Category Archives: Salads

Leafy Greens

Leafy Greens 101 – The Basics

Leafy Greens 101 – The Basics

What Are Leafy Greens?
“Leafy greens” is a broad term for plant leaves eaten as a vegetable. There are a variety of flavors and textures of leafy greens and they can belong to different botanical families. Flavors can range from very mild, to nutty, to spicy/peppery, to bitter. Some are tender and sweet, and are usually eaten raw (such as spinach and lettuce), whereas others are tougher and somewhat bitter (such as mustard and collard greens), so they are usually cooked.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists over 60 different varieties of leafy green vegetables known to be imported or grown commercially in the United States. There are yet other lesser-known varieties grown in home gardens or gathered in the wild.

Leafy greens have been called “super foods” and people have been eating them for thousands of years. This is for good reason! They’re packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other compounds that boost our health in many ways. Plus, they’re very low in calories, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked in a variety of ways. What more could we possibly ask for in a food?

Types of Leafy Greens
Collards, mustard greens, kale, chard, broccoli rabe, spinach, bok choy, arugula, beet greens, dandelion greens, lettuce, broccoli, endive, escarole, purslane, radicchio, savoy, sorrel, parsley, and cress are but some examples of leafy greens. Leafy green vegetables and herbs come in many different shapes, sizes, flavors, and even colors or shades of green. Some form tightly bound heads of leaves, while other form loose heads. Others are loose leaf varieties, forming no distinguishable heads at all. Yet, they fall under the broad category of leafy greens. Many, but not all, belong to the Brassica plant family (also known as cruciferous vegetables). What they all have in common is the fact that they are extraordinarily good for us to eat and have important health properties that shouldn’t be ignored.

Sweet Greens. Lettuce is a type of leafy green and is one of the most commonly eaten vegetables in the United States. Different types of lettuce have different colors, ranging from light to dark green, with some even having some red tones on the leaves and stems. Lettuce is usually sweet and mild in flavor.

Bitter Greens. Bitter greens are just that…bitter in flavor. However, the degree of bitterness can vary from variety to variety, and even within the same plant species. For instance, arugula can be mild and somewhat peppery when harvested early in the season. But when harvested later, toward the end of its growing season, it can be extremely strong tasting.

Endive, escarole, and radicchio are under the same plant family umbrella (Asteraceae) as lettuce, but they are actually different types of plants. They are from the chicory family, while lettuce is from the daisy family. Endive, escarole, and radicchio are bitter in flavor and also have more fiber than lettuce, to they are tougher to chew.

Other bitter greens are cool-weather plants, such as collards, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and even spinach. These greens are sometimes used in raw applications (especially young spinach leaves), but the mature leaves are often cooked to tame their bitterness. They are usually more tough than lettuce, and they tenderize when cooked.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Leafy greens are well-known as being nutrient dense foods. This simply means that they supply a LOT of nutrients with few calories. They would be an excellent addition to any “all you can eat” food list. Dark-green leafy vegetables offer a lot of nutritional value with many important health benefits. The darker the leaves, the more nutrient-rich is the vegetable. For instance, romaine lettuce has nine times more Vitamin A than iceberg lettuce.

Since this article focuses on leafy greens in general, it’s not possible to be all-inclusive about the nutritional components of each specific leafy green vegetable. However, even though the components and amounts may vary, they do have some nutritional benefits in common. Overall, they contain plenty of Vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, E, and K. Many of the dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and collard greens are also rich in B-complex vitamins, especially folate. Greens also contain magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, and a wide array of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and even some omega-3 fatty acids.

Cancer Prevention. It has long been established that green leafy vegetables are high in compounds that have strong anti-cancer properties. Such compounds include isothiocyanates, carotenoids, and folate. These compounds are particularly high in the Brassica (cruciferous) family of plants, including arugula, broccoli, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, turnip greens, and watercress, among others.

Research has shown that eating 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables a week may reduce the risk of stomach, breast, and skin cancers. We also know that leafy greens are high in the B-vitamin folate. Research studies have shown that a high intake of folate may lower the risk of colon polyps by 30 to 40 percent, when compared to low intakes. Some studies also suggest that a low intake of folate may increase the risk of breast, cervix, and lung cancers.

Weight and Blood Sugar Control. Leafy green vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates, giving them a low glycemic index. This makes them ideal foods to add to a healthy diet, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. Also, the low glycemic index of leafy green vegetables combined with their high fiber content makes them an ideal food to eat often to help regulate blood sugar and manage diabetes.

