In the same family as the common beet, Swiss chard is one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean. Greeks and Romans honored chard for its medicinal properties.
The peak season for chard is from June until August– although it is available throughout the year at grocery stores. Its colorful stems and leaves which also include dark green colors, signal an abundance of phytonutrients. These phytonutrients provide anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Chard can also support bone health with a good supply of calcium and magnesium and Vitamin K.
Do not wash chard prior to storage in the refrigerator because it will contribute to early spoilage. Rinse under cold water before use but do not soak, as nutrient loss will result. Purchase from a chilled display to ensure crunchier texture and sweeter taste.
There are numerous types of mustard greens which can vary in color and levels of flavor bite. Cooking removes some the sharpness and intensity. They are delicious when paired with other greens or with sautéed onions. Store in an air-tight plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Like collard greens, cooked mustard greens have excellent cholesterol-lowering properties (I sauté mine). This reduction occurs in the digestive tract where bile acid, which is made from cholesterol, binds with the mustard greens. It is the binding properties of mustard greens (which rank second only to collard) that facilitate the reduction.
Mustard greens contain high levels of cancer-preventative phytonutrients, glucosinolates. They also contain high levels of Vitamins C, E, A, and manganese which are well-known anti-oxidant nutrients. These greens provide what research has shown to be an important anti-inflammatory nutrient, Vitamin K.
Often described as one of the healthiest vegetables on earth, kale is a true superstar. Lacinato or Tuscan kale, pictured here, is the most nutrient-dense choice you can make when buying kale. A cross between kale and cabbage, it is very winter hardy and tastes especially sweet after a freeze–it is at its best from mid-winter through early spring. Although we often use it in salads, in Tuscany and central Italy this kale is commonly used in soups and stews.
Kale’s cancer-preventative potential has been linked to a high concentration of flavonoids (kaempferol and quercitin) and carotenoids (lutein and beta carotene). In terms of anti-inflammatory potential, kale has the highest concentration of Vitamin K of any other vegetable. Kale’s high omega-3 content can provide other potential anti-inflammatory benefits. It is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber and micronutrients.
Domestically grown Italian Dandelion is a delicious and colorful addition to stir-fry, sautés, or salads where a new spicy element is what you are looking for. An excellent source of Vitamins K, C, A, and fiber, while being low in carbohydrates and sugars, dandelion is also packed with minerals that will provide another boost to your arsenal of healthy greens. The NutritionData website, gives it 5 stars for optimum health–its highest rating. My new favorite use is mixed with sautéed sliced ginger, bok choy, and chard for a colorful lunch salad with a splash of rice wine vinegar and some cut up cooked squash from the refrigerator. Or if you are looking for cooked greens with blistered olives, onions, and lemon, use it in our Jars of Savory Greens recipe. The dandelions there are combined with other sautéed greens for flavor and texture contrasts.