I want to talk about fall color. Not the typical autumn hues of fiery red, rich gold and deep umber but one color not normally associated with fall: green. In particular, the green you see in the produce section this time of year.
Many greens — collards, kale, turnip greens and mustard greens — are at their best in the fall and through winter. The flavor of greens can vary widely, from sweet to bitter to earthy, and many are pungent, peppery and sharp. Young leafy greens generally have small, tender leaves and a mild flavor while many mature plants have tougher leaves and stronger flavors.
It’s this wide variety that makes people a bit apprehensive about greens. Maybe you had a run-in with a bunch of tough kale when you were a kid and have shied away ever since. Or perhaps you’ve heard that collards take forever to cook, so you’ve not even made an attempt.
Well, I say variety is what makes greens so great! Most greens can be used interchangeably in recipes, so experiment! Pick some greens that have a flavor you really like and try them every which way you can. Or you could find a recipe you love and see how it changes when you use different types of greens. One of my all-time favorite recipes is Greens with Carrots, Feta Cheese and Brown Rice opens in a new tab and I’ve made it with green kale, black kale, dino (lacinato) kale, mustard greens and even bok choy.
Here are a number of ways to eat your greens:
If you’re a little green to greens, here’s a quick list of some common types, what they taste like and how to cook ‘em. If you have any more questions or need help identifying a type of greens in the store, our produce team members are there to help.
Characteristics: sweet, mild, stays crisp when cooked
Recommended use: stir-fries, salads or soups
More bok choy recipes opens in a new tab.
Characteristics: mild, sweet, cooks to tender texture
Recommended use: steam, braise or sauté; shrinks less than other greens when cooked
More collard recipes. opens in a new tab
Characteristics: coarse, mildly bitter
Recommended use: eat raw in salads, steam, braise or add to soups
More escarole recipes opens in a new tab.
Characteristics: mildly peppery, tender
Recommended use: boil, steam or sauté, tough stems and ribs must be removed
More kale recipes. opens in a new tab
Swiss Chard (Red, Green, Rainbow)
Characteristics: tender, sweet, velvety texture
Recommended use: multi-purpose, wilt, sautée, braise, add to soups, casseroles or pasta, red chard may “dye” other foods
More Swiss chard recipes. opens in a new tab
Now that I’ve gotten you geared up to run off and buy a whole mess of greens, here’s a bit more information that will help you make the most out of them.
Most greens can be stored in the refrigerator for several days provided they are protected from air flow. Most store best in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Tender, delicate leaves (such as beet greens) wilt very quickly, so use them as soon as possible or purchase them on the day you plan to prepare them.
Greens with similar texture can be used interchangeably in recipes, though they will impart slightly different flavors. One pound of fresh, untrimmed greens will typically serve two to three people. While this may look like a lot when raw, a significant portion of the plant (stems and ribs) will be discarded and most greens shrink considerably when cooked. To prepare greens for washing, cut off the stems and discard any bruised leaves. For greens with tough stems, such as collards, mustard and kale, cut off the stem backbone, which can be quite tough. Chard, bok choy, turnip and beet greens have tender stems that can be eaten along with the leaves. Wash the greens and edible stems in a sink full of water to remove dirt and sand. Bunches of greens that are especially sandy may require several soakings. Drain the greens in a colander and chop or slice them according to recipe directions.
Greens provide a wide array of nutrients including fiber, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, folic acid and chlorophyll (the green pigment found in plant cells). Many varieties of leafy greens, especially members of the cruciferous (cabbage) family such as collards, kale and bok choy are also rich sources of vitamin C.
See? Green really is gorgeous and the perfect color to grace your fall plate.
Do you have a favorite green? How do you prepare it? Tell me about it in the comments below.