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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
Greens- Kale, chard, collards...
Inspiration for these weekly food musings come from just about everywhere. Sometimes it's the aroma of a pallet full of mangoes. Other times I'm thinking that some under-appreciated vegetable could use a good plug or two.

Today, the inspiration for the following revelation is sitting cold and cozy in the refrigerator. You see, most of yesterday afternoon I spent cooking greens in various ways. Cooking type greens like kale, collards, mustard and chards are available twelve months a year. I am fortunate in that I still have plenty of fresh organically grown cooking greens in my little backyard plot.

On July 17th of last year I planted seeds of a variety of veggies. The spinach, broccoli, bush green beans and beets are long gone. But the greens I planted, lacinato kale, red chard and collards, have not bolted and gone to seed, and they refuse to die!

Here is a brief go-round on some common greens.

There are many types of kale. The most common is curly green kale, but there also is Red Russian, Red Bore (actually purple in color) and the previously mentioned lacinato kale.

In general, kale is fairly coarse and needs some cooking to soften up. The easiest prep method is to wash and dry it, chop it into bite sized pieces and saute it in olive oil with onions, garlic and any other veggies you like. Dress it with oil and vinegar and you're set. Kale also steams real well and makes a great addition to any soup or stew.

My favorite is the lacinato kale. It is an old-old Italian heirloom variety that is less coarse and a bit more tender to the bite. It is a deep blue/black in color, with a narrow oval shape and a savoyed, crinkly texture to the leaf. It is actually quite beautiful. (Heavens, only a true produce guy could actually call kale beautiful!)

Collard greens are really nothing but flat, non-curled kale. Southern recipes cook it forever with fat but I don't find that necessary. Here's any easy way to get the goodness of collards on the table. Cook it in a sauce pan with a can (sorry!) of tomatoes. If you use those fire-roasted or herb flavored tomatoes, fine. Add some chunks of zucchini, onion, carrots and a generous helping of Italian seasoning, rosemary, oregano or marjoram.

Just let it simmer until the firmest veggies are tender. Heck add some boneless chicken chunks and serve over rice or pasta and you have a full meal.

Here's what I did with collards yesterday. Wash, dry and cut up Yukon gold potatoes, 4-5 medium spuds. Cut up one large yellow onion in chunks. Wash, dry and cut up collards into small pieces. Squeezed lots, like eight cloves of garlic. I put all of this in a rectangular Pyrex baking dish. (I also had a couple of oddball parsnips I added to this mix.) I added some dried Italian seasoning, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar and tossed it all together. I then covered it in foil and baked it for about an hour at 350 degrees. (I was baking some chicken at the same time.) It sort of steamed cooked, and it tasted great.

Red Chard, and the green variety also, behaves more like spinach in that it cooks quicker, and is more tender than other greens. Yesterday I put it in a minestrone that I pressure cooked. Chard can be used like spinach in a saute, steamed dish or just added to soup or stew. It is also good in scrambled eggs.

Greens are VERY nutritious. They are high in vitamins A and C and calcium, along with iron and trace minerals like folic acid, and magnesium.

The lineup also includes turnips greens, dandelions, mustards among others. They are all on the hearty flavored side although some are milder than others. Heck, just do a bit of experimenting!

Invest some of your green on greens!

FOR a GOOD TIME...
Visit the 16th Annual Alameda County Spring Home and Garden Show Friday February 1 through Sunday February 3 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Get a jump on all the spring and summer home projects like GARDENING! This show is always lots of fun, check it out.