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THE IDIOTS GUIDE: Green Vegetables

The trays of spinach and brocolli at the dining hall’s aren’t just the green veggies that your mother demands you eat. Check out some other gourmet alternatives:

1. Fennel

This popular vegetable in French and Italian cuisine is distinctively rich in Vitamin C (about 18% of your daily value) and a great source of fiber and potassium.  Its appearance consists of a white bulb with leafy green stalks attached.  You can choose to eat the bulb, the stalk, the leaves, and even the seeds, which are considered a mild spice.  Fennel has a crunchy texture similar to celery, and a taste that is subtly sweet. Try sautéing or roasting this vegetable with a drizzle of olive oil.  Braised fennel is a popular side for seafood, though its versatility makes a tasty accompaniment for almost anything.

2. Spinach

Popeye was one smart eater.  The nutritional benefits of spinach are out of this world.  One serving of this vegetable boiled supplies well over your daily needs in Vitamins K and A, and is an incredibly potent source of folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium, just to name the highlights.  Spinach is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer power, plus its powerful antioxidants.  Before consuming, be sure to wash spinach thoroughly.  Enjoy raw in salads topped with walnuts and fresh fruit or boil to include in cheddar-mushroom quiche, spanikopita, omelets, or lasagna.

3. Mustard Greens

A nearly one-stop source for Vitamins A, K, and C, mustard greens also boast to provide significant amounts of Vitamin E and fiber, lower cholesterol, and contribute to the body’s detoxification.  This vegetable is dark green in color, and oftentimes has a crumpled, scalloped texture. Sautéing mustard greens is the best way to cook them and still retain their flavor.  Their unique peppery taste goes well if you want to cook with potatoes, goat cheese, or bacon, but also makes an amazing side dish when sautéed with onion, garlic and olive oil.

4. Tomatillo

Though technically considered a fruit, the tomatillo is prepared and eaten like a vegetable.  Nomenclature aside, the tomatillo is a traditional staple in Mexican dishes, and looks like unripe, green tomatoes but actually grow inside a papery husk.  They have a citrus flavor distinct from the typical red tomato. They’re great if you’re looking to boost your intake of Vitamins K, C, and B3, potassium, or fiber.  Tomatillos make a fantastic base in recipes for salsa, soup, or a sauce combined with cilantro and avocado to spread over delicious homemade enchiladas.

5. Artichoke

Along with the other green vegetables listed here, artichokes are an abundant source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber (between 1/3-1/2 of your daily recommended fiber intake).  They also provide a significant amount of protein (4 g.) compared to many vegetables.  The part of the artichoke plant we eat is the immature flower bud, recognizable by its layers of thick, green leaves in a rounded shape. If let alone, the bud opens up to reveal a vibrant purple flower.  In the kitchen, the inner artichoke hearts (underneath the tough but edible outer leaves) is commonly combined with spinach for a chip dip, but also often tossed on salads.  Left whole and cooked, artichokes are delicious mixed in with pasta and tomato sauce, stuffed with cheese and spices, or paired with an aioli dipping sauce.

Jenny White

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