Winter Cold Wearing You Out? Get Your Leafy Green On.

If you live in a northern climate like I do, you’ve probably already accepted the sad reality that there isn’t much green coming out of the ground in February. And that’s a shame, because dark leafy greens help us combat the stress that cold and flu season, shorter days and a more sedentary approach to life can take on our bodies. We can use the extra boost of vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate and potassium during the very months they’re impossible to grow.

A few greenhouses here in Maine produce excellent spinach and kale throughout the winter months, but other than that, our greens quotient is dictated by the selection available at the grocery store. Fortunately for us, numerous varieties are readily available just about anywhere.

Frisee Salad (2)
Frisee Salad / Hungry Dudes / CC BY 2.0

Kale is a winter green that has always benefitted the health of its diehard and, until recently, underground fans. The new popularity of this “Golden Child” of the dark leafy family means kale is diversifying the menus of everyone brave enough to try it for the first time. And suddenly people are realizing what almost every other culture in the world has known all along: bitter isn’t bad!

Kale’s moment in the spotlight has yielded a wealth of top notch recipes for home cooks and gourmands alike. And those recipes provide a new opportunity to experiment with some of the more colorful and spicy cousins in the bitter green family. So if you like kale, or you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon, you’re only a cookbook or web search away from a whole new world of veggies.

Chicory and endives share kale’s characteristic bitter edge, but they tend to pack a spicy bite that lends itself perfectly to both raw and cooked applications. Use them wherever a recipe calls for kale, or try some of the easy preparations I’ve shared below.

Belgian endive comes in a torpedo shape of tightly grouped white leaves that are tipped in light green or yellow. Peeling each leaf back, it becomes obvious that endive is great to scoop things up with, and my favorite is a white bean puree made with garlic and cracked black pepper.

Frisée is a white chicory and its loose head resembles a light green frizzy wig. It’s great for adding texture to tossed salad and is often used in mixed greens for that very reason. It can be sautéed or braised like kale, but my favorite way to eat it is lightly grilled with a light vinaigrette, a few curls of parmesan, and a sunny-side up-egg on top.

Radicchio is a deep red grapefruit-sized member of the chicory family that resembles mini red cabbages. Slice it thinly and use it raw in salads or slaws. Like frisée, it takes well to the grill, so for a great BBQ side dish, quarter the heads, leaving the stem intact, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill it for 3-4 minutes per side.

Have any favorite recipes for healthy greens to share? Email us or share your links in the comment section below.