Now that summer is gone, many of us are eating fewer salads, but that does not have to mean fewer greens.
Cooking greens — such as kale, Swiss chard, even cabbages and brussels sprout — are more cold-resistant than salad greens, so they are actually in season now. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that at least 3 cups of your total vegetable choices per week should be dark, leafy greens. Eating these will add some variety to the green component on your menu.
Also known as cruciferous vegetables, these greens are usually full of vitamins A and C and contain antioxidants, which may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers. As with most vegetables, they are very low in calories and are part of a heart-healthy diet.
Dark, leafy greens are also easy to prepare and can taste really delicious. Most people are pretty familiar with cabbage recipes like coleslaw and boiled dinner. For a healthier twist on your cabbage favorites, try vinaigrette coleslaw or make and bake your own egg rolls. You can find egg-roll wrappers at most grocery stores with instructions on the package for how to wrap them. I use lightly steamed (in the microwave) shredded cabbage seasoned with garlic, black pepper and a little ginger to fill the wrapper. Then I bake them on a prepared baking sheet until crispy. Vinaigrette coleslaw is delicious with or on top of a pulled pork sandwich. Brussels sprout, which look like mini cabbages, have a stronger taste than cabbage but taste great roasted. Admittedly, the first time I enjoyed brussels sprout, I roasted them with a slice or two of bacon, but now I love them in olive oil with a dash of pepper and Parmesan cheese.
Chard and kale are great and grow locally, but I do not think they are as widely familiar here as cabbage. Swiss or rainbow chard can be substituted in any recipe that you would cook spinach in, and rainbow chard has beautiful pink and yellow stalks. Lightly sautéed Swiss chard with garlic is great with whole-wheat pasta, chick peas and balsamic dressing for a nutritious and fiber-filled pasta salad. I recently saw an article that recommends steaming the thick ends of the stalk and enjoying it like asparagus.
Kale is what prompted this article, as I finally tried making kale chips last week. They were easier than I expected and really tasty. To make a crispy kale “chip,” you just tear your kale into bite-size pieces, rub them with oil, spread onto a baking sheet, and sprinkle with desired seasoning (I added my favorite hot sauce to the oil). Bake them at 300 degrees, turning once, until they are crispy. They do not taste like potato chips, but they are a much healthier. They did not keep long, as they are pretty crumbly, but we ate the whole batch.
Dark, leafy greens also taste great added as a layer in lasagna, to a pot of spaghetti sauce or in any soup. If all else fails, add these greens raw to a fruit smoothie; just be sure to thoroughly puree the smoothie so you don’t get any bitter chunks.
Get adventurous with greens. Try something new. Some dishes will have stronger tastes than others, and if you or your family is not ready for that, try them in mixed dishes. They will add nutrition to your meal.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in ClintonCounty. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.