Prevention of Neural Tube Defects in Newborns. Neural tube defects are birth defects where the embryo’s central nervous system (the neural tube) fails to close completely before birth. The neural tube forms very early, just one month after conception. This is the structure that will grow into the brain and spinal cord of the infant. In neural tube defects, the seam over the tube does not close correctly, and portions of the spine, the covering of the spinal cord (the meninges), or the cord itself can protrude out of the back of the fetus.

The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and tethered cord syndrome. Spina bifida is a malformation of the vertebrae and skin surrounding the spine that can lead to a number of serious health issues. This defect forms very early in embryonic development, merely one month after conception. Most of the time, surgical correction of the defect is needed soon after birth.

Tethered cord syndrome occurs when the spinal cord is abnormally attached to surrounding tissue. Failure to detect this defect can lead to a sudden injury or paralysis during childhood or adolescence. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by an MRI scan and surgery is usually needed to correct the problem.

Research has shown that getting enough folate before conception through early pregnancy can greatly reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Since grain products have been fortified with folic acid, the incidence of such defects has decreased tremendously.

Furthermore, research has found that women who are obese, have poorly controlled diabetes, have been exposed to high temperatures (such as a fever or using a hot tub or sauna) during early pregnancy, or take certain antiseizure medications have a greater risk than other women of having a child born with a neural tube defect.

This example shows how important diet and lifestyle can be not only to adults, but to their potential offspring. Such defects can occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Once she learns of her pregnancy and makes needed dietary improvements, the damage may have already been done. So, if you are planning on having a child, it is important to prepare yourself in advance of becoming pregnant. Eat the best foods you possibly can, and be sure to include plenty of leafy green vegetables along the way.

Bone Health. Green leafy vegetables are known to be high in both calcium and Vitamin K. One role of Vitamin K is to work with calcium in helping to build and maintain healthy bones. Without adequate Vitamin K, bones cannot utilize calcium in the bone building process. Eating leafy green vegetables helps to ensure we have adequate nutrients to keep our bones strong. Some research studies have shown that higher Vitamin K intakes are associated with a lower rate of hip fractures and higher bone density. A report from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who get adequate Vitamin K are less likely to break a hip than women who don’t. Eating one serving of leafy green vegetables a day cut the risk of hip fracture in half when compared with eating only one serving a week. Because of their Vitamin K content, dark green leafy vegetables have been shown to help protect bones from osteoporosis.

Heart Health. Vitamin K is also known to help protect the heart from left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). The left ventricle is the heart’s major pumping chamber. In LVH, the left ventricle is enlarged which causes the heart to be less efficient at pumping blood. This is a condition often looked for in adults; however, it can be found in just about any age group. In a study reported in the October 2017 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, researchers monitored the physical activity routines and diets (with a focus on their Vitamin K intake) of 766 adolescents who were 14 to 18 years of age. They found that those with the lowest Vitamin K intake, had the highest rate of LVH. Subjects with the highest intake of Vitamin K had the lowest rate of LVH. Those who ate 42 mcg or less of Vitamin K per day were over three times more likely to have left ventricular hypertrophy than those who ate 90 mcg or more per day.

Without follow-up investigation it is not possible to say for certain that the dietary habits of the subjects who ate little Vitamin K led to heart disease in their adult years. However, it certainly is a possibility. It is interesting to note that only 25 percent of the teenagers in the study met adequate intakes of Vitamin K in their diet.

Needless to say, the importance of a healthy diet cannot be overestimated, and this stands for people of all ages, not just adults. Without a doubt, we all need to make sure that our entire families eat plenty of leafy green vegetables on a regular basis, if for no other reason than our heart health!

Folate, one of the B-complex vitamins that is abundant in leafy greens, is known to promote heart health.  Researchers have found that getting adequate folate on a regular basis can lower our risk for heart disease and stroke by about 20 percent. Folate lowers homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. A growing body of research suggests that a higher-than-normal level of homocysteine is an independent risk factor for heart disease. It can lead to dangerous blood clots and hardening of the arteries. Getting ample folate in the diet through eating plenty of leafy green vegetables is an easy way to meet your folate needs, reducing your risk for heart disease by keeping homocysteine levels in check.

Eye Health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two important and very powerful carotenoids that are found in many fruits and vegetables. They often give plants a yellow to reddish hue. Dark green vegetables and herbs such as kale, spinach, parsley, and broccoli are also excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. The yellow pigment of the carotenoids is masked by the chlorophyll in the greens, so don’t let the color fool you. The average diet, which is low in colorful fruits and vegetables, does not contain a lot of these carotenoids.

