During late spring and early summer, leafy greens are readily available at many stores, pantries, and farmer’s markets. Many greens grow best when the days are warm and the nights are still cool. As the summer moves on, the weather can get too hot for leafy greens and they’ll start to taste bitter so take advantage of their fresh taste while you can.
Common spring leafy greens include arugula, watercress, spinach, chard, and a wide variety of lettuces. Most spring greens are tender and better eaten uncooked. A few, like spinach and chard, are great both ways.
Spring greens are a great source of fiber and many studies have linked diets rich in dark green vegetables to reduced chances of developing heart disease and some cancers. Depending on the variety of leafy greens you eat, they are also a good source of potassium, Vitamin A, beta carotene, and Vitamin C.
Tips for Buying and Preparing Greens
- Delicate greens (like leaf lettuces) are best right after harvesting. So, if possible, try to use them the same day you buy them or over the next day or two.
- Choose greens with firm, uniform colored leaves. Avoid greens that are yellow, wilting, or slimy.
- Greens grow right by the soil so rinse them off well. A good way of doing this is to soak them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes and then rinse them off in running cool water.
- Greens like lettuce, baby spinach, and arugula don’t need to have their stems removed.
- Slightly heartier greens like full grown spinach and chard can benefit from having their stringy stems removed.
- Greens can easily be torn into bite sized pieces.
Make the most of plentiful leafy greens by trying out some of these preparation ideas and recipes.
- Apple Cranberry Salad – This recipe would work well with romaine or mixed greens, but other lettuce will work fine.
- Tex- Mex Skillet – Lettuce is great as a taco filling or served with this skillet.
- Turkey Meatball Lettuce Wraps – Large leaves of lettuce can be used in place of wraps, buns, or bread like in this recipe.
- Chicken Rice Salad – Lettuce can also be the base of traditional salads like this one with a homemade dressing.
- Salmon Salad – The side salad for this dinner features peppery arugula.
- Pork Chops with Lemon Spinach – Spinach cooks in only a couple of minutes, making it a speedy side for these pork chops.
- Whole Grains and Greens Salad – Spinach also makes a great base green for salads.
- Suateed Red Swiss Chard – Swiss chard is an easy side dish plus it’s bright and colorful so you might get your kids to eat it.
- Quinoa- Stuffed Acorn Squash – Swiss chard is an easy way to add color, fiber, and bulk into dishes.
Have a recipe that uses lots of spring greens? Suggest your recipe and we will post it!
Written by Rachel Caty, MPH, RDN, LDN