Get to know your greens
This article was originally published in November 2012
We’ve all been told, “Eat your greens,” and for good reason: These leafy vegetables are bursting with nutrition.
The range of vitamins contained in kale, collards and chard are cholesterol-lowering, cancer-fighting and bone-building. In addition to the healthy properties they provide, winter greens help round out a dish, adding chewy texture, delicious flavor and vibrant color.
Found to have great antioxidant capacity among fruits and vegetables, kale is a member of the Brassica family, cousin to cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K.
Kale is available in three different varieties: green (also known as curly); red; and lacinato (also known as dinosaur, Tuscan or black). Green kale is the most common; it has durable leaves with curly edges and thick stems. Red kale has red-tinged, curly edges and a purple stem, with leaves that are sweeter than green kale. Lacinato kale has dark blue-green leaves that appear crinkled. These leaves tend to be smaller and more tender, making them quick to cook.
With a strong, rich, peppery flavor, kale pairs well with other bold flavors, such as soy sauce, pungent cheeses and bacon.
Containing more calcium than milk, collard greens also are a part of the Brassica family. Like kale, they’re a fantastic source of vitamins A, C and K and dietary fiber. Collards have a mild, smoky flavor and are a staple in Southern cooking. Collard leaves that are smaller will be more tender and less bitter. Watch PCC Nutrition Educator Leika Suzumura demonstrate tips and ideas for working with collards in your kitchen in our Quick Bites video.
In the same family as quinoa, beets and spinach, chard offers a phenomenal array of nutrients, including potassium, iron, calcium and vitamin K. Chard can help with blood sugar regulation and it provides excellent bone support.
While native to the Mediterranean region, Swiss chard gets its name from the Swiss botanist who determined the plant’s scientific name. Chard’s leaves may be smooth or curly, depending on variety, with a thick, crunchy stalk in colors such as white, yellow, orange and red. Rainbow chard is simply an assortment of these different colors.
The flavor of chard is bitter, pungent and slightly salty.
Did you know?
As part of the Dirty Dozen Plus, winter greens are an important produce item to buy organic. At PCC, our greens always are organic, and when local, are grown by Washington’s own Rent’s Due Ranch in Stanwood, Nash’s Organic Produce in Sequim, and Full Circle in Carnation.
When buying, look for leaves that are dark or vivid green; firm, not wilted; and void of any brown or yellow coloring.