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March, 2012

Shoot for the Greens

By Mark Mulcahy


When you are at your local market, look for Melissa’s organic greens that are kept in a chilled display case or on ice.

Collard GreensWhen I was a produce manager, customers would often ask me,“What’s the best bunch of greens to eat to get the most calcium?” When I first heard this, I would recommend greens like arugula or collards – then I realized that some folks may not like these greens due to their strong flavor during certain times of the year.

So, I started asking them what greens they did like, and tailored my recommendations around that. After all, it doesn’t matter how much calcium or antioxidants a particular green has if you won’t eat it, right?

Well, whether you are a fan of fresh bunched greens or not, now is the time to eat them. Why? Because even though they grow year-round, in the late winter/early spring they are especially good because the cold makes them sweeter. With the mild but cool weather we have had around most of the country this year, Melissa’s organic greens are abundant, tasty, and reasonably priced.

KaleWhen choosing Melissa’s fresh organic greens like kale or chard, look for fresh green, red, or purple leaves. In the spring, the rule of thumb would be to choose bunches with smaller leaves, as they would be more tender than greens grown in warmer months. This year however, you can have smaller leaves and bunches and still have leaves that are a little less tender since it takes them longer to grow in the colder nights. There is a bonus to this besides the sweeter flavor: in many tests, organic greens have shown to be higher in antioxidants because these plants have to work harder to grow, which makes them stressed. Stress in a plant creates more antioxidants, and more antioxidants can make you healthier! If you are not sure how much to buy, figure that you get about two cups cooked for every pound (or 6 cups) of raw kale.

When you are at your local market, look for Melissa’s organic greens that are kept in a chilled display case or on ice. While this is the most common way to buy them, sometimes during big promotions a store may pile them off the chilled display for quick sales. Greens left off refrigeration will wilt faster and will not hold up as long when you get them home. Kale in particular will become bitter if left in a warm place for a long period of time.

When you get them home, place Melissa’s unwashed organic greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and they will keep for up to a week in the crisper drawer. If you prefer milder greens, you should plan on eating them sooner than later as the taste becomes stronger the longer they are stored. If you find a good deal on greens and want to stock up, you can freeze them and use them in recipes later on. Just wash your greens and dry them well. Yes – even organic greens should be washed as they may have dirt or grit stuck to the leaves and may have been handled by many people. The easiest way is to fill your sink, dip your unbanded bunch into the water and swirl them around, letting the grit settle to the bottom. Once should be enough but with particularly sandy greens like spinach you may want to do it again.

Pat them dry with a paper towel then chop by hand into small pieces or mince in a food processor. Place chopped greens in a bag or container and freeze. Minced, frozen greens can be used similar to raw since they thaw very quickly. Melissa’s organic greens are so healthy for you and really quite versatile; they can be steamed and added to a can of soup, laid in a tortilla with hummus and cheese for a healthy quesadilla, or wilted on top of pasta. Healthy, hearty and full of flavor – what’s not to like?

Enjoy the bounty.