These two important carotenoids are best known for protecting the eyes from free radical damage. With the eyes constantly being exposed to oxygen and light (during our waking hours), free radicals can easily form. Lutein and zeaxanthin work together to disable free radical molecules before they have a chance to damage our eye cells. In fact, they are the only dietary carotenoids that accumulate in the retina, especially in the macula region, located at the back of the eye. Since the macula is essential for vision, they work together to help prevent macular degeneration, helping to preserve our vision even into old age.

Lutein and zeaxanthin also act as a natural sunscreen by absorbing excess light. They are believed to offer protection of the eyes from excess blue light. This is especially important if we spend a lot of time looking at electronic devices, such as computer screens, cell phones, tablets, and televisions.

Some conditions that lutein and zeaxanthin may help include:
* Age-related macular degeneration (already discussed above)
* Cataracts
* Diabetic retinopathy
* Retinal detachment
* Uveitis. This is an inflammatory condition in the middle layer of the eye that can cause blindness. Lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to help reduce the inflammatory process in this condition.

Considering the average diet is low in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, this information alone should give many people good reason to include more of these special foods into their meals.

Word of Caution. Leafy greens are usually high in Vitamin K which is a blood thickener. If you are taking blood thinning medications, you have probably already been told to limit your intake of Vitamin K-rich foods, such as leafy greens. Therefore, if you want to change your usual diet and increase your intake of any foods that are high in Vitamin K, it is important to consult with your doctor first. Your prothrombin time may need to be monitored and your medication may need to be adjusted.

How to Select Leafy Greens
Choose greens with crisp, brightly colored leaves. They should not be wilted. Avoid those with yellowing leaves or damage.

How to Store Salad Leafy Greens
Packaged Prewashed Salad Greens. If you purchased already washed salad greens in a tub, simply store that in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Sometimes droplets of water may form within the tub and under the lid, which causes them to age faster. To help prevent this, it is helpful to place a paper towel on top of the greens in the tub as soon as you bring them home. This will absorb any excess moisture that forms on the inside of the lid, helping to keep the greens from wilting. Be sure to use them before the “Best By” date for optimal freshness.

Whole Heads of Lettuce. Fresh heads of lettuce may be stored in a couple different ways. If you prefer to store them unwashed, simply wrap your new head of lettuce in a clean cloth. Drizzle the cloth with no more than ¼ cup of water, and place the wrapped head in a plastic bag to keep the lettuce from drying out. Store it in the refrigerator (crisper drawer, if possible) until you are ready to use it. For optimal freshness, use it as soon as possible, preferably within 7 to 10 days (at most).

If you prefer to wash your lettuce in advance, tear the lettuce into the size pieces you intend to use later. Rinse and spin them dry in a salad spinner. Transfer them to an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week (10 days at most). It is helpful to line the container with a clean cloth or paper towels to absorb any excess water that may be on the leaves, preventing them from rotting. The towels will retain the moisture, creating a humid environment that will help to keep the leaves crisp.

How to Store Bitter Leafy Greens
Remove any discolored, wilted, or damaged leaves before storing your greens. It’s easiest to keep your greens whole and unwashed until you need them by simply removing any twist ties holding them together, and wrapping the loose leaves in a clean cloth. Drizzling the cloth with no more than ¼ cup of water. Place the wrapped leaves in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator.

To prewash your greens before storing them, rinse them well with water, shake off excess water, then lay them out on paper towels or a clean cloth, and roll them up. Do not drizzle the towel with water since the leaves will already have water on them. Place the wrapped leaves in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. Try to use them within 3 to 5 days.

How to Prepare Salad Leafy Greens
Salad Greens. If you did not wash your salad greens before storing them, simply give them a quick rinse, then spin them dry in a salad spinner, shake off excess water in a colander, or pat them dry on a layer of clean cloth or paper towels. Serve as desired.

Packaged Prewashed Salad Greens. Despite the fact that they have been prewashed, it is advisable to give them a quick rinse right before you use them. Spin them dry in a salad spinner, shake excess water off of them in a colander, or lay them on a clean cloth or paper towels and blot them to remove excess water. Remove and discard any discolored or wilted, soggy leaves. Serve as desired.

Prewashed Heads of Lettuce. If you prewashed your head of lettuce when you brought it home, and stored it as detailed earlier, you should be able to use it straight from your container. If preferred, you may wash it again, then use it as desired.

How to Prepare Bitter Leafy Greens
Rinse your greens well and shake off excess water. Cut off (and discard) a small portion of the bottom end of the stems (unless you are removing the stems and not using them at all). If your greens are a little wilted, trim off a small portion of the bottom end of the stem and stand them upright in a bowl or pitcher of water and allow them to rest there until revived. About an hour may be enough time to refresh the greens. Then cut them as desired and prepare as planned.

