Eat your greens for good health benefits

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lettuces and greens are now in season and available at your local farmers market. Salad greens are very low in calories and high in fiber. Most varieties of lettuce and also spinach have much higher nutritional values than the commonly used head lettuce.

“Greens” refers to any vegetable used for its green leaves. Spinach, collards, beet greens, mustard greens, kale and Swiss chard are some of the common greens. Most of these do best in cooler weather, and spinach is one of the first greens to be ready in the spring. Swiss chard is probably one of the best greens for the whole summer season. While many of the greens will bolt and get bitter during hot weather, this does not happen with Swiss chard. You can just keep cutting it all summer, and it will keep regrowing.

If you are cooking greens, be sure not to overcook. I especially like using spinach raw in salads. It is also good in omelets, quiches, lasagna and casseroles.

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 T. sesame seeds

1-1/2 lbs. spinach

1/3 C. vegetable oil

1/3 C. red wine vinegar

1 T. sugar

1 T. minced green onion

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 C. strawberries, sliced

Heat and stir sesame seeds in a skillet until golden and set aside. Wash spinach, dry thoroughly, and tear in bite size pieces. Blend oil, vinegar, sugar, minced onion and paprika to make dressing. Chill all ingredients except sesame seeds. Just before serving, mix spinach, strawberries, sesame seeds and dressing, and toss gently. Can also add 1/2 C. walnuts. (Can use purchased raspberry vinaigrette instead of above dressing, if desired.)

Spicy Potato Sausage and Greens Soup

1 lb. bulk hot Italian sausage

1/2 C. chopped onion

4 C. chicken broth

4 C. thinly sliced potatoes, with skins on

4 C. water

2 C. torn spinach, chard or other greens

1/3 C. whipping cream

salt and pepper to taste

In soup pot, add sausage and onions, cooking until meat is no longer pink. Add broth, potatoes, and 4 C. water. Bring to boil, and then simmer 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are done. Stir in greens and cook and for 1-2 minutes. Add cream, salt and pepper, and heat (but not boil). Serve hot. (Can chill and reheat for even better flavor).

Bedding plants and potted plants
Green Onions
Meats (pork, beef and elk)
Jams, jellies, and honey
Maple Syrup
Baked goods (breads, bars, cookies and more)
Jewelry and many unique craft items
Coming soon: Strawberries, kohlrabi and peas

Tips for Cooking Greens

If boiling greens, boil for only two to four minutes. If steaming, for for five to eight minutes. If stir frying, cook only two to five minutes. When the color brightens, this signals the cooking time should end. When cooked too long the color darkens and fades in vibrancy. You can serve cooked greens by tossing with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, or toss with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Saute precooked greens in garlic butter and onion. Or just top the cooked greens with a pat of butter, and salt and pepper. The milder greens are spinach, Swiss chard, collards, beet greens, and kale. The spicier greens are turnip, mustard, and arugula.

Notes from the garden

Most of you gardeners probably have your tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, and melons planted, but if not, you need to get them in right away. These are long-season crops that need quite a bit of time to grow and mature. This spring and early summer have been drier than normal, but rain is now coming this weekend. We had light rain for our Saturday morning market, but there was still a nice crowd there. And Sunday is bringing more rain, so maybe we will catch up on moisture a little bit. The strawberries are just starting to ripen, and this is a critical time for moisture for them, but everything was needing rain.

Farmers market notes

Today at the market, the American Legion will be serving their great food again and Todd Utpadel will be singing. We always enjoy having them at the market, and this year they will be at the farmers market once a month.

We have set the date of Wednesday, June 17 for our annual Strawberry Festival. This is when we will serve those wonderful fresh strawberry sundaes and shakes. This will be a fundraiser for the Albert Lea Farmers Market, so come enjoy the food and help out the market. We have made a lot of improvements at the market the last two years, so our funds are now pretty well depleted. The local Farm Bureau will be giving away some free reuseable shopping bags, and serving hot dogs. Don’t miss this event. We will be serving out of the Farmers Market “Red Barn” shed.

Each Wednesday we will have some group serving food, and often entertainment as well. Do your shopping, and then sit down and relax with some good food and entertainment. We have more vendors coming each week to the market, so you will see a better variety of products than we have ever had. Come join us for all the fun and excitement. See you there!

Verlys Huntley is a Master Gardener with the Albert Lea Farmers Market.