Growing Green

Finally, the whole country is going green.
Organic, natural, beautiful, and tasty green.
What better way to go green than to grow green?

Greens that is. Collards, kale, turnips greens, mustard greens, you name it. Swiss Chard, spinach, all yummy. These vegetables not only represent a wealth of health, but are also very easy to grow and prepare for meals.

curvaceous chard
Curvaceous Chard / Derek Visser / CC BY 2.0

First, the seeds: Use care to prepare your soil for starting your babies. Add a bit of compost to good starter garden soil, and be sure it can drain well. Soggy seeds are not happy. I always choose organic, local seeds for my garden. Your local supplier can give you hints for planting places and times. Normally greens are a cool weather crop, best suited for spring and fall.

You should see germination in a couple weeks; they grow very quickly after that. Big, strong stalks are made with direct sunlight: avoid making the seedlings bend for light, as they will become “leggy” and top heavy.

When they go in your garden area, give them room to grow and keep them moist, but not soaked. You will see the bounty of your love soon enough.

Then, the harvest: baby greens could be plucked in as early as a month, but waiting for maturity will simply yield more food. The plant will “bolt” or send up a flower to indicate it’s ready to go to seed and is at the end of its growth potential. Time to eat!

All kinds of greens grow in many types of soils and conditions, and each specific plant will taste different, according to its environment. Even the seedlings that may need to be thinned will spice up your salad or dressing.

Where to begin? These plants are loaded with vitamins and low in calories. They are best suited in quick sauté dishes, braised dishes or fresh in sandwiches or salads. Some of my favorite uses are for soups and sauces.

A Caldo Verde ( Portuguese green soup) would be the choice in New Bedford Ma, while Southerners love to simmer the greens slowly until they are tender for a nightly side dish. A method called blanching can really showcase their versatility. Simply boil a big ol’ pot of water, toss in a pinch of salt then toss in your greens for just a couple of minutes. Drain the water and “refresh” the greens by plunging them into ice water or running cold water until chilled. Drain them well and you have now prepped your greens for multiple uses. (They will keep for a day or so prepped like this in the fridge)

Try your favorite stir-fry recipe with a good handful of chopped, blanched greens in the end for wonderful color, texture and taste. Add to mashed potatoes, lasagna, or stews. Add to brown rice, scrambled eggs or chicken noodle soup. They work with just about everything!

Garden greens are usually only grown for their tops, their greens, but the stalks too are edible, with some clever applications. Try stripping the green off, then grilling the stalks and dipping them in your favorite BBQ sauce. How about a pesto with fresh garden greens? Take your available greens, maybe some spinach, mustard greens, kale and dandelion; blanch and refresh. Add a cup of greens to a food processor or blender with a few nuts, a scant bit of olive oil, a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and let her spin! What a great topping for pizza, poached fish, fresh salad or grilled chicken, not to mention a fantastic way to invite the kids into a new spectrum of veggies!

Show off that green thumb, be kitchen clever with these great versatile veggies and spread the word; it’s time to go green!