Dark leafy greens are in need of a public relations campaign. Kale, the poster child for leafy greens, has become a source of jokes all over social media. We’re all just pretending to like kale, right?
Routt County CSU Extension
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Leafy greens deserve your respect and a place on your plate. Beyond the often-maligned kale, dark leafy greens can also include, bok choy, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, broccoli rabe, mustard, turnip and beet greens, to name a few. Not only are these hardy greens economical and versatile, they are a rich, vitamin-packed source of fiber. Using the greens from your beets and turnips will also reduce the amount of food waste you generate.
The challenge for many of us is that we do not know how to properly prepare dark leafy greens. They can be delicious, but there are a few tricks you should know for the best results. Some improperly prepared greens can taste bitter, and others become mushy when overcooked.
Experiment with different types of greens. Take a chance the next time you are shopping, and buy a bunch of whatever greens look freshest. Take them home and experiment with new preparation techniques. You don’t need to know the difference between Dinosaur and curly kale to enjoy greens; in most recipes, the types of greens you can use are interchangeable. Try different recipes, such as stir-fried Bok Choy and braised greens. Eventually, you will discover your favorite recipes and begin to eat them more often.
Clean the greens before you cook them. The tough leaves of most greens can hold a lot of sand and grit. Grip the base of the stem, and rub each leaf under running water to wash away the dirt. Next, strip away the leaves from the thick stems, and save the stem for another use.
Remove the bitter taste by briefly blanching the greens. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then drop the leaves in the hot water for one to two minutes. When the leaves soften and become bright green, dunk them in a bowl of ice water (or cool them under cold running water) to stop the cooking process.
Add some flavor to your greens. Flavorful ingredients such as vinegar, onion and garlic make great additions to cooked greens. A shake of Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of red pepper flakes or a sprinkle of grated ginger can give your greens a whole new taste.
Use your greens in all types of dishes. Sauté’ the greens with a little onion and olive oil, and then use them as a bed for your chicken or fish entrée. Throw chopped greens into soup during the last stage of cooking. Insert a layer of steamed greens into your lasagna, add it to casseroles or use it as a pizza topping. There is no end to the places your greens can go.
It’s time to stop making fun of kale and start discovering the amazing benefits of including leafy greens in your diet.
Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. For more information, call 970-879-0825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her personal food blog at lifeintheboat.com.