Friday, September 04, 2009

Go Greens!

Look at the beautiful greens in our garden! Funny thing is, I never really thought of greens as beautiful before. We didn't have greens growing in our garden when I was a kid, and I have never had a desire to eat greens. My husband is from the South and LOVES greens and wanted room reserved in our humble garden for those bitter, yucky leaves.

I have since changed my mind and have grown to like them. I still will not eat them cooked, but I have made some lovely salads, and I have tried them on sandwiches and tacos. The kids are still not impressed, so I will do more experimenting or maybe even some disguising.

Cooking greens is pretty simple, but it does take just a little bit of skill and patience. I found this out when I failed miserably the first two tries. The third time was a charm, and they turned out beautiful, and according to my husband, they tasted good too.

I have heard that the darker the green, the better the vegetable is for you, so I did a little research and found that leafy dark greens boast a very impressive nutritional profile!

So here we go. Greens are rich in Vitamins A & C, and are also good sources of calcium, iron, and folic acid. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

Breaking it down a little further, I find specific nutritional information on each green.
  • Collards(we will put in next year) are an excellent source of folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene. They are especially high in calcium.
  • Kale(currently in our garden) is an excellent source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, kale is also a good source of iron, vitamin B6, lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale is sweeter after the first frost, and less bitter when young.
  • Swiss chard(currently in our garden) is an excellent source of vitamin E, a nutrient that is usually only found in high-fat foods. It is also high in potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta-carotene. To preserve its crispness and sweetness, be sure to keep it chilled.
  • Beet Greens(currently in our garden) are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium, beet greens are often more nutritious than beets (with one exception: Beets are higher in folate). They are best for eating when young and tender.
Other greens are Bok Choy, Mustard Greens, and Turnip Greens, and Spinach hold similar nutritional qualities.

Here are some different ways to cook greens:

Quick Boil: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Do not chop the leaves, but submerge them whole into the boiling water. Use a wooden spoon to move them from top to bottom. The leaves will begin to wilt slightly, but the bright green color should still be present. At this point, bring a leaf up with your spoon, tear off a piece, and chew it(I have skipped this part so far). If the flavor is bitter, let them cook more. The greens are just right when chewing a piece releases sweet juices. You will know you cooked them too long if the flavor is lost and the color is gone. The amount of time depends on the maturity of the green and the amount of leaves you're cooking. For something like tender mustard greens, a thirty- to sixty-second dip should suffice. Mature collard greens can take about five minutes. Once you test the green and get a sweet flavor, pour into a colander. Save the water. Many people enjoy drinking the broth because it is so nutritious. You can also use it to water your plants if you wish. Next, run cool water over the greens gently to halt the cooking process. Once they are cool enough to touch gather them into a ball and gently squeeze out the excess water. Chop on the cutting board and they are ready to dress and serve.

Simmer Chopped Greens:
To simmer greens, bring about one inch liquid of choice to simmer in a large skillet. Chop the washed greens into strips. Place the strips in the simmering liquid and keep them moving with a wooden spoon. You are looking for the same results as above, which is a bright green color and a sweet flavor. The difference here is you chopped the greens; therefore, cooking time will be shorter.

Saute: The water will aid in wilting and releasing the bitterness of the greens. Heat olive, or rice bran oil(what I use)in skillet. Add garlic if desired. The garlic will tell you if you have the heat right. The garlic will burn if it is the heat is too hot. Chop the greens you are using into bite-sized pieces. Keep the greens moving in the skillet. Test every minute or so for doneness.

Be creative when dressing your greens. I have used hot curry paste so far, but here are some other condiments you can use: toasted sesame oil, lemon, balsamic vinegar, chipotle sauce, or whatever you prefer. You can even put the greens in soups or rice.

Don't let the greens go to waste in the garden. Freeze them! Here's How:

Blanch for 2-3 minutes in boiling water, cool immediately and drain well. Pack and leave 1/2 inch of head space. 2-3 lbs = 1 pint frozen

So, now you probably know more than you wanted to know about greens. I hope you get the chance to grow and eat these interesting veggies like I have.

Enjoying The Journey,