Leafy greens are one of the joys of spring. You can steam them or put them into soups for a cold and rainy day, or make them into a salad to enjoy as the sun starts peeking out. Not only are spring greens delicious and diverse, they are also incredibly healthy! In fact, leafy greens are among the vegetables that have the greatest positive health impact when included as part of your regular diet.
If you are looking for a little more diversity, here are five spring greens you should be integrating into your diet.
1. Dandelion Greens
Most gardeners dread dandelions popping up in the garden, while other people often regard dandelions as slightly attractive weeds at best. However, all of those weeds you are throwing into the trash are sources of important nutrition! They are excellent sources of vitamins A, K, and C, as well as good sources of fiber, calcium, manganese, iron, and B vitamins.
Dandelion is a bitter-tasting green with a slightly peppery flavor, which works great in salads with a vinaigrette dressing, or braised with olive oil.
2. Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli)
Gai lan will surely be an impressive addition to your next dinner party. Gai lan was originally found in Vietnam and China, as well as in part of California. While it doesn’t look much like broccoli, it has a similar taste, which is how it got its name. You can eat the whole stalk and leaves in a salad, or you can integrate it into a stir-fry dish. It contains high levels of beta carotene, folate, vitamin E, iron, and calcium.
To prepare gai lan, it is recommended that you blanch it in order to get rid of some of the bitter taste, then integrate it into any hot or cold dish.
3. Radish Greens
Most people throw away the radish greens without even giving them a chance. However, radish greens are a delicious addition to springtime soups, especially potato and leek. When eaten raw, radish leaves don’t have a very yummy taste, but they are delicious in soups since all the bitterness is removed.
Radish leaves are high in vitamin A and C, as well as folic acid and calcium.
Raw escarole looks a lot like lettuce. However, you can tell the difference because the green color is a lot darker and the leaves are thicker. While you can use it in salads, if you aren’t a fan of the bitter taste and harder texture, you can grill or sauté the escarole leaves and serve with sesame oil and sesame seeds. You won’t be disappointed!
Like the spring greens mentioned above, escarole is high in vitamins C and A, fiber, calcium, and iron.
Rapini, known by some as broccoli rabb or broccoli rabe, is part of the the Brassica family of vegetables, which also includes cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. It is believed to have Central Asian origins but it is used in Italian cooking. Like other members of the Brassica family, rapini is high in vitamins K, A, and C, in addition to iron, manganese, folate, and fiber.
Be prepared to be surprised! The versatility of these spring greens will give you a new range of textures, tastes, and uses. You can grow your repertoire even further by going to local ethnic grocery stores and buying seasonal vegetables. If you aren’t sure how to prepare them, ask a store assistant. They will likely know about the food and give you tips on how to prepare it.
Take a risk! Your body will thank you later.