I know Gwyneth raves about them, but don’t let that put you off! Dark leafy greens are the most missing ingredient in the western diet. Many people turn to spinach and lettuce for their leafy greens, but tend to be a little intimidated by the more robust greens like kale, collard & chard (silverbeet). Unlike the more delicately flavoured smaller-sized salad greens, the more hardy kales, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards & chards have the reputation of being a bit tough, bitter and pungent – especially when eaten raw. This blog is for those of you who need some green inspiration!
Apart from being delicious when used properly (tips below), they contain great amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folic acid, and fibre. They’re also packed full of beneficial phytonutrients – disease fighting, immune boosting beauties. Some phytonutrients help our cells communicate better with each other, others help prevent mutations at a cellular level, some are anti-inflammatory, others are potent antioxidants and many have functions we are only beginning to understand. What we do know is they help prevent cancer, heart disease and most chronic diseases in general, are anti-aging, boost the immune system and generally promote health. Have a giggle at this “Chard and Silverbeet”s vitamin K levels are almost shocking in their excess. If vitamin K was money and silverbeet was a young heiress, then silverbeet would be spiraling in a drug-soaked, never-ending socialite party all the way to rehab, and possible eventual salvation through buddhism.” Source: Very Edible Gardens
TYPES OF GREENS
There are lots and lots of greens to experiment with, but for this post we’ve focused on Beet Greens, Collard Greens, Dandelion Greens, Kale, Lacinato Kale (a.k.a. Dino Kale), Mustard Greens, Pea Greens, Rainbow Chard, Red Chard, Red Mustard Greens, Russian Kale, Spinach, Sweet Potato Greens, Swiss Chard, Turnip Greens & Kohlrabi Greens
BUYING, WASHING & STORING
Greens are a good vegetable to buy organic, as their pesticide residue is high. A great way to wash out any dirt and little critters is by submerging and agitating them in a clean sink of water. Dry them with a spinner if you have one, or with a clean tea towel. Store in the fridge wrapped up. Or you can freeze the leaves (torn up) to put in smoothies.
WHAT TO DO WITH GREENS
Smoothies: A great simple way to incorporate more greens in my family’s diet, especially for the kids, is by adding greens to smoothies. And there are thousands of great recipes for juices out there that are not to sweet, but not too bitter by the addition of greens.
Salads: If you go throwing kale in place of your iceberg lettuce, you may very well never touch kale again! Spinach and Chard are milder in flavour, but kale, once you work out how to use it, is absolutely delicious. A top tip is to give your kale a nice massage. This tip can transform tough bitter leaves into something velvety and soft. The secret is in the massaging/squeezing. Use olive oil and salt as well. By doing so you actually start to break down the cell walls, releasing enzymes that split apart the bitter-tasting compounds. You’ll notice a visible change as you do this; the leaves will darken, shrink in size and become silky in texture. Another tip is to use dressings that are thick and flavourful that will coat and add substance to the tougher greens.
Greens don’t like being over cooked. They’ll then become greys – and are not nearly as appetising! They’ll also lose their flavour. Chard (silverbeet), spinach and the leafy part of bok choy only need to warm through to wilt, but the more hardy greens like collards and kale usually take a little longer. But keep an eye on them – they still don’t take long. You’ll also need more than what you think. They cook down A LOT!
Sauté: This is a super tasty way to saute kale. From a big bunch, tear the leaves off the stalk, then tear a little more. Add some olive oil, cook some garlic (or ginger), once soft, add the kale – along with 1/2 cup stock or water. Toss the greens to coat. Cover and cook for 5 – 7 minutes. Remove lid, and stir occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. Usually 1 – 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, add a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
Stirfry, soup, curry, risottos, stew or pasta: Just add them near the end so they don’t overcook and ruin your flavours. When they’re vibrant green, they look gorgeous. This a great way to get greens into the kids. If you’re stuck for time, cook pasta and a tomato-based sauce, and finely chop whatever greens you have in the fridge. Add it at the end. Try this dish (pictured right). With these robust flavours, it’s guaranteed to be amazing – kale, anchovies, capers, garlic, chilli flakes & lemon juice. Find it here.
Frittatas & meatballs/rissoles: Another great way to green up the kids. Just chop and throw in. Looks great, tastes great, and has so much goodness.