How to Freeze Bitter Leafy Greens
Freezing leafy greens is an excellent way to preserve extras that you have on hand. It makes them quick and easy to cook, with all the prep work having been done in advance. There is a current movement to freeze vegetables without blanching them. This can be done, but if you want to preserve your foods for the longest time with the best quality possible, blanching them is something that must be done. It’s not hard and really does not take much time. The effort is well worth it in the long run. Here are the steps:

  1. Wash your greens well and chop them into desired size pieces. Strip away the stems, if desired. If you want the stems, leave them attached, but trim off a small portion of the bottom end of each stem. With leafy greens, cutting them into smaller pieces before freezing is usually best because they will be the easiest to cook and eat later.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Do not add salt to the water. Have a timer handy.
  3. When the water is boiling, transfer your prepared greens into the water. Immediately set your timer for 1 minute. Meanwhile, get a large bowl of ice water ready.
  4. As soon as the timer is finished, transfer the greens to the ice water bath. Allow them to chill for at least 1 minute.
  5. Transfer the chilled greens to a colander and allow them to drain well. Squeeze them if you want to remove any excess water. (This step is helpful, but not mandatory.)
  6. Transfer your drained greens to a freezer bag or airtight container. Remove as much air from the bag or container as possible, and place them in the freezer. If you want to avoid having your greens freeze into one big lump, first lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray. Place the tray in the freezer until the greens are completely frozen. Then transfer the frozen greens to your freezer bag or container, and return them to the freezer. Be sure to label the container with the contents and date they were frozen. Use them within 1 year.

For best results, your frozen greens will need to be cooked in some way when it’s time to use them. It is not mandatory, but they can be thawed first, if preferred. They can be placed in the refrigerator overnight, placed on the kitchen counter for an hour or two at the most, or placed in a colander and thawed under running water.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Leafy Greens
There are many ways to include leafy greens in your diet. Here are some examples:

* Use salad or bitter leafy greens as a foundation for a meal, as often as you can. Add assorted vegetables, fruits, grains, and proteins of your choice.

* Include a lot of leafy greens such as spinach, arugula, lettuce, cabbage, or Swiss chard as a filling for a wrap.

* Add greens to soups. Bok choy, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or Asian greens would all add color, nutrition, and flavor to just about any soup.

* Try adding chopped greens to your favorite pizza.

* Add chopped greens to sautés and stir-fries.

* Use leafy greens when making pesto.

* If you juice fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t forget to add fresh leafy greens! Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, Spring mix, or even romaine lettuce would all work well.

* Don’t forget to add leafy greens to a sandwich. Lettuce, arugula, Spring mix, baby greens, and spinach would all work well.

* Leafy greens can be chopped finely and added to sauces. Adding greens to a marinara sauce would add texture, flavor, nutrition, and color.

* Greens can add extra flavor, color, and nutrition to any meal. Try grilling, steaming, boiling, braising, and even stewing them. Some greens, like Spring mix, baby greens, or spinach would work well as a raw adornment to many dishes.

* Add greens to smoothies. Spinach, Spring mix, baby greens, and lettuce are all tender, mild flavored greens that would work well in just about any smoothie mixture.

* Some leafy greens, such as collard greens, spinach, and chard are high in Vitamin K. If you are on blood thinning medication, it’s important to talk with your doctor before increasing your intake of Vitamin K-rich foods. Your prothrombin time may need to be monitored, and your medication dosage may need to be adjusted.

* If you eat eggs, try adding some chopped leafy greens like spinach, to an omelet or scrambled eggs.

* Try roasted radicchio drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar.

* Grill wedges of radicchio and serve as a side dish.

* Try adding a little radicchio to a stir-fry.

* Add radicchio to soups, stews, and pasta dishes.

* It’s helpful to remember that some greens cook faster (like spinach) than others (like kale or collards). So, if you intend to combine them on one dish, add the more tender greens that cook faster toward the end of cooking, to avoid overcooking them.

* Chop greens into bite-size pieces and add to soups and stews.

* Try a wrap packed with your favorite salad greens, bell pepper, and your favorite hummus.

* Keep green salads interesting by combining different types of leafy greens. Different types of lettuce, Spring mix, radicchio, cabbage, spinach, Asian greens, arugula, chard and baby mixed greens, all go well together in a mixed green salad. Different greens can be tender or crispy, slightly bitter or sweet, and vary in color, texture and nutritional value. All of that can add to flavor and visual appeal of your salad. Enjoy a large salad every day!

