Greens are eaten every day around the world. Dark leafy greens are abundant in a multitude of nutrients, particularly when compared to their caloric content, making them just about the most nutrient-dense food we can eat. Sometimes tangy, pungent or slightly bitter, many of us don’t really know what to do with these bold bunches, we just know that we should be eating more of them…somehow.Versatile greens can be an easy habit to form, showing up on your plate, in your bowl, and even in your glass multiple times a day. With so many kinds: arugula, spinach, watercress, Swiss chard, rainbow chard, collard greens, mustard greens, beet tops, turnip greens, curly green kale, curly red kale, Lacinato (dino) kale, and my favorite, red Russian kale, each with their own particular flavor and texture, you will never run out of ways to get more greens. Here’s how I get more greens on the table (and into my family).
In A BlenderI know this sounds weird if you’ve never tried it. I resisted for years, thinking, “I eat greens, why do I need to blend greens?” But this is now my breakfast of choice, and it’s delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask my kids — they love it too! Plus, the blender does all the work for you, making the nutrients even more available, and you don’t even have to chew.
Still skeptical? Try the Double Green Smoothie opens in a new tab or the Get Your Greens Smoothie opens in a new tab and see what you think. Smoothies are easy and quick, and lend themselves well to experimentation. Use whatever fresh or frozen fruit is on hand.
Some smoothie tips:
For your first green smoothie, baby spinach is a good choice. Mild and buttery, you won’t even notice it’s there.
Adding colorful berries will turn your smoothie a lovely purple color, making it look less Hulk-like.
If you are using kale or collard greens, strip the leaves from the stem before you add them to the blend. Only use the stem if you have a high-powered blender and prefer a more fibrous drink.
If you don’t have a high-powered blender, don’t worry! Just add more water or other liquid for a thinner smoothie that blends well.
In a Pot
When cooking a pot of beans, I chop up a head of greens and add it to the pot once the beans are almost fully cooked and then simmer for another five minutes or so. For picky eaters, this works especially well with finely chopped chard or collards stirred into black beans. Greens reduce in volume when they are cooked, so small pieces of greens virtually disappear in a pot of beans, and are even harder to notice once their green color blends with the rich purplish hue of black beans.
A few of my favorite combos are kale with white beans, mustard greens with lentils, turnip greens with black eyed peas, and beet greens (yes—the top of the beets!) with garbanzo beans. Use cooked beans (and greens!) in dips like Black Bean Hummus opens in a new tab, burritos and enchiladas such the Layered Vegetable Enchiladas opens in a new tab, Simple Black Bean Soup opens in a new tab or any dish with beans. Collards with Lentils, Tomatoes and Indian Spices opens in a new tab and Swiss Chard with Black-Eyed Peas opens in a new tab are other simple ways to pair dried beans and legumes with greens.
In a Pot, Again
Make soup, add greens! Make pasta, add greens! The same goes for stews, chilis and curries. No need to use another pot, just add chopped greens to simmering soup or boiling pasta towards the end of the cooking time. I also do this with most vegetables. Steaming broccoli? Sautéing zucchini? Add greens! Just chop your greens well before adding and season your dish as usual. Experiment with your favorite dishes and try these too: Italian Chowder with Cod and Kale opens in a new tab, Chicken and Brown Rice Soup opens in a new tab, and Whole Wheat Pasta with Mushrooms and Arugula opens in a new tab.
Use collard greens as your new and improved nutrient-dense tortilla, like in these Collard Rolls opens in a new tab. Romaine lettuce also makes a great “taco” shell or “chip” for dipping in your Simply Delicious Homemade Hummus opens in a new tab. For good measure, throw a handful of baby spinach into the food processor when making this hummus!
Eat it Raw
Salads are a standby when it comes to eating greens. Spinach Salad with Aduki Beans and Clementine Vinaigrette opens in a new tab and White Bean and Spinach Salad opens in a new tab pair the ever popular green spinach with beans and are great crowd pleasers. I like to chop my kale very finely and make double batches of Kale Waldorf Salad opens in a new tab, Rainbow Kale Salad opens in a new tab and Kale, Carrot and Avocado Salad opens in a new tab. These nutrient-rich dishes hold up well in the refrigerator, as the dressings further soften the kale, making it even tastier.
Don’t Hide It!
As much as I like to slip greens into so many dishes, I also love to feature them. I’ll heat a little stock, juice, white wine, or water in a sauté pan, add a little minced garlic or ginger, and my chopped greens of choice. I give this a few stirs with a wooden spoon, and let it cook until it turns a beautiful emerald green. To this I add a little lemon juice, miso or tamari, lightly dress it with a sauce, or just pile it up in my bowl, adding anything else I’m eating on top or alongside my greens. “Creamed” Kale opens in a new tab, Wilted Kale with Fresh Cranberries opens in a new tab and Creamy Sesame Greens opens in a new tab are other great ways to get some greens on your plate.
I’d love to hear: how are you getting your greens?