By Anastassia Skarlinski (RD, MPH student, CEED intern)
While it is cold and cloudy here in deep midwinter that does not mean that there is a lack of seasonal produce to enjoy! Today, a guide to winter greens.
Leafy greens are just one of those things that health professionals can’t help but rave about. High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, greens are often considered a nutritional powerhouse. Winter greens are exceptionally high in vitamins A, C, K and folate. Vitamin A is essential for immune function and eye health. Vitamin C, best known for preventing scurvy in pirates, is also a powerful antioxidant and improves your body’s ability to absorb iron. Vitamin K is best known for helping your blood to clot. Vitamin K was originally named “Koagulations-Vitamin,” as it was discovered in the 1930s by Henrik Dam to help prevent hemorrhaging.
Winter greens are typically thicker and hardier than their spring and summer cousins. These greens, while sometimes eaten raw in a salad, lend themselves to being braised in a soup or sautéed for a quick side dish. When shopping for greens look for vibrantly green leaves, avoid yellowing or brown leaves. While many of these plants will not be “crisp” per se, they should not be wilted. Some of the best-known winter greens grown here in North Carolina include;
- Collard Greens- These are some of the oldest known consumed leafy greens. Evidence of their use has been dated back more than 2000 years to Ancient Greece.
- Mustard Greens- These peppery greens have a very strong smell. They were originally grown primarily for their seeds to make mustard. This crop was so important in medieval Europe that courts often had a person whose job was growing and harvesting mustard.
- Turnip Greens- These are the above ground part of the well-known root vegetable. Both beets and turnips are edible from tip to root, and are excellent additions to a winter dinner.
- Bok Choy- Another ancient green, Bok Choy has been cultivated since 400 AD in China.
- Kale- Now a super popular edition to salads, soups, and smoothies, this plant was once primarily only an ornamental. In fact, before 2013 the largest purchaser of kale in the United States was Pizza Hut. They used it to decorate their salad bar!
- Swiss Chard- This leafy green plant has stalks of white, pink, yellow, red, or orange. Both the leaf and the stalk are edible, although some find the stalk to be bitter. This plant is not actually Swiss but descended from the Italian wild sea beet.
A quick and easy side dish for a winter night.
White Beans and Swiss Chard
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Juice and Zest of one lemon
¼ tsp red chili flakes
1 bunch of Swiss Chard, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 can of white beans (cannellini, navy, or great northern beans), rinsed
½ cup of chicken stock
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pan, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until softened
- Add lemon zest and red chili flakes
- Toss in chopped chard and stir until wilted
- Add white beans, chicken stock, and lemon juice
- Heat until beans are warmed through and liquid has reduced by half
- Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste
- Serve warm
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