Beginner’s Guide to Dark Leafy Greens, Part 2

Beginner's Guide to Dark Leafy Greens, Part 2

Kale and spinach and chard, oh my! In part 1 of this series, we deconstructed curly kale, peppery arugula, and creamy-sweet butter lettuce. Alas, the search for the perfect green is never done…

Swiss Chard

A cousin of spinach, beets, and quinoa (believe it!), chard has a crunchy, thick, edible center stalk and a spinach-like taste. The purplish stems and veins in the leaves are an amazing source of phytonutrients called betalains, which are anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and good for detoxification. Vitamin-wise, chard is packed with vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Note: chard comes in several varieties—one with a white stalk, and some with colored stalks (usually pink, purple, yellow, and red). “Rainbow” isn’t actually a type of chard, it’s just different varieties bound together and packaged as “rainbow chard.” But that doesn’t make it any less pretty.

Swiss chard isn’t really a salad green, so our favorite way to prepare it is sauteed with lots of garlic, pine nuts, golden raisins, and/or cranberries. Slice the crunchy stem into bite-sized pieces and saute in a splash of olive oil for a few minutes. Then, toss in the sliced green leaves and other ingredients, and cover the frying pan with a lid or a plate. After 3-4 minutes, you’ll have a beautiful tangle of garlicky greens. Eat as a side dish or toss with pasta.

Spinach

Chard’s little brother; salad’s best friend. You’ve eaten spinach before, but are you doing it right? Bright green leaves have a higher concentration of vitamin C than pale ones do. Spinach has been frequently studied for its powerful anti-inflammation properties and anti-cancer benefits. In fact, studies have shown that spinach protects against aggressive prostate cancer, in particular.

Spinach season typically runs from March to May, and then from September to October. Baby spinach has the most delicate flavor and is best for salads. The green is also a favorite of juicers and green smoothie fanatics alike—when blended with frozen fruit, it’s practically impossible to taste the spinach.

If you’re planning to cook spinach, buy more than you think you need, because cooking drastically reduces the plant’s volume.

Mustard Greens

This pungent, peppery-tasting leaf is usually mixed with other greens like kale and collards to tone down the flavor a bit. It’s a staple of Southern soul food cooking, as well as Chinese and South American cuisine. Unlike delicate greens like spinach, mustard greens are at their peak in the wintertime, from December to April.

Like kale, steaming mustard greens significantly increases the ability of the fiber in the greens to bind with the bile acids in your digestive track, flushing them out of your system and lowering your cholesterol.

Sauteeing mustard greens is another great way to retain all the nutritional benefits (from vitamins A, K, and C, to folate, manganese, and calcium). Saute with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, mixing in kale and collard greens if you so desire. And yes, the brown seeds of this plant are used to make Dijon mustard!

Photo attribute: vegetarian-nutrition.info

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