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Give Greens a Chance: What to Do With Nutritious Cooking Greens.

Other than an occasional spinach salad, Americans don't eat many traditional "cooking greens." Why? Perhaps it's because they're still rather mysterious to many of us or we remember them as overcooked and full of grease. But they're worth getting to know and learning how to cook, so they will tempt us, not turn us off.

Cooking greens pack a nutritious punch of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and potassium, plus phytonutrients. In addition, they provide a fair dose of fiber, about three grams per 3/4-cup serving. During winter months especially, greens can add variety to your menus; check vegetarian cookbooks for the best array of recipes. Here is EN's guide to greens to get you started.

Selection and Storage

* Use what's in season to ensure good taste and maximum nutrients. While some greens may be available only seasonally or at farmers' markets, some greens (spinach, kale, collards) can be found in supermarkets year-round.

* Choose greens that are fresh-looking, with firm stalks that aren't limp, with roots attached, if possible. To store greens, wrap in damp paper towels, place in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate; they'll keep for a week. Wash just before preparing.

* Remember that fresh greens cook down considerably--sometimes to a quarter of their original volume. In general, a pound of fresh greens yields 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups cooked.

* Buy frozen greens if the quality of fresh isn't up to par.

Preparation

* To remove dirt, swish greens around in a sink of cool or lukewarm water. If grit remains, repeat. Remove any roots, and stems if desired.

* Young, tender greens can be eaten raw in salads, but older, heartier greens are best cooked.

* Quick-cooking techniques, such as microwaving, steaming or quickly boiling are best for preserving texture, color and flavor.

* Wait until the final five to 10 minutes of cooking to add greens to soups, stews or pasta sauces.

* Don't cook greens in aluminum or copper cookware as color, nutrients and flavor will be adversely affected. Use stainless steel, enamel or glass.
EN's Guide to the Goodness of Greens

(Greens are listed alphabetically. Serving size is 3A cup cooked greens.)

Cooking Green                Vitamin A[*]   Vitamin C   Calcium[dagger]
                                 (IU)         (mg)           (mg)

Beet, fresh, boiled              5,100        25             114
Collards, fresh, boiled          3,129        18.2           119
Collards, frozen, boiled         5,981        26.4           210
Dandelion, fresh, boiled        11,700        18             140
Kale, fresh, boiled              7,400        41              72
Kale, frozen, boiled             6,354        25             138
Mustard, fresh, boiled           3,031        25.3            74
Spinach, raw                     6,715        28              99
Spinach, fresh, boiled           8,190         9.8           136
Spinach, frozen, boiled          7,784        12.3           146
Swiss chard, fresh, boiled       3,319        18              58
Turnip, fresh, boiled            5,498        27.4           137

Cooking Green                 Potassium      Folate
                                 (mg)         (mcg)

Beet, fresh, boiled              909           14
Collards, fresh, boiled          260           93
Collards, frozen, boiled         251           76
Dandelion, fresh, boiled         232           13
Kale, fresh, boiled              228           13
Kale, frozen, boiled             321           14
Mustard, fresh, boiled           202           73
Spinach, raw                     558          194
Spinach, fresh, boiled           466          146
Spinach, frozen, boiled          298          108
Swiss chard, fresh, boiled       549            9
Turnip, fresh, boiled            203          118

[*] Much of the vitamin A comes from carotenoids, such as beta-carotene,
lutein and zeaxanthin.

[dagger] Not all may be absorbed, because it binds with oxalate,
particularly high in spinach.

IU = International Units; mg = milligrams; mcg = micrograms

Sources: USDA Nutrient Database (2000); USDA-NCC Carotenoid Database (1998).

[C] Copyright, 2002 by Environmental Nutrition, Inc., New York, NY;
www.environmentalnutrition.com


RELATED ARTICLE: Easy-to-Be-Green Recipe Ideas

* For a side dish, blanch fresh collards, kale, mustard or turnip greens in boiling water for six to 10 minutes; drain and chop. Saute with chopped onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil until tender.

* For a vegetarian entree, will fresh spinach, Swiss chard or beet greens (still wet after washing) in a covered skillet for two to four minutes over medium heat. Remove greens and chop roughly. In skillet, saute fresh sliced mushrooms, chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil; add greens back to skillet to heat through. Serve over hot pasta or baked potatoes with a little Parmesan cheese.

* For a healthful soup, thaw frozen spinach, collards, kale or mustard greens in a saucepan of boiling water until heated through. Add to your favorite vegetable soup during the last five minutes of cooking.

--K.B.
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Author:Broihier, Kitty
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Words:732
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