Summer is one of the best seasons to indulge in beautiful, leafy green vegetables. These include the most common varieties seen in grocery stores or farmer’s markets, like spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens or Swiss chard. You also can eat the green, leafy tops of many root vegetables, such as beets, turnips and rutabagas.
Greens should be stored in a perforated bag with a moist paper towel to keep them fresh. They can last up to a week in the refrigerator.
To prepare them for use, wash thoroughly on both sides to remove any soil that clings to them. Spinning in a salad spinner or allowing to drip dry removes excess moisture that may be undesirable when eating or cooking. Greens can be eaten fresh in a salad or cooked.
There has been some debate about whether greens are more nutritious fresh or cooked. Cooking breaks down the cell walls and releases some of the phytochemicals, like the carotenoids and ferulic acid that are present in the plant, making more of them available to your body.
These compounds are important for good health, making cooked greens a good option. On the other hand, the amount of water-soluble vitamins present in greens — like vitamin C and the B vitamins — decreases with cooking, so fresh also has its advantages.
Either way, dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin K, which is important in the clotting of blood needed to heal wounds.
Here are some tips from Organic Authority about cleaning and prepping greens before cooking:
- Wash your greens immediately to rid the leaves of pests and dirt. You don’t need a store-bought vegetable spray to properly clean greens. Just fill a kitchen sink or large bowl with warm water and a few tablespoons of vinegar — apple cider or white vinegar are just fine. Submerge your greens in the solution, swoosh them around gently and shake off excess water.
- Air-dry your rinsed greens on a paper towel or clean hand towel, then wrap them loosely and store in the fridge.
- Remove the hardy stalks, ribs and stems just before cooking with greens like Swiss chard, watercress or kale. Either discard the stems, or remove them, finely dice and cook them first with onions or garlic as you would celery.
- Cook your greens fast. Summer greens tend to be much softer and just need a quick flash of heat on the stovetop with just a bit of oil. Stir constantly, as they will wilt, and use right away.
- Try summer greens in place of spinach in your favorite recipes. Purslane, Swiss chard, watercress and arugula all are great substitutions for spinach in most recipes.
- Keep it simple. Summer greens can be enjoyed raw or cooked and have a light flavor that can easily drown in heavy sauces or spices.