Not-so-Clean Greens

— By Camille DePutter

You know what I love this time of year? All the green. 

And I don’t just mean the flowers and the grass – I mean greens as in the ones your mother always told you to eat. 

Kale, swiss chard, dandelions, beet greens, spinach, leafy lettuces, the list goes on. I love it when these start showing up at the farmers’ market. Admittedly this year’s season is off to a bit of a slow start but in no time they’ll be here in abundance. 

Sure, I make a point of eating greens for the health benefits, but they’re not just super health foods, they’re also superstar ingredients because they can lend a ton of flavour to a dish.  Depending on what you choose they can offer up earthy, herbaceous, spicy, peppery, and bitter qualities to your food; they can add complexity and simple freshness at the same time. 

Greens are also awesome summery foods. Not just for salads and sautés, either. Try halving a romaine lettuce and lightly grilling it on the BBQ for a super summertime Caesar salad. Throw some fresh spinach and kale into a fruity smoothie for added nutrition and a punch of colour. They also pair amazingly well with other great, local produce easily spotted throughout the season, like tomatoes, hot peppers, and garlic. Of course, dark leafy greens also pair well with that other magical superfood – bacon. 

So, why is this ode to dark green veggies also about this month’s theme, getting dirty? Because greens, especially when they’re delightfully freshly pulled from the ground, can be really, really dirty. And nothing ruins a perfectly prepared dish quicker than a mouthful of grit. 

You can rinse greens under water all you like but bits of sand and soil can be stubborn and even the best attempt at rinsing and spinning doesn’t guarantee safety. (I tried to shortcut my cooking the other day by simply rinsing some lovely fresh spinach and boom – instant salad fail.) 

So – here’s how to make your greens clean:

Give them a rinse as you usually would under cold running water. Then fill a large bowl with water, and submerge the greens. Swish them about to release all the hidden grit and dirt, which will then sink to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the greens out and place them in a sieve; give them another rinse.

You’ll want to repeat the process a couple of times – more if your greens are especially dirty. Make sure you lift them out of the bowl (don’t just drain the bowl of water) and rinse the bowl well each time, re-filling it with fresh water. If you try to skip over those steps you’ll just recycle the dirt around and can’t be sure you’re getting it all off.

This process means the greens take a tiny bit longer to prepare, but it’s not arduous. In my books, a small price to pay grit-free food. 

So there you go – a quick and simple tip for fresh, clean greens! 

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