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Spring Harvest: Greens

Stephen Brown

Swiss chard - springtime crop is FloridaThere is a reason rabbits are equated with Easter: Spring is the time of year they ruin gardeners’ crops, especially greens. March and April particularly make up the high season for a number of leafy greens, including Swiss chard, spinach and varieties of lettuce.

 

Swiss Chard

This hearty, broad-leafed plant has long been considered one of the healthiest vegetables on the market. Slightly bitter, the thicker leaves are high in vitamins A, K and C as well as a rich source of polyphenol antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, manganese and iron.

   Swiss chard can be served raw in salad—rinse with cold water and do not soak, as this will reduce the number of nutrients. Boiling will bring out the sweeter notes in the leaf, making it a great addition to toss in fresh pasta, EVOO, lemon juice and roughly chopped garlic.

 

Spinach

Red Cardinal spinach - Florida springtime crop - March and April stapleThe root behind many child-parent dinner table standoffs, spinach is a downright superstar of the healthy diet sect and a springtime champion grower. The vegetable Popeye made famous is loaded with vitamins (A, K and C), protein, folate and folic acid as well as minerals: magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and manganese. (No wonder it made Popeye so strong.)

   Spinach lends itself to a number of preparation techniques to be used as an ingredient, a flavor-enhancer, a side, sautéed in butter with a pinch of garlic and salt or simply raw in a salad tossed with tomatoes and feta. Local grower Kai-Kai Farms brings four pesticide-free spinach varieties to the market—Corvair, Donkey, Emu and Red Cardinal (right).

 

Lettuce

For the herbivore, life simply wouldn’t be as tasty without lettuce. The leafy greens that make the foundation for salads has so much more to offer than iceberg and romaine. Names like Red Cross, Black Seeded Simpson, Cherokee, Firecracker, Flashy Trout Black, Two Star and Magenta may not stand out in the Publix produce section, but at specialty markets and with artisanal growers, these are just but a few of the varieties harvested around Palm Beach County. Like all leafy greens, lettuces can be a rich source of vitamins A, K, C and B as well as minerals, but they are also great sources of zeaxanthin, a carotene important for eye health.

   Coming in a variety of colors, shapes, tastes and smells, many local growers produce butterhead, romaine, leaf, bibb and summer crisp varieties, both as mature and micro selections. Swank Specialty Produce’s multi-leaf Salanovia Type lettuce blend is a treat on its own or as an artisanal accompaniment to some bison sliders.

Lettuce on the farm - Florida sprintime crop

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