will suffer. The leaves will become a bit limp, change to a dull green and yellow, and those sulfurous compounds become really active (and this is not pleasant). However, fresh, healthy greens from the farmer's market or the natural foods store should be soft and tender (the leaves will often squeak when they handled). And that toughness and bitterness? In fresh greens it is virtually non-existent. Especially at this time of year when the weather begins to cool, these green leafies become a bit sweeter!
Here are some helpful tips to make the most from your greens!
- Learn to cook them well: Big leaves like chard (left in image), kale (center), collards (right) and broccoli leaves (if you are so lucky!) are quickly softened with a massage, some acids, or heat to create a delicate and wholesome component to your meal. Kales are best raw or in smoothies, or massaged with some lemon juice for a simple kale salad. Try mixing your favorite dressings, beans, and even cooked veggies for a wide variety of kale salad awesomeness. Chard, collards and broccoli leaves are best cooked slightly. Try adding greens at the very end or a stir-fry, curry or pasta sauce for a burst of green goodness. Cook for just a minute to wilt, and then enjoy while still warm! If you are using baby greens or lighter greens (think spinach, baby Swiss chard, or baby kales) you can eat raw or lightly cook (really lightly, like thirty seconds!) for the best flavor and nutrient retention.
- Help your Greens bounce back from 'shock:' When you get home from the market or the store, give all your greens a cool-water bath in the sink. Then stick them into a bowl or jar and cover the stem ends with water (just like you would for cut flowers). This allows the greens to cool down, absorb some of the water they might have lost since the field, and ensures a much longer life in your fridge.
- Prepare your greens ahead of time. Coming home to a fridge full of prepared greens (and other veggies too!) can help make meal prep much easier and so much less stressful! To prepare, tear all the stems off your kale and collards. You can then slice the leaves thinly and store in airtight containers for up to a week. Cabbage and other veggies can also be sliced, diced or chopped ahead of time. While there might be minimal nutrition lost due to oxidation, the majority will still be there when you get to them later in the week– and if it encourages you to eat more veggies, then I say go for it!
- Try to include greens at least once each day for the best health: Leafy greens contain a wealth of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and other good stuff that our bodies need. Their sulfurous compounds are ready to fight off oxidation and even help us fight cancer. Leafy greens are one of the healthiest things we can put in our bodies! Try blending into green smoothies, using leafy greens instead of lettuce on your veggie burger or sandwiches, sneaking into pasta, curries or other sauces, and adding a handful to a regular salad to amp up the nutrition.
Greens image from MicroFarms.