What is more exciting than summertime greenery shooting up everywhere?! The versatility of greens enables the consumer to go from cold refreshing salads to deep roasted flavors or tasty quick-cooking stir-frys. The only limiting factor is the availability at your local markets and grocery stores. One of the best ways to eat greens is when they are of course, at their freshest, so check out the summer farmer stands! It’s amazing to witness the difference in size, shape, colorations, flavors, textures, density and aroma that come from this one category of vegetables, “greens.” Oftentimes, in large grocery stores, consumers will see the stripped down version of a vegetable devoid of the flavor and greenery that are so natural to the garden variety. However, local markets and stands will often have many more garden representational varieties and at least a couple options that include the accompanying greenery!
Take carrots, beets and turnips, for example. Carrot tops, while not particularly strong or desirable as a salad component, can be added to soups, stews and casseroles for additional green flavor. Beet and turnip tops can be eaten in a gentle marinate for a superb cold salad, or thrown into a sauce or stir-fry at the last minute for some healthy green flavor and oh, taste!
Some other widely available summer greens include Swiss chard, mustard greens and kale. Always look for leaves that are free from yellowing and browning, and are not wilted. Simple ways to cook these greens are in a hot pan with a small amount of oil for a quick stir-fry that not only preserves the color, but also some of the crisp texture and fresh flavor. They can also be steamed, but be more cautious when doing so, as they can be quickly over-steamed into a mushy mess! Kale and mustard greens are wonderful additions to soups, in the last few minutes, or to casseroles, when looking to add greens that hold their shape rather well. Oh, and who can forget using greens as wrappers for a multitude of different fillings! Think of lettuce wraps, replacing the lettuce with healthier greens like kale instead! Use these leaves instead of fajitas or grain-based wraps, for a healthier and fresher approach to any meal!
Because of the high tendency to regularly consume salads, and thus, traditional salad greens, this author will avoid discussing the joys of endive, radicchio, frisee, arugula, spinach, lettuce and the like. For a palate-pleasing change to the traditional romaine or leaf lettuce salad, add different greens, like, the ones mentioned above, or even some untraditional salad greens, like Napa cabbage, watercress, or bok choy. Just be aware that the flavor and bitterness of greens will vary, requiring adjustments to other flavor components, dressings and/or vinaigrettes. No doubt there will be some exciting combinations that result!
Please remember that there are some fruits and vegetables whose accompanying greenery should not be eaten, such as potatoes, rhubarb and taro. Taro leaves are poisonous when eaten raw but can be cooked to remove most of the toxins (for those with kidney and liver ailments, it is generally advised to avoid altogether). Check your local poison control center for additional information. Some accounts note that sweet pea stems are poisonous, as well as sorghum and buckwheat. The best rule of thumb is to avoid eating unless sure of safe consumption!
All in all, this writer is eager to see what turns up next time at the market for another inspirational set of meals! Happy greens eating!