Lets talk about winter greens, how to prepare and eat cool season leafy green vegetables, and how to add them to your diet for maximum nutritional value
Technically, all of these winter greens can grow year round. Here in California, we can grow “winter greens” twice a year, once in the fall with a winter harvest and again in the spring with an early summer harvest.
But generally, heat makes many green leaves tougher (more fibrous and harder to eat) and some even burn. So they grow and flourish in cooler weather.
Try to incorporate a serving of raw or cooked greens a day, or 5-6 servings a week, along with your other daily intake of seasonal vegetables. One serving is 1 cup of raw greens or 1/2 cup of cooked greens.
1. Beet greens
Many people don’t know you can eat the greens that grow atop of beets. Beets are a cool season vegetable, so if you buy them during the winter, you’ll see big leafed tender greens attached to the top. Don’t throw those away – its food! Besides being a great source of vitamin C, E, A, and fiber, beet greens nutrition supports blood clotting and prevents osteoporosis.
Chop up the beet greens and saute with olive oil and minced ginger for a side dish or boil them for three minutes and add them to a salad with feta cheese to add a tangy kick.
2. Brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts don’t deserve their bad rap. They mature in the cool season as little knobs on long stalks, and are truly a quintessential winter vegetable. A cup of brussel sprouts meet your daily requirements of vitamin K and A, and offer folate, manganese, fiber, and B vitamins. Studies also show that brussel sprouts have cancer fighting powers as they supports the body’s detox and the anti inflammatory system.
My favorite way to eat brussel sprouts is to roast them at 400 degree for 35 minutes, grate fresh parmesan cheese on top while still hot so it melts, and enjoy! You can also slice them in half, steam them for 8 minutes. Then melt a little coconut oil on top while the brussel sprouts are still hot and season with lemon pepper.
There are two kinds of kale that we primarily find in the winter – lacinato which is tender and has bumpy skinnier leaves, and curly kale which is more sturdy and has the stereotypical curled frilly leaves. In areas that experience frost, you can also find frost burned kale leaves that are sweeter than average. High in Vitamin A, K, C, manganese, and Vitamin B6, Kale is also loaded with antioxidants and can help prevent heart disease.
Curly kale is more fibrous and can be massaged to help break down its structure before you add it to salads or other dishes. It also makes a great kale chip. Wash and chop the kale, season it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes for crispy kale chips. Lacinato kale is more tender and you can chop and add it to salads for a tender green or stir into winter soups.
4. Mustard greens
Mustard greens are another lesser known winter green, but it grows as an invasive weed in many parts of the United States and Canada. It is frequently used in South Asian cuisines, offering a peppery flavor to dishes. Mustard greens are high in Vitamin K, A, C, E, copper, fiber, and manganese, making it another heart healthy vegetable.
Mustard greens have a definitive peppery flavor with a slightly pungent undertone. So they make a great addition to starchy blander winter vegetables. Add them to dishes with garbanzo beans or potatoes or winter squash soup for flavor. You can also saute them with a bit garlic in a mild oil like grapeseed oil and serve them as a side.
5. Collard greens
Collard greens are especially popular in American food in the South, but deserve more acclaim. They may not be as hip as kale or as novel as beet greens, but collard greens are a winter green that you can grow as a year round in many areas of the United States. they enjoys cold weather but also do well in warmer temperatures. That means you can get your daily recommended value of Vitamin A and K, as well as some folate from collard greens all year long.
Eat it southern style as a saute with smoked ham or cripsy bacon. You can also add it to add depth to winter soups. Sometimes the stems can be very tough so unless you add them to a soup that is pureed, use collard greens by remove the stalks and chopping up the leaves.
6. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is as visually appealing as it is tasty, with its yellow, pink and red stalks and deep green leaves. Chard is another excellent source of Vitamin K, A, C, and iron, and is a great food for regulating blood sugar.
Like beet greens, saute it in some coconut or grapeseed oil with some minced ginger and a sprinkle of red paper flakes to enjoy it as a side. You can also use its colorful stalks to add some visual appeal to a baked dish by adding it to a frittata or casserole.
7. Purple Cabbage
While not green, purple cabbage shares the nutritional makeup of many of its seasonally related vegetables. It is high in Vitamin K, C, B6, as well as manganese, potassium and fiber. Cabbage has been shown to effectively regulate blood sugar, especially for those with Type 2 diabetes. In some cuisines, sauerkraut or another type of fermented cabbage is commonly eaten alongside or following a meal to regulate blood sugar spikes and aid digestion.
Fermenting can take months, but you can quickly make a picked purple cabbage: Finely slice a head of cabbage into 1/8″ strips. Bring 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 2 cloves crushed, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 2 tsp of chile paste to a boil. Pour the hot vinegar mix over the cabbage and toss. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then serve.