Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Spotlight On Greens

In the spring, any CSA, and, for that matter, any farmers market in our part of the country is inevitably dominated by greens. It works out this way due to timing. Crops in the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, and kale) can tolerate frost, meaning we can plant them early, but the leaf crops mature much more quickly than the slower growing crops that form a head, like cauliflower and cabbage. Then there are the asian greens and lettuce crops, which are less frost tolerant but grow quite quickly, meaning they, too, are ready to harvest before many of the other vegetables.
I often find that people are intimidated by greens. My mother is a formidable cook, but just this winter I bought a bunch of collard greens while visiting her and was surprised to find, in my farmer-bubble sort of way, that she had never cooked them and had no idea what to do with them.
In fact, greens are easy, delicious, and healthy. I have included several easy recipes for greens to give you some ideas of their possibilities. In addition to the recipes I’ve found, greens can be added to any brothy soup, right before the end, so they wilt in the heat right as the soup is done cooking. I add greens to my scrambled eggs in the morning, and used to sell kale to a coffee shop that added it to their banana-orange smoothies for a drink that was startilingly green and very delicious.
Should you tire of eating fresh greens or find yourself with an overwhelming amount, they are also easily preserved for later use.

Freezing greens: Cut up your greens and blanch them in boiling water for about two minutes. Dry lightly, put into freezer bags, press out the air, and freeze.

Lacto-fermenting greens (Gundru): Note: I tried this last year. It worked, for sure, but the greens do taste very unusual. Try this if you have an adventurous palate. According to Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, the book in which I found this recipe, this is a traditional Nepalese ferment.
• Set greens in the sun for a few hours until they wilt.
• Using a rolling pin and a cutting board, smash and crush the greens to encourage the juices out. Do not lose the juice.
• Stuff the leaves and any juice coming out into a glass jar. Use pressure to fill the jar to capacity, forcing out more juice. Fill until jar is completely full of smashed greens covered in green juice. Screw a lid onto the jar.
• Place jar in sunny place for two to three weeks. At the end, greens should be pungent.
• You can serve them as is, or dry them on a line or spread in the sun. In Nepal, the dried gundru is used as soup stock.

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