The Health Benefits of Spring Greens Salad Mix
It’s spring greens season at La Vista!
Late March and early April at La Vista CSA is synonymous with spring greens. Just the thought of what’s to come in spring keeps us going through the cold snowy days of January and February. Those of us lucky enough to receive this early season (limited number) share are blessed with a pound each week of fresh baby lettuces, spinach and other tender greens for five weeks.
Although each farmer who has worked the land at La Vista has varied the greens somewhat, shareholders can expect a mix that includes red and green lettuces, spinach, tatsoi and perhaps argula, chard and red kale.
What makes greens so healthful?
The health benefits of eating leafy greens can’t be overemphasized. Salad greens are loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as several of the B vitamins. Just one cup of these greens provides 70 percent of the daily recommended intake for vitamin A and 20 percent of the DRI for vitamin C. Salad greens are also a rich source of iron and calcium and numerous trace minerals including magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale also are good sources of vitamins K and E.
Plants also produce phytonutrients, a name based on the Greek word for plant. But you know them better as carotenoids, flavonoids, and isoflavones, among others. These compounds help plants stay healthy as they grow. Plants grown on an organic farm such as La Vista don’t have chemicals and pesticides to help them ward off pests and diseases so they produce even more of these phytonutrients. And what keeps the plant healthy, keeps us healthy as well.
Phytonutrients protect the body and fight disease and are associated with the prevention and treatment of several leading diseases in western countries, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Some phytonutrients help cells repair themselves by stimulating the release of protective enzymes while others inhibit cancer-producing substances and keep cardiovascular disease in check. They also are important antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Some greens La Vista grows
Arugula (also called rocket) – a peppery and slightly bitter flavor.Toss it in a salad to perk it up or gently braise it. Popular in Italian cuisine.
Dandelion greens – have a somewhat bitter flavor. Cook older greens but younger ones can be served raw in a salad.
Frisee – long, wide leaves in shades of green or sometimes red, or simply edged with red
Lollo rosso – a mild, tender lettuce with ruffled red edges
Mache or lamb's lettuce – has tender leaves and a very mild flavor
Mizuna – tender leaves and a pleasant, peppery flavor
Oakleaf lettuce –with crunchy stems and tender leaves, you can find this lettuce in red and green varieties
Radicchio – has a beautiful coloring and slightly bitter flavor
Spinach – a mild, slightly sweet taste. When cooked, its flavor becomes more acidic and robust.
Tango –has ‘frilly’ leaves and looks like endive but, with a mild tangy taste.
Tat soi – dark green spoon-shaped leaves with a soft creamy texture and a subtle yet distinctive flavor
Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing
The following recipe is from a favorite cookbook of mine, Simply Salads by Jennifer Chandler.
Using packaged salad blends found in most grocery stores, Chandler put together more than 100 salads, each accompanied by a beautiful photograph and listed under various categories such as meat, seafood, and slaws. She also includes about a dozen homemade salad dressings, some specific to particular salads and more general ones in a separate section of the book.
Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing (makes 4 dinner salads)
½ cup peanut dressing (below)
½ cup fresh snow peas
1 bag (or about 6 ounces) of spring greens mix
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 carrots, peeled and grated
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
2 limes, quartered, for garnish
Prepare Peanut dressing
Bring salted water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the snow peas and cook until vibrant green and crisp tender, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Drain the snow peas and immerse in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain again and place in a large salad bowl.
Add the spring greens mix, chicken, carrots, scallions, cilantro and peanuts and toss. Add the dressing to taste and gently toss to coat.
Garnish with lime wedges and serve immediately.
Peanut dressing (makes 1 cup)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon finely grated freshly peeled ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ cup canola oil
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, canola oil and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This is one of a series of hubs about La Vista Community Supported Garden in Godfrey, Illinois. I joined La Vista in 2005 and became a member of its board of directors a year later. This series – La Vista: Nurturing land and people – shares the struggles and triumphs of operating a CSA and the benefits of membership. I hope you find this series useful and interesting and, as always, feel free to leave a comment.