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Leafy SALAD Greens
Anise seeds, basil, capers, cayenne, chervil, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard, parsley, pepper, salt, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Leafy SALAD Greens
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beans (in general), beef, black beans, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, ham, hazelnuts, lamb, lentils, nuts (in general), peanuts, peas, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sugar snap peas, sunflower seeds, tahini, tofu, tuna (and other seafood), turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Beets, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chayote, chiles and chili paste, chives, cucumbers, fennel, jicama, leeks, mushrooms, nori, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, scallions, shallots, sprouts, tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples, apricots (esp. dried), avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries (dried), figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemon, limes, mangoes, olives, oranges, pears, persimmons, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, raisins, strawberries, tangerines

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur, corn, corn chips, corn tortillas, croutons, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese (in general, esp. asiago, blue, cheddar, feta, goat, Gorgonzola, mozzarella, Parmesan), crème fraiche, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, mayonnaise, miso, mustard (prepared), oil (esp. flaxseed, grapeseed, olive, sesame), soy sauce, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar (esp. balsamic, champagne, cider, red wine, rice wine, sherry, tarragon, white wine), vinaigrette dressings

Leafy SALAD greens have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…

Lettuce wraps, salads (i.e., grain, green, potato), sandwiches, burgers (of all types)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Leafy SALAD Greens
Add leafy salad greens to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Avocado + Carrots + Tomatoes
Almonds + Citrus + Fennel
Almonds + Jicama + Orange
Apples + Celery + Hazelnuts
Apples + Celery + Lime + Raisins + Walnuts
Apples + Clementines + Endive + Walnuts
Avocado + Cilantro
Avocado + Grapefruit + Pecans + Radicchio
Avocado + Lime
Balsamic Vinegar + Garlic + Mustard + Olive Oil
Beets + Celery
Blue Cheese + Pears + Walnuts
Carrots + Cucumbers + Dill + Feta Cheese
Chickpeas + Cucumbers + Feta Cheese + Olives + Red Onions + Tomatoes
Chiles + Orange + Pecans
Dill + Garlic + Lemon + Scallions
Dill + Olive Oil + Red Wine Vinegar + Scallions
Dijon Mustard + Lemon + Olive Oil + Scallions
Fennel + Grapefruit
Feta Cheese + Tomatoes
Figs + Goat Cheese + Tarragon
Goat Cheese + Pecans
Goat Cheese + Strawberries
Gorgonzola Cheese + Hazelnuts + Lemon + Olives
Lemon + Parmesan Cheese
Lentils + Rice
Pears + Sherry Vinegar + Walnuts

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Leafy BITTER and OTHER Greens
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, capers, cardamom, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, curry spices, dill, garlic, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, salt, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Leafy BITTER and OTHER Greens
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), beef, black-eyed peas, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, ham, lentils, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pork, salmon (seafood, in general), sausage, sesame seeds, shrimp, sunflower seeds, tofu, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Chiles, chives, fennel, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips

Fruits: Apples, avocado, coconut, lemons, limes, olives, oranges

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread crumbs, corn, cornbread, grains (in general), millet, noodles (esp. Asian), pasta, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (i.e., Parmesan, pecorino), coconut milk, cream

Other Foods: Miso, mustard, oil (esp. olive, sesame), soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinegar (esp. apple cider), wine (dry white)

Leafy BITTER and OTHER greens have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
African cuisines, Asian cuisines, Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, pasta dishes, salads, soups (esp. bean, potato, root vegetable), Southeast Asian cuisines, Southern (U.S.) cuisine, stews, stir-fries, tofu scrambles

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Leafy BITTER and OTHER Greens
Add leafy bitter and other greens to any of the following combinations…

Apple Cider Vinegar + Black-Eyed Peas
Apple Cider Vinegar + Chili Flakes + Garlic
Chiles + Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil
Garlic + Ginger + Soy Sauce
Garlic + Lemon
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Onions
Garlic + Olive Oil + Tamari
Garlic + Tomatoes
Lemon Juice + Olive Oil + Rice
Onions + Tomatoes
Pasta + White Beans
Scallions + Sesame Oil + Tamari
Tomatoes + Zucchini

About the Different Types of Leafy Greens
Head varieties
of greens form more tightly formed heads than the leaf varieties of greens. This list is not all-inclusive, but covers many types of greens that may be found in stores in the United States.

