What does a person typically think of when they are asked about leafy greens? The most common response to that is [probably] spinach. And why not? It is good for you, versatile and readily available. But what if there were other options for people when they were told to eat their greens? Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly makes spinach so great? As previously stated, it is good for you. It contains countless minerals and vitamins as well as preventing scurvy and anemia. Nowadays, you will find it in most grocery stores already pre-washed and ready to go as well as in a multitude of frozen forms. Spinach could not be more convenient. To top it all off, there are so many different ways to eat it; entire articles could and have been written about just that.
But what are some other options to spinach, you might ask? Well, two options that are known to many a southerner are greens, both collard and mustard. Both [collard and mustard] greens are members of the crucifer family, which includes cabbage. Collards contain vitamin C, potassium and folic acid, and when cooked they are an excellent source of vitamin A (while still containing some vitamin C and potassium). Mustard greens are the edible leaves from the same mustard plant used to make yellow mustard. Mustard greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, iron, and potassium. Greens have a strong flavor with bitter and spicy notes, although mustard is more pungent.
Next on the list of underrepresented greens is kale. Like the greens, kale is another member of the cabbage family. Kale has had a recent upsurge in popularity as a trendy super food, and with good reason. Kale is bursting with good stuff. It contains vitamins and minerals up the wazoo when raw and retains most of them even after being cooked. Because of its tough nature and pronounced flavor, kale is mostly consumed cooked. However, used in moderation, it can add a distinct spicy note to fresh salads.
Last on this whirlwind tour of greens we have chard, aka Swiss chard. Chard, unlike the other greens covered so far, is related to the beet. Chard is also filled with a wide range of vitamins and minerals. It is often compared to spinach, although its leaves are actually larger and milder. Unlike spinach, chard has a thick, celery-like stalk that can sometimes be fibrous. Due to its mild flavor, chard is perfectly suitable to be eaten raw or cooked, and its stalk can be separated from the leaves and cooked on its own.
So there you have it! A world open to possibilities. The next time your doctor tells you to eat your greens, you will have a plethora of choices that are good to eat as well as good for you. So get creative, be adventurous, but most all, enjoy your food!
All images obtained from Wikipedia and FineCooking.com.