There’s a good reason “eat your greens!” has become such a popular mantra for those looking to improve their dietary choices. Chock-full of vitamins A and C, high in fibre and folate, and a good source of calcium and iron, there’s a dark leafy green for every taste and occasion.
Buying and storing dark leafy greens
When buying dark leafy greens make sure that the leaves look crisp and well-hydrated, avoid greens which appear wilted or bruised. Buy fresh greens more often and in smaller amounts to prevent spoilage. For ease and convenience, check in the freezer section of your local grocery store to see if you can find some of your favourite greens flash-frozen. If using more delicate green such as spinach or arugula, wash and dry in a salad spinner right before serving. Sturdier greens can be pre-washed and dried and then stored in an open resealable bag with a damp paper towel for up to a week.
Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable with a distinct peppery bite and is most commonly used in Canada as a salad green. Arugula is grown year-round and can be found at your local grocery store in bunches or as pre-washed salad greens in a plastic tub. The sharp taste of arugula pairs especially well with sweet and salty ingredients; pears, apples, dried fruit, toasted nuts, and aged cheeses can be combined with arugula in salads, sandwiches and in pasta dishes.
Rapini is a cruciferous dark leafy green and is also widely known as broccoli rabe. Fans of rapini praise this vegetable for the stalk’s intensely bitter flavour and the broccoli-like clusters growing from the ends. Rapini can be steamed, sautéed or even roasted and can stand up to richly savoury ingredients such as walnut oil, balsamic reduction, dried chili flakes, sausage, and Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.
If you’re just beginning to experiment with leafy greens Swiss chard is a great place to begin. A member of the beet family, Swiss chard has a mild flavour compared to many other leafy greens. Both rainbow chard and ruby red chard are widely available at grocery stores across Canada and heirloom varietals are easily found at farmers markets during the summer months. Remove the tough stalks and veining from Swiss chard and sauté with plenty of garlic and thinly sliced shallots as a side dish or add Swiss chard to soups, quiches, and omelettes.
Although collard greens are still relatively unheard of in Canada, these hearty greens have a special place in the cuisines of the Southern United States, East Africa, Brazil, and Portugal. A member of the cruciferous family, collard greens can be steamed, sautéed or boiled, the younger the leaves are, the less cooking time they need. Collard greens have a relatively mild flavour similar to mature spinach leaves and they can be eaten with beans and rice, added to vegetable stews and soups, chopped up and stirred into frittatas or eaten alone with a generous spritz of fresh lemon juice.
Shanghai bok choy
The leaves and stalk of Shanghai bok choy are a uniform pale green and are most often found as small (or “baby”) bok choy. Milder in flavour compared to regular bok choy, this subtle leafy green can be eaten raw, sautéed, steamed or braised. Thinly slice Shanghai bok choy and add to Asian-inspired salads and slaws or slowly braise with soy sauce