If you stroll through any area farmers market, you’ll see signs announcing leafy greens you might never have heard of: Tuscan black kale, mizuna, komatsuna, mustard greens, turnip greens, even bok choy. The odd names and odd look of these greens put some people off, but don’t let them deter you!
Greens come in just about every flavor, from sweet and mild (choy, chard, lettuce) to earthy and peppery (arugula, mizuna, cress), but all are amazingly delicious and nutritious. If you need more reasons to give them a try, here are my top five:
Top Five Reasons to Eat Your Greens
5 – Nutrition Powerhouse. Greens are rich in essential vitamins, vital minerals, cancer-fighting phyto-chemicals, and overall food value. The highest nutrition bang for your buck are greens in the Brassica family, such as kale, cabbage, collards, arugula, mustard greens, turnip greens, and all the chois.
4 – Calcium. Greens are high in calcium, which helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, and prevents osteoporosis. One serving of turnip greens has three times as much calcium as a glass of milk, so if you’re going vegan or dairy-free, go green!
3 – Fat-free and Guilt-free. Greens are fat-free and naturally low in calories. Unlike manufactured no-cal or low-cal drinks or foods, they leave you satisfied because of all the nutrients and fiber they provide. But because many of the vitamins greens contain are fat-soluble, you should cook them in butter or olive oil to absorb all their goodness.
2 – In-season all season. Greens of one sort or another are are in-season all year long, grown outdoors or in hoophouses!
1 – Greens are delicious! Considering the huge variety of greens that local farmers are now growing, you’re sure to find ones that suit your taste buds.
Quick and Easy Sauteed Any Green
When someone asks me what to do with an unusual leafy green, I invariably answer, “Sautee with a little garlic or onion.” It really is that simple–and delicious. And it works for any kind of green-from spinach to collards to wrinkled, crinkled, crumpled cress.
Be sure to use the stems from your greens as well as the leaves–if they’re from a local farmer they will almost always be as tender as the greens. Add them to the pan first and cook for a few minutes before adding the leaves.
1 bunch of any green (about a pound)
2 garlic cloves or 1 small onion or shallot
2 Tb olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the greens and chop them roughly.
- Peel and chop the garlic, onion, or shallot.
- Put the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, add the onion or garlic, and cook until just soft, not browned.
- Add the greens and salt and pepper, cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn bright green and begin to soften. This will take from about 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the green, so keep watching and tasting.
- When done, transfer your greens to a serving plate or bowl. If you want to get fancy, dress up your greens by tossing with pine nuts or raisins, adding a few drops of hot sauce, or grating some cheese on top before serving. You can also garnish with the flowers of your late season greens!
Seasonal Cook’s Notes: If you have leftovers, put them on a piece of bread with a little cheese on top, and put in the toaster oven for a quick and healthy snack.
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Article by Terra Brockman; photo by Cara Cummings.