written by Michelle Kish
If you haven’t noticed, it’s been quite cold out lately in South Texas. With a barrage of freezes hitting the area, you can count on one thing for sure: your Farmers Markets will have greens. From light frost hardiness to surviving the deepest freeze, greens are the winners. And as a bonus, freezes sweeten the taste of plants. If you are ever worried about bitterness, post-frost is your time to shop some greens!
Most people already know what to do with lettuce and spinach, but what about all those other beautiful winter greens you see in bushels and bags calling your name? You’ll be surprised how versatile and how good for you they all are. In general, hard greens are high in fiber, low in calories and contain a range of vitamins and minerals. On top of this, dark green leaves are usually high in calcium and iron. Depending on the green, you have a wide variety of tastes and uses in your kitchen.
Kale – This green comes in many forms, from the dark green and sturdy Dinosaur Kale, to the purple ribbed Russian Red, to the commonly recognized Curly Kale you may remember as the thing that lined buffet tables when you were a kid. But don’t waste kale as a decoration! It’s fantastic in salads, makes a great snack as baked kale chips (try replacing your potato chips with this treat), sautés well as a side dish with garlic and onions, and its solid structure makes it an ideal carb replacement for wraps and bun-less burgers. Not to mention it’s a common addition to green smoothies and juices.
Swiss Chard and Beet Greens – Combined in this section because they are close relatives and share a pop of color in their leaves, chard and beet greens are one of the softer winter greens you will find at markets. Try replacing spinach in recipes with chard or beet greens for a sweeter taste and a pleasing pop of color. They do well both raw and cooked. Commonly used in soups, salads, quiches, Mediterranean and Italian dishes. Rainbow chard will make your dishes especially pleasing to the eye with it’s varieties of vibrant colored stems. If you are cooking/sautéing this type of greens with stems, throw the chopped stems in first to soften them prior to wilting the greens.
Mustard Greens – Mustards come in quite an array of shapes and sizes but are most commonly a bright-green curly-edged large-leaf variety. This variety has a peppery taste (especially if it has been hot outside), while smaller or more red/purple colored varieties will be sweeter by comparison. Mustards are high in antioxidants and fiber. They show up commonly in Indian and Asian cooking as well as in the American South as a stewed or long-cooked green (along with collards or turnip greens). Try mixing them into your salads with other milder greens to create a flavor similar to a Mesclun mix. They cook well into soups, stews and curries.
Collard Greens – The hardiest of the cold-hardy greens, collards can survive one heck of a cold spell and can also give you one heck of a nutritional boost. Most people probably recognize collards as the Southern side dish often cooked down with onions, garlic, salted meats, seasonings and a bit of sugar. If you want a vegetarian or lower calorie variety of southern collards, replace the meat/sugar part of the recipe with a portion of apple cider vinegar. Around the world, collards are often used in stews, as sides for fish and pork, and even fermented as a pickled dish. But you can also use them as loose-leaf cabbage replacements. If you want to try collards or other very hard greens raw, look up instructions on massaging hard greens for salads. This technique makes them easier to chew/digest in a raw setting.