Love Those Leafy Greens

Healthnotes Newswire (May 28, 2009)—Move over spinach—the greens are here! Beet greens, bok choy, broccoli raab, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard. Humble and often over-looked, leafy greens are super-nutritious. According to Steven Pratt, MD, coauthor of SuperFoods, dark leafy greens, like their cousin spinach, provide a “synergy of multiple nutrients/phytonutrients” including essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Find your favorites

All in the family, yet different, greens vary widely in taste and appearance. Check out these easy-to-find and easy-to-fix varieties:

Beet greens—Leafy tops cut from beets have delicate flavor similar to Swiss chard when quickly boiled, steamed, or sautéed.

Bok choy—Commonly found with crunchy white stalks and dark green leaves; mildly flavored, eaten raw or cooked; perfectly complemented by Asian seasonings. Bok choy goes well with the flavors of soy sauce, hot peppers, and toasted sesame oil. The stalks can be eaten raw with dip or chopped and used in salads.

Broccoli raab—Smaller than regular broccoli, but with more leaves, smaller flowerets, and a gently bitter taste. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins C and A, and a good source of folic acid.

Collard greens—A type of cabbage with large, flat, paddle-shaped leaves; a traditional “soul food” staple boiled a long time with ham hocks or bacon. The stalks are generally too tough to eat, so leaves should be stripped from the stalks and torn into small pieces before cooking.

Kale—A colorful member of the cabbage family with wrinkled, blue- or purple-tinged leaves; remove tough center stem and prepare like spinach. Kale is an excellent source of vitamins C and A.

Mustard greens—Another popular ingredient with a peppery taste and bright green leaves (or many different colors in the Chinese varieties). Because of their sharp flavor, mustard greens should be combined with other greens.

Swiss chard—A beet family member with dark green wrinkled leaves and reddish (rhubarb chard), pale green, or multicolored stems, with a rich, earthy taste. Chard may be steamed, sautéed, or braised, and it can be added to soups, stews, and casseroles. The leaves and stems may be cooked and served together, or prepared separately as two different vegetables.

Stir it up

Easy and fast, stir-frying greens—just long enough to wilt the leaves—is a tasty preparation method. Use one kind or a mixture according to what’s in season. Buy 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (680 to 907 grams) to serve four people.

• Thoroughly wash leaves, discarding any discolored ones, and trim stem ends. Coarsely chop leaves and stems.

• In a large sauté pan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil over high heat. Add 2 cloves minced fresh garlic and stir until golden.

• Add prepared greens and toss to coat with oil, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Sprinkle with salt to taste and continue tossing greens until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve as a side dish, or use as a bed for grilled fish or chicken. Experiment with different types of oil for a hint of your favorite cuisine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or crushed nuts for a final touch.

Judith Dern is a veteran of national consumer public relations agency programs for both commodity board food products and branded manufactured foods. She is coauthor of The Sustainable Kitchen: Passionate Cooking Inspired by Fields, Farms and Oceans (2004, New Society Publishers). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Relish, Cooking Light, Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, Northwest Palate, and Woman’s Day Special Interest Christmas Publications. She has also served as copywriter and ghostwriter on several cookbooks and has written on food for regional and national organizations. A member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), she was awarded the Harry A. Bell Grant for Food Writers in 2003.

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