Call me a salad snob. I firmly believe a green salad should be GREEN! Iceberg lettuce is no longer a staple at my house. It has been replaced with its cousins – Romaine, red leafy, and spinach. This time of year I go to the garden for my leafy greens. There I find more exotic greens that I can’t afford or can’t find in the store.
Leafy greens are now abundant at local farmers markets. This is the perfect time to try some new-to-you greens. This week when you are at the farmers market, strike up a conversation with one of the vendors and ask them about their favorite salad greens. Ask if you can taste some of them before you make your purchase. My advice is to buy a variety in small amounts and mix them together. Some greens, like arugula and watercress, have peppery bite and add a nice kick to a rather tame salad.
The old food guide pyramid was recently replaced with “ChooseMyPlate.” One message from the simplified nutrition guide is to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits at each meal and snack. According to 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), only 22% of men and 32% of women are getting three or more servings of vegetables a day.
In the fine print of MyPlate it recommends that adults consume at least three to four servings of dark greens a week. How are you doing? One serving of leafy greens can be measured in one cup. You could get your week’s worth of dark greens in two nice salads. But why stop there?
Dark leafy greens are recommended over the head lettuce because they are packed with Vitamins C and A. Romaine lettuce has seven times more vitamins A and C than iceberg. These nutrient-dense vegetables also include Vitamin K, folate, lutein, potassium, and fiber. And all this goodness for about 10 calories a serving!
Once you get your greens home, throw them in a large bowl of cold water. If they have wilted from the heat, the cold water will revive them. Drain the greens in a colander and shake to remove more water. You can also pat them down with towel or give them a whirl in a salad spinner. What you don’t eat right away can be stored in a container in the refrigerator.
Last week I harvested the remainder of my spinach that came up in early spring. The mature spinach was a little tough for a salad so I finely chopped the greens into a pesto. Yum!
4 cups spinach (or other greens), cleaned and dried
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup walnuts
½ cup olive oil
½-1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Puree mixture in food processor until smooth. Best when served at room temperature. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 1 cup.
Carol Erickson is a member of the Local Foods Work Group of the University of Illinois Extension in Winnebago County. She works for Extension in the field of SNAP education, teaching community members how to prepare and cook healthy and nutritious food for themselves and their families. She blogs about local foods at blogs.e-rockford.com/gogreen.