Making life greener on your side of the plate

TEXARKANA – Storage and preparation are keys to making leafy vegetables make life greener on your side of the plate, said Carla Haley, Miller County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Now is the peak growing season for greens in our area,” she said. “Turnip greens, spinach, Romaine lettuce, collard greens, kale, and broccoli are considered to be leafy vegetables, and should be eaten daily.”

Greens are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals, substances found only in plants which help fight diseases and improve health. Green vegetables contain lutein, a powerful antioxidant that helps to maintain good vision.

“Greens are best if used right after purchase due to their short life span,” Haley said. “For best nutritional value, use within one to two days of purchase. If stored longer, Vitamin C may be lost.”

How the greens are handled in those 24 to 48 hours is important, she said.

“When the greens are first brought home, any rubber banding or ties should be removed to avoid damage. Greens should be washed and dried thoroughly. If washing just before using in a recipe that requires steaming or boiling, it is not necessary to dry them,” Haley said. “When dried, the leaves can be served whole, shredded or in small pieces.”

However, greens are notoriously difficult to clean. Haley offers an easy method:

1. Remove any damaged, wilted or yellowed leaves and cut off tough or stiff stems.

2. Fill a large bowl, or clean sink, with cold water and place greens in the water. Gently swish the greens around in the water and remove from the water. The dirt and sand should have settled to the bottom. Empty the sink or bowl and fill with clean water.

3. Repeat until no sediments remain when the greens are removed from the water.

Larger leaf greens can be washed by holding under cold running water,” she said. “Unfold any folded leaves to be sure to remove all the dirt. When clean, shake the greens or place in a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible.”

When purchasing fresh greens, look for young, tender, small leaves, 6 to 12 inches long. Older, larger leaves are likely to be too bitter. Mustard greens should be fresh, tender crisp and of good green color. Avoid those with brown or yellow spots.

For more information about health and nutrition, visit, or contact your county extension office.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.

Mary Hightower is an Extension communications specialist with the U of A Division of Agriculture

Cooperative Extension Service.