5 Important Things You Need to Know About Winter Greens

updated May 1, 2019
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When winter hits and you’re craving all the green things, look no further than the hearty leaves that dominate during cold months, like collards, chard, kale, beet, and mustard greens. These winter greens are extremely versatile and available in abundance. Here are five important things to know about making the most of this produce haul.

1. Use your hands or kitchen tools to remove tough stems.

Winter greens, like kale and collards, have a tough and fibrous center rib that’s best removed before eating. Choose the removal option that’s right for you: tearing the leaves away with your hands, using a knife, or a specialty tool to help you get the task done.

2. Pair them with bold ingredients.

Hearty winter greens, like collards, kale, mustard, and beet greens, come with a bitter bite that can make them quite assertive. Don’t let that turn you off because the bitterness can be easily tamed by cooking. Mix them with fatty ingredients, like bacon or sausage, or acidic liquids, like vinegar or citrus juice.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

3. Replace tortillas with collard leaves.

Collard greens don’t actually have to be cooked. Use them raw as a lighter, gluten-free alternative for sandwiches, wraps, and burritos.

4. Don’t toss the stems! They’re perfectly edible.

Kale, collards, and sometimes even chard stems can prove too tough and fibrous to eat raw. Soften the stems by blanching, then transform them into pesto, stir-fries, salads, and more.

5. Freeze your abundance of winter greens.

If you find yourself with an abundance of winter greens, there’s no need to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to finish them off before they spoil. Instead, freeze them for later. Prep and blanch the leaves and then freeze them on a baking sheet before storing them in a freezer bag for up to a few months. Use them later for soups, stews, salads, smoothies, braises, and stir-fries.