Are you someone who wants to like greens but you just can’t get down with the taste? Or perhaps you enjoy a salad here and there but are looking for more variety? Most people are okay with salad greens, especially when the salad is loaded up with crunchy veggies and a yummy dressing (side note: always make your dressings from scratch–it takes less time than you think and cuts out a ton of unnecessary junk ingredients and calories), but when it comes to dark, leafy greens like kale, collards, chard, arugula, and the like they are less enthusiastic. Darker greens are heartier and tend to have a stronger taste than lighter lettuce greens, especially when eaten raw. If you’re trying to eat healthier, though, and want to reap all the benefits of a daily greens habit, you’ve gotta learn to love them. Here are seven awesome ways to prepare greens that will show you how tasty and varied a diet full of leafy greens can be!
I made some massaged greens for lunch yesterday that were freaking amazing (they were the inspiration for this post!). Many people massage their greens with oil, but I like to massage them with a big pinch of salt. Massaging greens helps them begin to break down–this is the first step to fermenting greens (see number 5 below)–and knocks the bitterness right out.
To massage greens, start by cleaning, stemming, and chopping them. Then, place the greens in a bowl with a pinch of salt and/or a splash of good-quality oil (olive, coconut, and sesame are my favorites). With clean hands, squeeze and rub your greens for several minutes. When they start to wilt and get a bit watery, you’re done. Drain the extra water, add any other toppings you like (for the kick-ass bowl I made yesterday I added a spoonful of tahini and tons of garlic), and enjoy!
2. Blanched or Steamed
If you’re looking to kick the bitterness without adding oil, try blanching or lightly steaming your greens. Both options create a fresh, light serving of greens that taste good plain or topped with a squeeze of citrus. These methods are also as easy as boiling water and require minimal clean-up.
To blanch, turn the heat off after the water comes to a boil; add a pinch of salt and the cleaned, stemmed greens; and let them sit in the hot water for a minute or so. To steam, set a steamer basket atop a pot of boiling water (if you don’t have a steamer basket, use a metal strainer), add the greens, and place the lid on top. Let the greens steam for a few minutes, until they are bright green and soft. Don’t let them steam for too long or they’ll become mushy and lose excess nutrients.
Sauteed, seasoned greens are really good and make a great option for greens newbies. I like sauteed greens as a dinner side dish or served with an English-style breakfast. Simply add a bit of oil to a pan and heat, add the greens and a pinch of salt (a splash of tamari is always great too!), and stir over medium heat until the greens are warmed and wilted.
4. Baked or Roasted
Baking or roasting greens can go a few different ways. One method is to tear your greens into bite-sized pieces, rub with a bit of oil and spices, and make baked kale chips. No, they don’t taste like potato chips, but they’re just as good for snacking and much better for you.
Another option is to add greens to a dish of roasted vegetables or baked eggs. Or you could mix up a tofu scramble with greens and potatoes for a vegan breakfast roast. Casserole-style roasted greens dishes are great choices for healthy, one-pan dinners that you can easily prep ahead of time.
If you like sauerkraut, you’ll love fermented greens. (If not, you might want to move on to the next item.) Fermented foods are really trendy right now because health food trends as of late are all about the gut, and fermented foods help restore good bacteria to the gut (yes, like yogurt, but without the sugar or dairy). You might know an unhealthy gut can cause symptoms like poor digestion, bloating, gas, constipation, and IBS, but did you know that an unhealthy gut can also cause acne, allergies, rashes, fatigue, and a whole host of other problems? Eating fermented greens a few times a week can help maintain your healthy gut and provide all the healthy benefits of greens themselves.
To ferment a batch of greens, you’ll need a super clean large jar and smaller jar that will fit inside the larger one, a super clean bowl, a few tablespoons of salt, and a cleaned and chopped head of kale with 1-2 clean leaves reserved. I say “super clean” because the greens will sit out on the counter in the jar for a few days in order for the good bacteria to grow, but if there are germs present they will grow instead and create mold. Add your cleaned and chopped greens along with 1-2 tablespoons of salt to the bowl and massage vigorously for several minutes. When the greens are wilted, producing their own liquid, and your hands kind of hurt, you’re done. Transfer the greens and their liquid to the jar and layer the leaves on top so that they push the bits of kale down under the liquid. Fill the smaller jar with water and place it on top of the leaves to serve as a weight. It’s really important for the leaves and the kale to be completely submerged, as mold will grow if any part of the greens are exposed to air. Replace the lid and leave out to ferment for at least three days. When you’re ready to eat the fermented kale, remove the weight and discard the leaves. Keep the kale refrigerated at this point, and always use a clean utensil to remove kale from the jar in order to avoid introducing bad bacteria.
If you have more questions about fermenting or want to find recipes for fermenting other vegetables, do some research on lacto-fermentation (note: some methods of lacto-fermentation use whey, but it’s not a necessary ingredient in many cases). Also keep a look out for a fermented salsa recipe I’ll be posting in the near future.
6. Mix with Salad Greens
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Try a ratio of 25:75 dark greens to salad greens, and work your way up to a higher dark greens ratio until they become an acquired taste for you.
7. Make a Smoothie
Blending greens and fruit has basically become a staple by now, but if you’re new to green smoothies, here are some tips. Like the salad-mixing tip above, start with a high ratio of fruit to greens and gradually adjust. Frozen bananas, pineapple, and mango make great additions to a green smoothie, but you want to get to a point where you’re adding only a touch of sweetness and a ton of greens for a super healthy smoothie packed with nutrients. Nut milk, coconut milk, and soy milk are all great to mix in, as are coconut water and regular water. For a more filling version, add a spoonful of nut butter, chia seeds, oats, or flaxmeal. You can’t really go wrong with a smoothie, but I do suggest coordinating your ingredients by color somewhat. That may sound weird, but a dark greenish brown smoothie just doesn’t look appetizing (though it will probably still taste good).
That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope these methods help you get more greens into your life, because they are soooo worth it. Let me know if you try one of these varieties and how you like it!