Some leafy greens cope with cold weather better than most people do. Temperatures near freezing slow plant metabolism. Using fewer carbohydrates -- that is, sugar -- for maintenance results in more sugars in reserve. This means sweeter leaves in the winter than in the summer.
So, if you pass on the greens in July, you might find them to your liking in October. For instance:
- Spinach. Spinach varieties that do best in cooler weather are called savoyed and semi-savoyed. They're identified by crinkly or frilled leaves.
- Chard. White-stemmed chard is most common, but you might see stems in hues of bright yellow, deep rose and fuchsia. The stalks can also be eaten.
- Collards. A smoky-tasting green with round or shell-shaped leaves, it's a staple of Southern down-home cooking, where the cooking liquid ("pot likker") is saved as a soup broth or sopped up with cornbread.
Leafy greens should be crisp and fresh-looking. Avoid those with brown speckles, large, tough stems, and wilted edges. Collards absolutely must be cooked, but other greens can be eaten fresh in salads, sautéed as a side dish or simmered in soups. Cooking also tones down the taste, which grows more pronounced with age. Cook chard stems separately from the leaves, as stems are more fibrous and take longer.
Greens will keep refrigerated in a plastic bag, damp-dry, for three to five days. Wash them very well just before using.
Our next food takes us underground to the root of the matter.