I’ve enjoyed meeting many new and returning CSA members at the farm this season. I’ve been asked by several members, “What’s the best way to store lettuce and other greens?” and “How do you cook your greens?”
Storing your greens in containers or plastic bags keeps them fresh for well over a week. I reuse clean, dry plastic produce bags from the grocery store. When I return home with my share, I immediately transfer greens and other produce into them and store as much as will fit in the crisper drawers of the refrigerator.
Try washing delicate leafy greens – such as lettuce, spinach, and mustard greens – in ice water within a few days, spin them dry in a salad spinner, and store them in the spinner. They will stay crisp and fresh for over a week. Heartier greens – such as kale, swiss chard and collards – will keep in bags or containers in the crisper drawers two weeks.
I tend to wash all greens in a bowl of water with a couple handfuls of ice cubes. Even if they have become softer due to time and air or sun exposure, ice water perks and crisps them up.
When preparing greens with tough stems, I remove the leaves from the stems. Grab kale, collard and chard leaves by the stem and the base of the leaf (folded together, with the fingers on the leaf at the base of the stem) and pull. Then, stack the leaves on a cutting board and chop. If you want to thinly slice, roll the leaves into a long, thin roll, and slice. The stems may be discarded or used to make stock. If the leaf has long, narrow stems (such as spinach, turnip or beet greens), stack the leaves and cut off the stems with a knife.
9 Easy Ways to Enjoy Your Greens
#1 Basic. Greens are tasty cooked by themselves, sauteed on medium heat with olive oil or butter. Add salt as the greens cook down, which takes less than 5 minutes. Stir constantly to ensure even cooking.
#2 Other Veggies. Saute any combination of chopped green onion, garlic, shallots, and onion/garlic/shallot scapes (the seed pods at the top of the stems) prior to adding the greens. You can also experiment with adding minced garlic, grated fresh ginger, minced green chilies, and any fresh herbs you have on hand. I often add one or two other veggies for flavor and color, such as carrots rounds, brussel sprouts (cut in half), bell pepper (roughly chopped), mushrooms (sliced), or beets (boiled, skin removed, and sliced). These may be added with the onion or after the onion has softened, depending on the hardness of the vegetable. Once soft, add the greens.
#3 Mustard Greens. If you want some zip, add a handful of chopped mustard greens with kale or collards. Mustard greens are also great fresh as a zesty addition to sandwiches and salads.
#4 The finish. Once the greens have cooked down, try adding a little soy sauce and sugar or honey (particularly if using ginger). An equally delicious combination is fresh squeezed lemon juice, honey or sugar, a splash of balsamic or apple cider vinegar, and salt. Substitute orange juice for lemon juice for sweeter flavor. Alternatively, pour in a little broth or stock.
#5 Make it a meal. To make greens a main dish, add garbanzo or kidney beans prior to adding the greens, or add an egg or two after the greens have cooked down.
#6 Soups. Add chopped greens to your favorite broth soups, particularly spinach, chard, cabbage and mustard greens (in moderation).
#7 Pasta. Add chopped greens (tough stems removed) to pasta sauce. It takes the greens only a few minutes to cook in the sauce and is a delicious addition. My favorite pasta green is kale.
#8 Topping. Thinly slice and chop fresh lettuce, mustard greens, chard, cabbage, or kale and sprinkle it on top of soups, chilis, or nachos, particularly in combination with chopped fresh tomato and onion. Don’t forget the sour cream!
#9 Raw. Most of the heartier greens are best sauteed, steamed, boiled, or baked, but kale is excellent raw when softened through “salt-frying.” Here’s a recipe for Kale Salad from The Complete Tassajara Cookbook: Recipes, Techniques, and Reflections from the Famed Zen Kitchen by Edward Espe Brown. (This cookbook taught me everything I know about cooking greens, and everything in it I’ve ever tried is simple and wonderful. He also encourages you to deviate based on ingredients you like or have on hand, and gives a lot of helpful suggestions and options.) Bon appetit!
Kale Salad with Radish, Apple, Avocado and Sunflower Seeds
1 bunch dinosaur/Tuscan or other kale
½ to 1 tsp salt (I found a shy teaspoon suited my taste)
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
Black or red pepper
6 radishes, julienne pieces or rounds
1 avocado, chunks or slices
½ cup sunflower seeds
Rinse off the kale. Cut crossways into ¼-inch pieces, including the stems if using dinosaur/Tuscan kale. (For thicker stems, remove the leaves from the stems prior to cutting them crosswise). Sprinkle on a ½ teaspoon of salt to start with, and squeeze vigorously with your hands so that the kale softens and moisture begins to sweat out. Taste carefully, so that you do not add too much salt, but, as needed, add a bit more to bring out the moisture, squeezing the kale between additions. Taste…already so good.
Mix together the lemon juice and honey, and combine with the kale. Taste…it’s even better. Add the fresh ginger and some pepper if you want it. (Stop here, if you do not have the remaining ingredients!)
Slice the apple into quarters and remove the cores. Cut the quarters in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise into narrow pieces. Gently stir into the kale along with the radishes and avocados. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top before serving.