Bok Choy
Bok choy is a member of the Brassica family of plants. It is also known as Chinese cabbage, pok choi, and other names in various cultures around the world. The flavor of bok choy is very mellow with a mild, peppery spice. The flavor is similar to cabbage. Bok choy leaves are tender yet crisp. The stalks are crunchy, firm and juicy. Depending on the variety, the leaves may be dark green or yellow-green, and the stalks may be yellow-green or off-white. Bok choy may be found in mature and “baby” sizes. Both are tender, but the baby variety is more so, and is often cooked whole. Bok choy is excellent when stir-fried, braised, steamed, sautéed, or added to soups. The leaves may be eaten raw in salads. Bok choy is usually found in most American grocery stores and should also be available in most Asian markets. One outstanding nutritional feature of bok choy is that it contains selenium, a mineral that helps cognitive function, thyroid function, metabolism, immunity, and possibly cancer prevention.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica plant family. They have compact, small heads with tightly bound leaves, and are usually one to two inches in diameter when mature. They are similar in flavor to cabbage, but can be somewhat bitter, depending on the cooking method. Younger Brussels sprouts are sweeter than larger, more mature ones.

Brussels sprouts may be eaten raw when grated or shaved finely. More often they are cooked. However, they taste their best when not boiled, as boiling brings out their sulfurous, bitter flavor more than any other cooking method. Roasting, quick braising, or pan frying in oil or butter are better methods of cooking Brussels sprouts for the best flavor. Their flavor is complimented well with garlic, shallots, thyme, rosemary, and sage. They can be added to casseroles, gratins, and roasted vegetable medleys. They pair well with bacon, pork, cheese, cream, eggs, ham, grapefruit, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon, hollandaise sauce, maple syrup, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, pistachios, and pancetta.

Cabbage is a member of the Brassica plant family, so it is related to Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale, among other greens. The heads can grow in green, white, or purple colors. Cabbage can have a somewhat bitter flavor when raw, but mellows when cooked. Cabbage is often sautéed or added to soups and stir-fries. It can also be stuffed or made into cabbage rolls. Many cultures ferment cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi. Cabbage offers a lot of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, folate, manganese and many antioxidants. Cabbage, like other members of the Brassica plant family contain properties that have been shown to help prevent various forms of cancer.

Endive is a member of the Cichorium plant family. This same family also includes dandelions and sunflowers. It is sometimes marketed as Belgium endive or frisée. The flavor of endive is nutty and mellow. It is usually added to salad with other mixed greens. Belgium endive is most often roasted or grilled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, which brings out its nutty flavor. Endive is a good source of Vitamins A and K, along with folate and kaempferol, an antioxidant that is known for reducing inflammation.

Escarole has dark, thick leaves that are bunched up together, making it look like a head of lettuce. Lighter leaves have a sweet flavor, while the darker leaves are more bitter. When used raw in salads and sandwiches, escarole adds a strong flavor to the dishes it’s included in. The strong flavor mellows when the leaves are cooked. They are often sautéed or added to soups. Escarole contains a lot of Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and fiber.

Lettuce (Romaine)
Romaine lettuce is a popular variety of lettuce that has large, dark green leaves with firm ribs attached to a base. This variety of lettuce is crisp and mild in flavor. It is usually the main ingredient in Caesar salad. However, romaine lettuce may be used in any type of salad, lettuce wraps, or sandwiches as desired. Most of the nutrients in romaine lettuce are found in the dark, thick leaves. They are especially high in Vitamins A and K.

Napa Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage)
Napa cabbage is a member of the Brassica family of plants. It has many names that vary from country to country. The flavor is delicate, mild and a bit sweeter than green cabbage. It is watery yet firm and crunchy with thick stalks. The leaves are thinner and more delicate than those of green cabbage. They are tender and juicy when cooked. Napa cabbage is best when cooked in stir-fries and soups. It can be shredded and included in salads, slaws, and wraps. Napa cabbage is often used in making kimchi, and as a filling for Chinese dumplings.

Radicchio is a bitter vegetable that is often mistaken for a colorful variety of lettuce or cabbage. It is actually a type of chicory, and is often called Italian chicory because it is used a lot in Italian cuisine. Radicchio forms a round or elongated head with deep reddish-purple leaves with white veins. It may be eaten raw in salads or slaws, for a distinct spicy bitterness. When eaten raw, radicchio is often paired with something sweet or acidic to balance the flavors. Cooking mellows the bitterness of radicchio, and actually sweetens it some.  Radicchio roasts, sautés, and grills up well, and can also be slow-cooked and combined with other vegetables and/or meat. Radicchio is particularly high in Vitamin K, which helps with cognition, and heart and bone health. It is also high in antioxidants, helping to protect us from oxidative stress. It also contains good amounts of other nutrients, including Vitamins C and B6, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, potassium, and selenium, among others.


