Authored by Hilary Gebauer, UMN Public Health and Nutrition
So you’ve made it home from the market with a bag full of leafy greens, but now what? They were so irresistible on the farmer’s table, but now they may seem a little mysterious. Don’t let them get limp and mushy in the back of your fridge – there are lots of delicious and easy ways to enjoy fresh greens.
If you’ve got salad greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula, or dandelion greens throw together a salad for a quick and cool summer dinner. Maybe you’ve got some other veggies from the market, like carrots, cucumbers, radishes or peapods, get creative with the toppings! Adding nuts, dried fruit like craisins, grilled tofu, chicken or hardboiled eggs will help make your salad a hearty main dish.
Uses for leafy greens go way beyond salads, and can be almost as quick and easy. Greens go well with a wide variety of flavors. Try stir-frying bok choy, malabar or cabbage with sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Chard and kale are delicious sautéed with a little bit of olive oil, garlic and lemon. And don’t throw away the tops of your beets, turnips and radishes – toss them into omelets, quiches or casseroles instead.
Generally, it’s best to store your greens unwashed and wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of the refrigerator. If you’ve got a salad spinner, go ahead and wash and spin some salad greens for the week, so they’re ready to go for a quick snack or meal. Just store them in the spinner to keep them crisp and fresh.
Summer won’t last forever, so think about freezing some greens to enjoy next winter. Simply wash your greens, blanch them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then immediately rinse them in cold water. Drain and pack them into freezer bags or other airtight containers.
Greens are packed with nutrition and serve up vitamins A and C, some B vitamins, folic acid, calcium and iron. As an added bonus they’re high in dietary fiber and low in calories. Calcium helps keep your bones strong and iron plays an important role in immune functions and energy metabolism. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, and it also helps fight infections. Folate is needed for your body to build important proteins, and Vitamin A is part of reactions that generate new cells. Leafy greens pack quite punch when it comes to nutrition!
Most greens are interchangeable in recipes, but their pungency does vary. Experiment with mixing and matching greens with different flavors to see what you like best. Pretty soon you’ll be a pro at picking out your favorite greens at the market, and the days of sad, unused greens at the back of the fridge will be over.