rooted in foods | go green | Food and cooking

From slightly bitter cabbage to peppery mustard and turnip, dark leafy greens have long been a staple in Southern cuisine. Several additional varieties complement what we call “greens” including beets, chard, dandelion, kale, nettles, sorrel, and spinach. These are just a few of what has been cooked in home kitchens for generations.

Greens have a rich and diverse heritage across many cultures. According to late food historian Karen Hess, collard greens were once the food of the poor in England. The greens were cooked with other scrap vegetables in a kind of thickened pot with barley. These same traveled with the English as they made their way to what would become Colonial America.

Eventually, these and other greens found their way into the hands of African slaves, who cooked them in a similar way. As a result, braised cabbage has become synonymous with African-American heritage and is a common dish in Southern cuisine. Cabbage and other vegetables are often cooked with cured ham or ham, and eaten with cornbread on the side or pot-cooked cornbread pancakes with vegetables. The liquid, called pot likker, can be reserved and used in other recipes – or simply drunk on its own.

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Even early Scottish settlers ate greens with oatmeal cookies. Nettles such as nettles and dandelion greens were collected from yards and incorporated into meals. In my family, dandelions often make their way into salads and there are still stories of “old people” – long gone – who drank dandelion wine.

If vegetables were not served during meals when you were older, you may need to gain a taste for them. They are savory and savory when cooked, and crunchy and sour served raw with sauce.

Use large, tender leaves as wraps for cold meat, chicken, or tuna salad. Boil the coarse leaves to use as mincemeat wraps, and bake them in sauce or gravy. Add chopped vegetables to soups, omelets, scrambled eggs, quesadillas, or stir-fries for a nutrition boost. Put them in a lasagna and vegetables plate or mix them, cut into cheese sauces.

If you want to hide more vegetables in foods for kids, add them to smoothies, smoothie bowls, pasta sauces, pesto and dips for chips and vegetables. You can also puree the vegetables with a little water and add them to the dumpling and pasta dough. Finely chopped vegetables can be tucked into meatloaf, meatballs, and hamburgers.

Aside from the abundant ways to eat them, greens provide many health benefits. It’s low in calories – 62 calories per cup of cooked collard greens. They are also packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

According to the USDA, the darker varieties contain high amounts of folic acid and vitamin K; Both have an important role in our health, such as helping to prevent inflammation. Greens are also low on the glycemic index, which means they have a low impact on glucose levels.

Given their healthy properties and their versatility in recipes, it’s time to add a few vegetables to your grocery list and weekly menu. If you’re careful, start small by incorporating a new green in your salad for dinner, then move on to more abundant recipes.

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