This week I picked a lot of greens–Swiss Chard, Collards, Turnip Greens, and Italian Dandelion. All of these greens will be in our winter garden in addition to kale, beets (greens), green lance (broccoli-type green), spinach, mustard. We have also planted several salad greens in the winter garden including romaine, chin chiang cabbage, mizuna, and vitamin green.
Italian Dandelion greens can be used either in salads or cooked. They are slightly bitter. They grow tall and are prolific. Seeds can be purchased from Territorial Seed Company.
Neither my husband nor I were brought up eating cooked greens. In attempting to grow more of our own food including the winter garden, we have found that greens are easy to grow and produce for a long period of time. They are also nutritious and help keep blood sugar under control. Greens are versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Greens can be preserved by canning and dehydrating. Our preference is to dry them.
Here are some tips about preparation.
- Wash greens repeatedly. I usually wash ours 3 to 4 times, until the water is clean. I then dry them in a salad spinner, and store them in large Zip Lock bags. We rinse out the bags and reuse them repeatedly for greens.
- Remove the heavy stems from Swiss Chard and similar greens. Cut the stems in 1″ pieces and cook separately from the leaves. When the stems become tender, add the leaves and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes until leaves are wilted. The stems are good to eat, but will be tough if you don’t cook them longer than the leaves.
- To make enough greens for a meal, we use our largest, deep skillet and overfill it . Use a small amount of water and cover with a lid. The greens cook down significantly.
- Cooked greens are good with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar at their simplest.
- They are also good mixed with a small amount of Italian dressing, a bit of olive oil or bacon drippings.
- We almost always use fresh or dried greens in vegetable or bean soups, and even chili. They add to the nutritional value, add some volume and color, but don’t really change the flavor. We have broken up dried sweet potato leaves in small pieces and added them to chili. They were almost undetectable. Dehydrated greens can also be ground into powder and added as an ingredient to sauces, pasta dough, casseroles, etc.
In a situation in which food is hard to get, greens could be an important part of a survival diet. As we demonstrated last winter, they can be grown year round and provide important vitamins that historically were missing in many diets resulting in malnutrition.