Leaf varieties of greens form loose heads or individual leaves. This list is not all-inclusive, but covers many types of greens that may be found in stores in the United States.

Arugula is sometimes called “rocket.” It is a member of the Brassica plant family. The flavor of arugula is peppery. This characteristic makes it a green that is often added raw to salads and pizza for added flavor. Arugula can also be sautéed and added to pasta dishes and soups for an added flavor dimension. Arugula is high in dietary nitrates, carotenoids, Vitamin K, and folate.

Beet Greens
Like turnip greens, beet greens are often discarded. But they are edible and can be used just like spinach. They can add some wonderful flavor and interesting color to any dish. The flavor of beet greens is earthy, much like their bulbs. They are very tender, so they can easily be enjoyed raw in salads, and they pair well with a lemon-based or vinaigrette dressing. When beet greens are sautéed or steamed, the dark red color in the stalks remains intact, which makes them a colorful addition to any plate. They make great additions to soups and side dishes. Beet greens are rich in potassium, fiber, beta-carotene, and lutein. They also contain a lot of calcium, and Vitamins A and K.

The broccoli crown (floret) that we typically see in the grocery store may not appear to be a “leafy” green vegetable. But in actuality, the crowns we buy are the flowering heads of the leafy green broccoli plant that is maturing and about to produce seeds. So, the broccoli plant itself is a leafy green vegetable. It would be a very rare occasion (if at all) to find broccoli leaves in your local market. In fact, just about the only way to access broccoli leaves would be for you to grow the plant yourself. The leaves are perfectly edible and are quite delicious. They are mild and not overly bitter, like many similar leafy greens. They may be prepared like any bitter green such as kale, collards, or turnip greens.

In a study published in the April 2018 issue of the journal Molecules, researchers compared a nutritional analysis of broccoli crowns, stems, and leaves. The crowns had higher concentrations of amino acids and glucoraphanin (the precursor to sulforaphane, a compound with strong health benefits) when compared with the other tissues. The leaves were higher in carotenoids, chlorophylls, Vitamins E and K, total phenolic content, and antioxidant activity. The leaves were also good sources of calcium and manganese when compared with the stem and florets of the plant. So, if you grow your own broccoli, don’t toss out the leaves! Enjoy them as you would any leafy green vegetable. If you don’t grow broccoli, enjoy broccoli florets on a regular basis.

Broccoli Rabe
Despite its name, broccoli rabe is actually part of the turnip family of plants. It is often called turnip broccoli, rapini, Italian turnip, broccoli rabe, and broccoletti di rapa. The flavor of broccoli rabe is bitter, so it is usually cooked which mellows the flavor. It may be sautéed, blanched, boiled, or steamed. It is often sautéed with garlic and onion, and topped with Parmesan cheese. Broccoli rabe is high in potassium, fiber, and pantothenic acid.

There are many varieties of chard plants, but all have dark leaves with a long stalk in the center. The stalks can be a variety of colors, and marketed as rainbow, red, yellow, or white chard. It may also be referred to as leaf beet, sea kale, or silver beet. Chard has a mellow, earthy flavor, with stalks that are slightly sweet. It is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. The stalks take longer to cook than the leaves, so they are often separated so they can be cooked for appropriate times. Chard is often sautéed or steamed then added to soups, casseroles, or even tacos. Chard can be eaten raw, but the leaves can be tough. The stems can provide a crunchy snack. Swiss chard is high in Vitamins A, K, and C, along with potassium, and manganese.

Collard Greens
Collard greens are also known as collards, borekale, and tree cabbage. The plant has thick, dark green leaves that are packed with nutrients. The flavor of their rather tough leaves is slightly bitter, so although they can be eaten raw, they are most often cooked to tenderize them and remove the bitterness. Collard greens are often braised or steamed and served with pork. They can also be added to stir-fries, slaws, and even sandwiches. Collard greens are exceptionally high in Vitamin K.

Dandelion Greens
Even though we consider them to be weeds in the lawn, all parts of the dandelion plant are edible: the flower, roots, and stem. If you elect to pick them out of your yard to eat, be sure they have not been tainted with pesticides, even from a neighbor’s yard. The flavor of dandelion greens is earthy and somewhat nutty. The greens may be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches. They may also be sautéed and added to casseroles. Some chefs use dandelion greens in place of spinach to add a unique touch to pasta dishes. Interestingly, the nutritional value of dandelion greens remains even after being cooked. They are full of Vitamins E, A, and C, and folate. They also contain a substantial amount of calcium, iron, and magnesium.

