Aside from the superstar status of kale, most hearty leafy greens can be a tough sell for consumers. Here are some prep tips and culinary tricks to elevate the appeal of collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens and more while increasing consumption of vegetables.
’Tis the season: While most hearty leafy greens are available year-round, they tend to taste better and are less bitter when harvested in colder weather. Look for bright or dark green leaves; pass on any that are discolored, yellowing or wilted.
Store smart: Place unwashed greens in a large plastic bag; blowing into the bag and sealing in the carbon dioxide may keep them fresher longer but also may expose greens to airborne pathogens. Store in the refrigerator for up to four days. Separating the stems from leaves can extend storage a few extra days.
Clean greens: Rinse under cool water and pat dry. Contrasted with delicate greens that can turn to mush, it’s OK to leave a few water droplets on hearty greens, which can help speed up the steaming or sautéing process.
Consider the stems: Chop off rough ends and, for extra-tough greens such as collards, remove the stalks that run through the leaves. Stack three or four leaves on top of each other, fold over along the stem and run a knife down the length of the leaves. Because stalks take longer to cook than leaves, they should be finely chopped. Alternatively, freeze stalks to make vegetable stock.
Roll and chop: Hearty green leaves can be large and cumbersome. To cut them, stack three to four leaves, roll tightly into a cylinder and slice into ribbons.
Tame bitterness: A splash of acidic liquid such as lemon juice or vinegar with a dash of salt can temper bitter tasting greens. Or add a handful of dried fruit or a few teaspoons of brown sugar or maple syrup when sautéing.
Stir-fry: Put chopped stems in a wok and stir-fry for five minutes, adding chopped leaves for three more minutes or until both parts are tender. Some delicious combination include mustard greens, garlic and hot peppers; Swiss chard, mushrooms and scallions; and collards, carrots and onions.
Stuff and roll: Boil collards in water for two minutes, then drain and pat dry. Stuff each leaf with about ¼ cup cooked rice, quinoa or farro mix, place in a baking dish covered with tomato sauce and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Incorporate eggs: Cook hearty greens until wilted and mix into scrambled eggs, fold into omelets or bake in frittatas and quiche.
Grill greens: If weather prevents firing up the grill outside, use a grill pan inside. Coat with oil or cooking spray, add whole greens and grill for about four minutes per side, until they are slightly blackened and wilted.
Pair with protein: Cured meat such as prosciutto or bacon is a traditional flavor complement to sautéed greens. Or go vegetarian and sauté with legumes such as chickpeas, lentils or black-eyed peas and a dash of smoked paprika. Add toasted nuts for added nutrition and crunch.