Post by Olivia Martino, Registered Dietitian and Co-Owner, Nourish Northwest
I know I may get a huge eye roll for this, but aside from chocolate, I can honestly say that greens are my favorite food (such a typical dietitian comment!). The more bitter the better in my eyes but I love them all, from arugula to turnip greens to bok choy. Not only do I love the taste and the versatility of this broad category of vegetables but they are a nutritional powerhouse, full of calcium, iron, folic acid, Vitamin C, and a plethora of antioxidants. They are also the type of food that I would call nourishing; they have an immediate effect of making me feel healthier and like I am doing something really good for my body as I am eating them. Here are a few of my favorite greens, along with some basic prep info and a recipe for each. Kale didn’t make this list, not because it doesn’t deserve to be there, but because I find that many people are already familiar with it. I wanted to introduce you to some new greens that you may not have worked with. Trying 1 new green per week can be a great healthy goal, setting the stage for bigger lifestyle changes and broadening your healthy recipe repertoire.
Mustard greens are the new kale in my household. I used to make sure I always had at least 2 bunches of kale on hand so that I could add a handful to any recipe I was making. Mustard greens have now replaced 1 of those bunches and add a nice peppery, zing that kale is just plain lacking. My favorite method of preparation is a quick saute with olive oil, salt and pepper. These greens are so flavorful that I don’t think they needed anything else. Top the saute with an egg for a healthy breakfast. Or add to a soup, such as this Korean Chicken Stew.
Selection: Chose a bunch that has bright green leaves that are not wilty.
Storage: Store in an airtight container or vegetable drawer. Use within 4 days.
Preparation: Wash by plunging into a bowl of cold water or using a salad spinner. Strip leaves from the stalks. Discard stalks and chop greens. I do this immediately when I buy a bunch and then store in my salad spinner or a large plastic bag, so they are ready to add to recipes throughout the week.
I absolutely love the bitterness of this green, although it can be a little much for some people. I think it’s my Italian roots. Because of it’s pungent nature, it’s not a very versatile green. I usually eat it by itself, sauteed with garlic and squirted with lemon juice. It also works well added to pasta dishes but can take over in soups.
Selection: Chose bunches that are vibrant green, with not too many yellow flowers.
Storage: Store in the vegetable cripser and use within 3-4 days.
Preparation: Chop off about an inch of the stalks and discard. Then chop the rest into bits size pieces and plunge into cold water and drain, or use a salad spinner. I almost always blanch rabe to off-set some of the bitterness before proceeding with any recipe. To blanch, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rabe and cook for 1 minute. Then transfer to an ice-bath to cool.
Beet greens/Turnip Greens
I lump these together because they have one thing in common, which is that they are often thrown away, while their roots are given all the attention. Both of these tops are delicate in nature and with a quick sautee, can pair nicely with their roasted bases.
Selection: Make sure to chose beets and turnips that still have their greens attached. Turnip greens can be a little harder to find and are often only kept on the baby turnip variety. Greens should not be yellowed or wilted.
Storage: Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Preparation: Chop stalks away from root. Discard very tough stems. Wash greens well, they can be very gritty. Both types of greens will cook very quickly. Sautee stems first to soften and then add greens, stirring until wilted.
Chard is a much more milder tasting green that the first few on the list, which makes it a good gateway into the darker varieties. Both leaf and stalk can be used and are great on their own, added to soups or as wraps. Not to be redundant here, but my favorite way to eat chard is to saute with olive oil and red pepper flakes and sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.
Selection: Chard is found with rainbow, red or light green stems. Chose vibrant looking bunches that have few holes.
Storage: Store in a plastic bag or vegetable crisper and use within 3-5 days.
Preparation: Chop an inch off the bottom of the stem and discard. Then separate stalks from leaves. Plunge both into a large cold water bath or salad spinner. Then remove leaves from stems either by running a knife close to the stem or stripping by hand. Chop stems into 1/2 inch pieces and leaves into bite-sized chunks. If using both, start sauteeing the stems first until they soften, then add greens.
Collard greens are used often in the south, cooked with a ham hock. When I lived in Kentucky, my clients would laugh at me when I suggested preparing them any other way. While it may not be traditional, collards can be used raw in salads, sauteed as a side or as a wrap for veggies and/or meat.
Selection: Collard leaves can range from small to extremely large. Large leaves are great for using as wraps, while the smaller ones are more manageable and easier to handle for other purposes.
Storage: Store in an airtight container or vegetable cripser. Use within 3-5 days.
Preparation: Detach leaves from stem by folding in half over the stem and slicing with a knife of pulling apart with your hands. Discard stems. If using in salads or soups, stack leaves and roll into a tight cigar shape. Slice crosswise in thin strips.
References: I obtained a lot of the information from this post from one of my favorite cookbooks, Greens, Glorious Greens.