Leafy greens are the Montana Harvest of the Month feature for June.
According to the program information, salad greens may be one of the oldest known vegetables. There are pictures of wild forms of lettuce in Egyptian paintings and written accounts of lettuce that date back to 79 A.D.
Even though leafy greens are not a large part of Montana’s agricultural landscape, produce such as lettuce, spinach, kale and chard are easy to find at Farmer’s Markets and are great vegetables to grow in family gardens. When selecting greens for their nutritional value, as a general rule, the more green or vibrant the type of greens are, the more vitamins and minerals they contain.
While leafy greens have different nutritional profiles, most greens are good sources of folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. Most greens also contain Vitamin K, which helps the body stop cuts and scrapes from bleeding too much and starts the healing process.
Greens can be prepared and eaten in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most popular way is to use them in a salad, but try sautéing them with a little oil and seasonings, blanch or boil them, add them to a smoothie, include them as an ingredient in soup or other entrée, or steam them in a little water and add seasonings. The cooking process will reduce the greens by 70 percent to 80 percent compared to the fresh greens. For more information on greens, check out the full fact sheet developed by Montana State University at www.msuextension.org/nutrition.
The Montana Harvest of the Month program showcases Montana grown foods in Montana schools and communities. It is a collaboration between the Office of Public Instruction, Montana Team Nutrition Program, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Montana State University Extension, Gallatin Valley Farm to School, and FoodCorps Montana.
With the advent of warm summer evenings we look for no-cook meals. There is no cooking involved in putting dinner on the table with this quick-to-fix main dish salad.
Nectarine, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
4 cups fresh baby spinach or other spring greens
2 (8-oz.) packages refrigerated cooked whole baby beets, quartered (can use pickled beets)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 fresh nectarines, pitted and cut into slices
1 (3.5-oz.) container crumbled soft goat cheese (also try feta or gorgonzola)
¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
Divide spinach or other salad greens among salad plates or place the greens in a salad bowl. Top with beets, chicken, nectarines, and cheese. Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over salads; toss. Season with salt and pepper. *To make the salad vegan, substitute one 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, (chickpeas), rinsed and drained, for the chicken and chopped toasted walnuts for the cheese. Source: Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications, Veggie-Full, 2017.
Greens add a nutrition boast to smoothies which have become a popular breakfast option. The following recipe is great for using your creativity. The types of fruit, berries, or greens can be changed to suit your liking.
Easy as 1, 2, 3 Smoothie
(Servings: 3 – 16-oz.)
1 cup fresh greens
2 cups cold water
3 cups fruit
Add greens, water and berries/fruit to blender in that order. If greens are put in last it will be difficult to blend. Blend until smooth, stopping to stir ingredients or scrape sides of blender as needed. Source: Montana Harvest of the Month, Developed by Erin Jackson, Gallatin Valley Farm to School.
This recipe was created when an after-school cooking academy team at Skyline High School in Oakland, California decided to match two unlikely ingredients, black beans and sweet potatoes, and then finish it off with flavorful and nutritious Swiss chard.
Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Chard Stew
(Servings: 6 – 1 cup)
½ dried New Mexican chili pepper, whole
1¼ cups diced onion
1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1teaspoon ground cumin
1½ cups peeled cubed sweet potato (½” cubes)
6 cups low-sodium canned black beans
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups Swiss chard, chopped, stems removed
Sauté chili pepper and onions in oil for 2-3 minutes; add cumin and sauté for 2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, black beans, orange juice and stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Remove chili and discard. Add vinegar, salt, pepper, and chard; cover. Simmer until Swiss chard is tender. Serve hot. If desired serve over brown rice or whole wheat couscous. Source: Montana Harvest of the Month and the USDA Recipes for Healthy Kids.