For Better Living: It’s Time for Fall Greens

Sandra Cain Bladen County Cooperative Extension

October 28, 2013

We used to think of greens as a salad of iceberg lettuce. Today, greens run the gamut from iceberg lettuce to cooked collards and include beet and turnip tops, Swiss chard, chicory (curly endive), collards, dandelion and mustard greens, kale, endive, escarole, parsley, rape, spinach, and watercress. Common cooking greens around our area include collards, mustard, and turnip greens. This is the time of year when greens are plentiful at grocery stores, farmer’s markets and roadside stands.

Nutrition Facts

Dark green leafy vegetables are packed with vitamins. Greens are a major source of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is needed for vision, normal growth, reproduction, and a healthy immune system. One serving (1/2 cup) of greens can supply up to 50 percent of our daily need for vitamin A. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, plays a vital role in fighting infection, keeping gums healthy, and healing wounds. A serving of greens can supply up to 30 percent of our daily need for vitamin C. Both vitamins A and C are also antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic disease, and they both contain phytochemicals that fight disease.

Greens also provide about 20 percent of our daily needs for calcium. This can be important for people who are lactose intoleranct. Greens are also low in calories—a half-cup serving contains 20 to 30 calories. These are good reasons to consume as many greens as possible.


Regardless of the type of greens you choose, look for bright green leaves that are fresh, young, moist, and tender. Leaves that are injured, torn, dried, limp, or yellowed indicate poor quality and poor nutritional value. Avoid greens with coarse stems that may result in excess waste. Farmers’ markets usually have a good selection of greens, allowing you to purchase enough for dinner or freeze for the same fresh taste in winter. Depending on the type, one 12-pound bushel of greens will supply 8 to 12 frozen pints. When selecting greens for cooking, remember they cook down to three-fourths or less of their original volume. One pound of kale yields about 2 1/2 cups cooked; 1 pound of mustard greens yields 1 ½ cups cooked.


Store greens in the coldest section of the refrigerator for no more than two to three days. After that, the flavor of some greens can become quite strong, and the leaves will go limp.


Wash greens well in lukewarm water or swirl them in lukewarm water in a large bowl (dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl). Remove any roots, rough ribs, and the center stalk if it is large or fibrous. To use greens in salads, thoroughly drain and dry them. This allows the salad dressing to stick to the leaves. Allow about 8 ounces of greens per serving. Mild-flavored greens such as chard, kale, or spinach should be steamed until barely tender. Strong-flavored greens such as collard, mustard, or turnip greens need longer cooking in a seasoned broth. To avoid bitterness, blanch strong-flavored greens before adding them to soups and stews.

To freeze: Wash young tender green leaves thoroughly and cut off woody stems. Greens must be blanched before freezing, so blanch collards in water 3 minutes and all other greens 2 minutes. Cool, drain, and package, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal, label, and freeze. Greens store well for up to one year.

Source: University of Kentucky

Mustard Greens

1/2 cup thinly sliced onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 pound mustard greens, washed and torn into large pieces

2 to 3 Tbsp chicken broth or vegetable broth (vegetarian option)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 In a large sauté pan, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook a minute more, until fragrant.

2 Add the mustard greens and broth and cook until the mustard greens are just barely wilted. Toss with sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Kickin’ Collards

3 slices bacon

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

3 cups chicken broth

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1 pound fresh collard greens, cut into 2 inch pieces

1. Cook bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and return to pan. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook just until fragrant. Add collard greens and cook until they start to wilt.

2. Pour in chicken broth and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until greens are tender.