I often affectionately refer to the spring growing season as “salad days”. Leafy greens absolutely love the moderate temperatures and sometimes seem to grow several inches in just one day.
Whether you shop at your local grocer, the farmer’s market, or (like me) have a membership in a local CSA, right now you’ll find a bounty of greens at terrific prices – lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, mixed baby lettuces, and more!
This post is sponsored by Garden Spot Vegetable Farm. Located in Princeville, Illinois, owner, Jim Buckley and his family, cultivate 34 acres of vegetables and 375 fruit trees. Garden Spot is a no-spray farm, offering a variety of CSA packages. Check their Facebook page for current programs and options for available produce.
Greens come in a great variety with each giving us a different set of nutrients and micronutrients.
It seems to make perfect sense that greens are generally green. Yet, sometimes other colors also do make an appearance.
The green color tells you that that greens boast high chlorophyl levels, which helps detoxify your blood and protect against cancers.
Although each has a slightly different nutritional profile, all greens are heart healthy, boosting nitric oxide levels, relaxing blood vessels, and lowering blood pressure.
Finally, the fiber content of greens is helpful for digestion, eliminating waste smoothly and increasing good gut bacteria.
I’m hoping once you are armed with some ideas, advice, and information, you’ll embrace a love of leafy greens!
WARNING!! Leafy greens contain some of the highest concentrations of Vitamin K on the planet. This vitamin is vital to bone health and blood clotting. But, if you are on blood thinners, you must be VERY careful to measure your vitamin K consumption each day. Check with your health practitioner if you are on blood thinners and ask about how to safely consume leafy greens.
- Rich in lutein, which supports eye health and helps prevent glaucoma.
- Is a source of prebiotic nutrients when paired with lentils.
- Provides excellent cardiovascular support, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
- An excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C.
*NOTE: Kale is best when “massaged”. That’s right. Cut the kale into small pieces, drizzle on some dressing, then grab it with your bare hands and massage for a few minutes until the kale softens. Do make sure your hands are clean first. I believe God gave us two hands as kitchen tools. ✋
Stripping the kale
Large kale leaves cannot be used until the tough center stalk is removed. This is called stripping the kale. Wash the kale, first. Then, simply squeeze the middle of the kale (where the leaf is attached to the stem). Finally, grasp the leaf at the thin end of the stem and firmly run your hand backwards along the kale. It will easily separate the stem from the leaf.
You may keep the stems in the freezer for later use in making cheap and easy veggie broth or simply throw it in your compost pile.
This salad is not only pretty on the plate, it’s also really easy to prepare. The recipe emphasizes the importance of massaging the kale.
I vividly remember my father adding a healthy splash of vinegar to all cooked greens. Apparently, this is a Southern tradition and it’s absolutely delicious. This recipe has just three ingredients: kale, onions, and vinegar. Perfection!
One cup of cooked spinach contains:
- Vitamin K – nearly 1000%
- Vitamin A – Just over 100%
- Manganese – Nearly 75%
- Folate – Two-thirds (66%)
- Iron – One-third (36%)
* NOTE: Spinach can certainly be consumed raw or cooked and is very versatile. My family eats it every week in our salads. If you’d like to cook it, for best results and the least loss of nutrients, lightly steam spinach. I tell my boys that when it turns bright green, it’s done. It should be tender, without being mushy.
I don’t know who Jamie is, but she makes a terrific salad! This comes from Allrecipes, one of my favorite e-locations for finding perfect recipes made by real cooks. This spinach salad has over 3600, 5-star ratings! And with good reason! It tastes amazing!
I honestly, generally like sturdy greens cooked and prefer tender ones raw. However, this Middle Eastern inspired recipe is an exception. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my father throwing a splash of vinegar over his cooked spinach. This dressing starts with a base of red wine vinegar and then adds a delicious combination of tahini and a few well-selected herbs and spices. Don’t overcook the spinach or it will be slimy.
- low in calories
- high water content. (We don’t think of our food as contributing to our body’s need for water. But, it does!)
- trace their first cultivation back 4500 years to the Egyptians
- red lettuces can help prevent restless leg syndrome, because it adds iron to your diet
- romaine has the perfect balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids: a 2 to 1 ratio.
- help with insomia! The white liquid you see when you break the leaves open is lactucarium. It helps the body rest and promotes better sleep.
- All lettuces have a low glycemic index. This number (from 1-100) indicates the effect of that food on blood sugar levels. The lower the value, the lesser the impact of that food on your glycemic load. To lose weight, load up on foods low on the GI scale, like lettuce!
*NOTE: To maximize the health benefits of lettuce, combine different textures, colors, and varieties.
Romaine Lettuce with Orange Hummus Dressing
- has a sharp, peppery flavor, reminiscent of mustard greens
- has a distinct oak leaf like shape
- is called “rocket” across the pond in England
- is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family
- is related to radishes, kale, and cauliflower
- high in vitamin K
Arugula’s spicy taste is prized in European cooking. If you have a store-bought crust or Naan bread, you can put a pizza together in just minutes.
The original recipe calls for raddicchio. I subbed arugula and it was divine!
Tatsoi is an earthy Chinese green. It shares its heritage with the likes of bok choy, pak choi, and napa cabbage. In its raw form, the stalks are the consistency of celery and the leaves have the mouth-feel of raw spinach and a flavor similar to mustard greens with nutty notes. In fact, the common name of this plant is spinach mustard. Like most of its counterparts, tatsoi is a green with a tasty bite of flavor, which mellows to more of a spinach flavor when cooked.
It is high in vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and potassium. It grows rapidly and will grow more shoots if not cut off all the way to the root at harvest-time. You can have several harvests of new greens throughout the growing season. It thrives on rather warm days and cool nights.