We are fortunate to live in a part of the country where greens grow year round, but they are especially abundant this time of year. With the weather heating up, our bodies start to crave more raw and cooling foods, so now is the perfect time to experiment with the diverse offerings of our region. Plus, it’s only natural that we want to spend less time in the kitchen.
Greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Go for a variety of greens, as different greens have different nutritional profiles. For example, the darker, tougher greens, like kale and collards, are highest in calcium.
Different greens have different flavors – bitter, pungent, sweet, sour, spicy. Experiment. Hit the farmers markets or get out and forage, and try some wild leaves and stems that you’ve never had before – purslane, chickweed, lambs quarters.
Don’t forget the upper half of your veggies, like beet greens and turnip greens. I have broccoli and snap peas growing in my garden, and I’m always delighted when the leaves come in.
Integrate some of your old standby greens into your diet in new ways. Mix finely chopped kale into your oatmeal, an especially nice addition on cool mornings at the campsite. Add arugula to my smoothies for a kick of spice. While cold and refreshing in temperature, smoothies are easier on the system when they’ve got some heat to get your internal juices flowing, so I like to include fresh ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes as well.
Sweet & Spicy Smoothie
5-6 large frozen strawberries
2 frozen bananas, chopped into chunks
2 large handfuls of arugula
½ inch knob of fresh ginger
¼ cup raw cashews
Small pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup water
Beet Green Chips
Makes one big batch
1 large bunch of beet greens
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Wash the beet greens and dry them well in a salad spinner or with towels. Be sure to dry them thoroughly so they do not steam in the oven, but become crispy.
Remove the tough inner ribs and stems of the large leaves. (Chop finely and add to stir-fries, soups, steam and add to salads.) Leave the ribs and stems in tact on the smaller more tender greens. Keep the smaller leaves whole and tear or chop the larger leaves so that they are similar in size to the smaller ones.
Mix the olive oil and the garlic in a large bowl, then place the greens in a large bowl and toss and with your hands, lightly and evenly coat them with oil, adding more oil if necessary. You may also use an oil mister.
Lay the greens in a single layer on the baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the greens over with tongs or two forks and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, until the greens are crispy. Keep a close eye on them as they cook because they will turn from green and crunchy to brown and burned in an instant. Best eaten right out of the oven, they do not stay crunchy long.