Written by Emily Whitmore, Seacoast Eat Local Intern
Greens are a group of vegetables that often go overlooked and aren’t given the credit they deserve. Greens can dress up any meal with their vibrant color, enticing flavor and vast amount of nutrients!
Whether it’s mustard greens, turnip greens, chard or kale, greens are a nutrient-dense food that contains many properties associated with a healthy diet. All greens are fat free, low in calories and high in fiber; so they aid in regulating the digestive system. Another beneficial property is that they have a low glycemic index. This means that greens control blood sugar and insulin more efficiently, which is important in the prevention of heart disease. Leafy greens not only aid in prevention of heart disease, but they also may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods because they contain many antioxidants. Aside from these benefits, here are a list of just a few vitamins and minerals that may also be found in greens:
One B vitamin in particular that is found in some greens (especially dark leafy greens) and cannot be forgotten is folate. Folate is important in the prevention of anemia and also promotes tissue growth and cell function. Getting sufficient folate into the diet is especially critical for women of childbearing age in order to prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid (a manmade form of folate); however among the highest natural sources of folate include spinach and romaine lettuce, so eat up!
Greens are typically very perishable. When storing, they should be wrapped in a paper towel to pick up excess moisture and then refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag or container. Always remember to wash your greens before they are to be eaten or cooked. Simply running them under cold water or soaking them in a bowl of water to remove sand or dirt will do.
And lastly, the best part about greens is their versatility! The multitude of varieties allow for greens to be enjoyed in many different ways and added to almost any meal. Of course there are salad greens, such as spinach, romaine and arugula that always play the lead role in mixed salads. However, greens with tougher leaves such as collard greens, bok choy or kale can also be incorporated into soups, stir-fries or even baked into chips! Another way to enjoy greens is to add them to sandwiches or wraps (or used as the wrap itself), which will increase the meal’s overall nutritional content, flavor and texture. Steaming is also a great way to prepare greens because this method helps to retain valuable nutrients. Something to be aware of is how considerably greens cook down from their original volume. For example, 1 pound of raw kale results in about 2.5 cups of cooked kale. Be sure to keep this in mind especially when making large recipes.
Other ways to incorporate greens into your daily diet:
-Throw a cup of greens into your morning smoothie
-Add spinach or kale to quesadillas or burritos
-Use steamed collard greens or swiss chard as a wrap for chicken salad or other sandwich fillings
-Top your eggs or omelette with micro-greens
-Replace processed chips with kale chips
-Blend greens and freeze in ice cube trays, making it an easy addition to smoothies or soups when ever you need them. Blend greens with anything from green tea, coconut milk or chicken stock.
There is a plethora of greens available at the farmers’ market, including spinach, bok choy, cabbage, kale, chard and much more! Just some of the farms where you can find greens include White Cedar Farm, Riverside Farm, The HERB FARMacy and Heron Pond – Get to the last winter market this Saturday and stock up!