Guide to LEAFY GREENS: How to Get More Greens into Your Diet
Updated: Jul 25
Dark leafy greens — we love ‘em. Chances are so do you! Kale, chard, collards, turnip and mustard greens have been a staple in diets around the world since agriculture began. Even so, they’re still a stranger in many people’s kitchens. While most folks know how to handle lettuce and spinach in the kitchen, some may be unsure how to approach a big bunch of collard greens or kale.
Do you want to know more about how to work with these delicious, healthful vegetables? Read on.
That’s right! Nothing new here. To begin with it’s always a good idea to wash each leaf with cold water. While we do pre-wash all the veggies on the farm, one more rinse in the kitchen is still the best practice. The easiest way to do this is to nestle a colander in your kitchen sink, and place the bunch you want to cook inside it. As you spray each leaf down (one at a time) remove them to a dry kitchen towel.
No, we don’t mean backrubs
(but those are good too!). Massaging kale or collards? Yes! This prep method is especially good for raw salads or slaws. Simply remove stems and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Before dressing with your favorite vinaigrette, massage the leaves in a bowl using your hands— this will break open small cracks throughout the cells of the leaf making them softer and easier to marinate. Typically a raw kale salad will take some time in the fridge while marinating to soften up, just like when you make a slaw using cabbage. You can also use this method for a softer cooked leaf. Simply massage and cook in your favorite recipe.
Thinly slicing leaves in this way is another great bet for salads, and also works very well for sautéing and stir frying. Using a chiffonade cut (which consists of very thin strips) is perfect for pizzas, omelettes and quiche. You can also toss thinly sliced leaves into your favorite pasta sauce for an easy boost of fresh greens.
Purees and Blending
Here it really is important to remove stems for textures sake. Or you can keep them in (we won’t judge).
Adding a handful of cooked leafy greens to mashed potatoes and pureeing them together gives an everyday side extra nutrition with a nice hint of color. You can also toss raw greens into smoothies and juices.
The general rule of thumb is it’s best to start with a small amount and taste before adding more. Greens are also a lovely addition to pureed soups.
The easiest way to preserve greens like these is to blanch and freeze them. To blanch and freeze: simply wash and cut greens before cooking them for several minutes in salted boiling water. Transfer the cooked leaves to a bowl of ice water, then remove and freeze in your favorite containers. Use blanched and frozen greens like you would frozen spinach.
Dehydrating is another a great option for preserving — especially for young, tender leaves. This method will retain many of the nutrients from the raw life, which are different from its cooked counterpart.
Cook 'Em Down!
If you’ve ever had Southern-style collard greens then you know just how tender and flavorful dark leafy greens can be. Callaloo is a similar dish in Caribbean cuisine. What do they have in common? They’re both slowly stewed creating a soft leaf texture. Stewing in this way also helps release specific nutrients making them more bioavailable, and creates a delicious cooking liquid that adds flavor to any meal. Braising and stewing are especially good cooking methods for the thickest, most mature leaves.