Eat your greens

Leafy green vegetables are the go-to food to liven up your winter menu - and also help keep seasonal nasties like the flu at bay.

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 Packed into one cup of cooked mixed greens:
  • About 120 kilojoules.
  • Beta-carotene that is converted into vitamin A in the body.
  • Half the daily requirement for vitamin C. 
  • Anti-oxidant vitamin E to protect the heart. 
  • Phytonutrients known as organosulfur compounds that detoxify potential carcinogens.
At the market
■ Season
A variety of cooking greens is always available.
■ What to look for
Pick brightly coloured, crisp leaves. Avoid bruised as well as limp or yellowing specimens – all signs of age. Woody stems and coarse veins in the leaves suggests the vegie will be tough.
■ Where to buy the best
At a local farmers’ market, greens will be newly picked. In a supermarket, greens in a refrigerated section are likely to stay fresh, since cool temperatures discourage decay and bacteria.
 
In the kitchen
■ Storing
Don’t wash greens before storing them – too much moisture encourages the leaves to rot. Use per forated plastic storage bags, which allow air to circulate around the leaves and maintain just enough moisture to preserve their crispness.
■ Preparation
Soak in cold water and then rinse thoroughly just before cooking to release any dirt trapped in stems or crinkly leaves.
Trim any bruised outer leaves and cut of f tough stems.
 
Tip!
Greens can be simply tossed in butter over a high heat until just wilted, then sprinkled with a little grated nutmeg, which takes the edge off any coarseness in the flavour.
 
Varieties
 
BEETROOT GREENS
Like fresh spinach leaves, beetroot greens are tender, cook quickly and have a mild flavour. Add a little olive oil to a frying pan and cook them covered using just the water on the rinsed leaves. Add garlic, ground cumin or a good dash of Tabasco for flavour.
 
 
KALE
Comes in several varieties with leaves that are crinkly, serrated, or feathery. Kale comes in tones of blue-green, reddish purple, grey-green or light green. Kale leaves tend to be quite tough – they need braising for 12 to 15 minutes.
Kale has a full flavour. Chop up some kale and add it to hearty winter soups near the end of cooking.
 
MUSTARD GREENS
These pack a hot punch, especially if simmered for less than 15 minutes. Longer cooking mellows the flavour. They’re an excellent complement to Asian pork dishes with a rich sauce. Ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds are all good matches.
 
Spinach
The best-known of all the cooking greens, spinach has dark green, crisp, crinkly leaves. English spinach has paler green flat leaves. Trimmed spinach leaves can be cooked in a pan with just the water left clinging to the leaves from rinsing. Cover and steam for 1 or 2 minutes. Do not overcook.
 
SIlverbeet (Swiss chard or chard)
It’s sometimes confused with spinach, with which it is interchangeable. However, silverbeet has an ear thier taste. The leaves can be blanched, sautéed, steamed or stir-fried. The wide stem, or rib, which comes in vivid red, yellow or a bright white, can be chopped and sautéed in oil or butter. The stems take a little longer to cook than the leaves.
 
Rocket
This popular green comprises several rounded and spiked tender leaves jutting from slender stems. The delicious peppery flavour becomes more pungent with age. Rocket can be eaten raw in salads and can also be added at the last minute to stir-fries, barely requiring any cooking.
 
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