How to Keep Greens From Going to Waste
By Lucy Watkins
As members of an organic produce cooperative, my family often ends up with either too much produce or produce that has never seen the inside of our kitchen. In order to help reduce our waste, try these storage tips, recipes and other ideas for getting the most out of our organic veggie booty – and specifically, from greens and broccoli.
Full of nutritional value, leafy greens should be a large part of our diets. Their diverse flavors, textures and wide range of uses make them easily incorporated into our meals. With the exception of lettuces (romaine, red leaf, iceberg), most greens cook nicely and can be frozen for future use. Also, consider replacing your usual iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce with spinach, kale or chard, giving sandwiches and salads a different twist on flavor, texture and nutrition.
My husband loves broccoli. I love broccoli. The girls love broccoli. I put it in anything and everything. However, we do get tired of it. On those rare occasions, I use Martha Stewart’s idea for flash freezing.
She suggests you cook the vegetable briefly either by par boil or microwave. Whichever cooking method you employ, it is important to dry the individual florets on a paper towel or other clean, absorbable material just enough so they are not dripping wet. Put the florets on a baking sheet so they do not touch each other (not vital, but it ensures the broccoli won’t clump together) and freeze for a couple hours. Remove and place in a freezer-safe container for later use.
This process works for a variety of items including string beans, cauliflower, peppers, etc.
The following recipes are three of my favorite ways of preparing spinach. The first is from my dear grandmother, Mommy Pat. This recipe works with all types of cookable greens (chard, collard, spinach, kale, dandelion), singularly or combined. The second recipe also works while leaving the greens firmer in texture. The final recipe is a simple dish that Barry’s Aunt Betty brings to family dinners to ensure the girls and I have something healthy and vegan at meat-laden meals. Unfortunately, everybody else enjoys it too, and they rarely leave much for us!
Mommy Pat’s Greens
6 cups washed, shredded greens
2 cups broth
splash of vinegar (optional)
Fill sink with clean water. Submerge loose greens in water. Gently rub leaves to remove mud and dirt. Drain sink and rinse greens. With your hands, shred the greens. In the case of greens with thick stems, such as collard or chard, put stems aside for composting or to use in a homemade broth. Combine the greens and broth into a large pot. Cover. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in a splash of vinegar.
Serve as a side dish over rice or cous cous.
Variations: Use an herbal broth, seasoning salt (Mommy Pat always used Lawry’s), garlic, lemon or Tabasco.
This recipe also works well for freezing. After cooking, let the greens cool. Place in freezer-safe containers and freeze. When ready to use your frozen, pre-cooked greens, simply warm up in the microwave or on the stove. Use your greens a side dish or as an addition to soups and stews.
No-Name Recipe for Greens
2-4 cups shredded greens (spinach, chard and kale work nicely)
2-4 Tablespoons olive oil (just enough to lightly coat the greens)
1-2 garlic gloves, gently chopped*
*According to garlic experts (I’m not joking, I swear), the flavor of garlic is directly related to how it is handled. For a gentle garlic flavor, gently slice or chop. By harshly crushing and chopping garlic, the cook brings out a harsh garlic flavor.
Pour olive oil into a large pan, wok, or cast iron skillet. Heat the olive oil so it makes a slight sizzling sound when garlic is added. Add garlic. Cook for one minute before adding shredded greens. Toss greens with oil and garlic until coated and heated thoroughly. Serve immediately.
Simple Spinach Salad
Raw spinach, washed and shredded
Orange slices, peeled, separated, and cut (mandarin is the usual favorite)
Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and toss. No real measurements on this. Go by what looks good, and enjoy!
More ideas: Spinach and broccoli also work nicely in stews, soups, marinara sauces, pasta salads, rice salads and even on pizza!
© Lucy Watkins; first appeared at Vegetarian Baby & Child magazine
Lucy Watkins is site manager for VegetarianBaby.com and co-editor of Vegetarianteen.com Online Magazine. She also writes the Celebrity Buzz column for VegNews.