It’s important to eat your greens
I might have gotten carried away when I planted the early spring garden this year. I always plant lettuce, chard and kale, but this year I added mustard, two kinds of spinach and collards — as well as sorrel and a second type of lettuce.
Short of feeding half the neighborhood, I’ve been wondering what to do with so much green bounty. Fortunately, I like to cook and have developed some quick ways to use up all this stuff.
Collards are the most challenging green to feed friends and neighbors. People either love them or think they’re not fit for human consumption. I’ve tried several approaches: the traditional Southern cooking method of long and slow braising with a ham hock and then served with vinegar, hot peppers and cornbread; and any number of seriously non-traditional approaches. I’ve cut the collards into ribbons and sautéed them in coconut oil with onions and garlic, added coconut milk and a dollop of nuoc mam for umami and finished with a sprinkling of peanuts.
I’ve also tried an African-inspired approach that added peanut butter, jalapenos and tomato paste to sautéed collards. And then finally, I put leftover collards in a breakfast biscuit sandwich.
Think: a layer of long-cooked collards topped with a fried egg, bacon and cheese all on a homemade biscuit. Full disclosure: I like this sandwich, but everyone else thought I was ruining a perfectly good biscuit.
My family doesn’t greet kale with much more enthusiasm. My daughter adds it to green smoothies and claims to feel virtuous about consuming the murky looking mess. I resorted to making a tartine — a French-style open face sandwich, basically a piece of toasted ciabatta topped with sautéed kale, some ricotta and lots of mushrooms cooked in butter and sherry. Mushrooms simmered with butter and sherry will make anything taste good. Nevertheless, I still found piles of kale on plates after dinner. Raw kale in salads? Yes, please, but not every night.
Mustard greens are almost as problematic; usually, I sauté mustard greens with fresh ginger, garlic, Aleppo pepper flakes and cumin. We either eat the greens with rice or I put them on naan and top them with cheese for an Indian inspired pizza.
Spinach? Well, it’s greeted with much less surliness in my household, probably because my kids were exposed to it at a very early age. My mother-in-law always served creamed spinach as a side dish with the Sunday roast dinner.
They’re also used in spinach salads with a traditional German hot bacon and vinegar dressing or tossed with strawberries, nuts, chicken and a good poppy seed dressing.
Should I give up and plant fewer greens next year? Not a chance. Not even if I have to resort to leaving bags of greens on neighbors’ porches at midnight.
I’ll just keep experimenting.
Cynthia Wood is a master gardener who writes two columns for The Herald. Her email address is email@example.com