There are different varieties of kale that vary in shape, color, and degree of tenderness. Kale is typically dark green with a strong stem in the middle with leaves that are curly at the ends. Kale is slightly bitter when eaten raw, but mellows when cooked. It is often sautéed, added to soups, and roasted as kale chips. Kale may also be eaten raw in salads. Younger, baby kale leaves would be more tender and easier to eat in a salad. To get the most nutritional value out of kale, eat it raw, or drink freshly made kale juice. Kale is exceptionally high in Vitamins A, K, B6, and C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Kohlrabi Greens
Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica plant family. Kohlrabi greens are simply the long stalks with leaves attached that grow upward from kohlrabi bulbs. The stalk matches the color of the kohlrabi bulb, which can be white or purple. The flavor of the greens is mild and sweet, similar to broccoli. The leaves and stalks of kohlrabi are usually cooked, and can easily be sautéed with garlic in oil, like any leafy green. Kohlrabi greens are packed with antioxidants that are known to help prevent cancer and heart disease. They are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and Vitamins C and B6.

Mustard Greens
There are different varieties of mustard, but all have a peppery, spicy flavor. They are a staple in Southern USA cooking and are often cooked until soft and served with ham. The longer they are cooked, the less spicy is their flavor. Adding a little lemon juice or vinegar at the end of cooking helps to tame the flavor. Mustard greens are often used to make zesty mustard sauces. The seeds are used to make the condiment we know as prepared mustard. Mustard greens are a good source of calcium, folate, magnesium, and Vitamin K.

Pak Choi
Pak choi is a member of the Brassica family. It is a non-heading Chinese cabbage with many varieties that are also known as Bok choy, Bok choi, and Bai cai among other names. It is considered to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world and is commonly used in Asian cuisine. It is used in both hot and cold dishes.

Pak choi has oval-shaped leaves with curved, thick stems loosely clustered to a bulbous base. The stems can range in color from white to pale green and are crunchy with a slightly fibrous texture. Both the leaves and stems are edible. When eaten raw, Pak choi has a sweet, mustard-like flavor. When cooked, it becomes more tender and the flavor mellows to being similar to cabbage and spinach. Pak choi is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, along with Vitamins B6, K, and E, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, and calcium.

Pak choi is excellent for raw uses, such as in salads and slaws. It is also excellent in cooked applications, such as steaming, boiling, grilling, braising, and sautéing. After being cooked, it is often topped with a sauce, or included in soups, noodle dishes, stir-fries, or served as an accompaniment to meats. It may also be pickled for preservation and extended use.  It is sometimes mixed into pasta dishes, added to gnocchi, and served in grain bowls. Pak choi pairs well with mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, citrus, tofu, fish, pork, duck, and other poultry.

Radish Greens
Radish greens are often discarded, but they are completely edible. They have a similar peppery flavor and texture profile as turnip greens. However, radish greens are not usually eaten raw because the leaves can be prickly. Nevertheless, they can be pureed into a zesty pesto. Cooked radish greens are versatile. They can be roasted as a spicy side dish, or added to stir-fries. They can also be added to creamy soups and quiches. Radish greens are high in fiber and iron, making them a green to consider when fighting anemia. They also contain Vitamins A, C, and K, along with antioxidants.

Sorrel is sometimes referred to as sour grass, spinach dock, or sour dock. It has narrow, spade-like leaves that can sometimes be confused with mature spinach. The flavor is tart and acidic. Sorrel is popular in Europe and Central Asia, and can be hard to find in the United States. It can be eaten raw and is often served in salad blends with mixed greens. Sorrel can be added to soups and stews. When cooked, sorrel takes on a lemony flavor that goes well with fish.

Spinach has dark-green, rounded leaves. It is a very versatile and often used leafy green, so it should be available in most grocery stores. The mild flavor of spinach allows it to complement many dishes. It can be eaten raw in a salad or sandwich, or cooked in side-dishes and entrées. Spinach may be added to omelets, phyllo pastry, pasta dishes, and even smoothies. It is important to know that the volume of spinach dwindles down dramatically when it is cooked, which means you should probably use more than you think you should when cooking spinach. Spinach is packed with nutrients and is one of the most protein-rich green vegetables. It is also rich in folate, which is critical in red blood cell production, and also helps in proper fetal development during pregnancy.

Tatsoi. Tatsoi is a member of the Brassica family of plants. It is also known as spinach mustard, spoon mustard, rosette bok choy, and Japanese spinach. It has a slightly bitter flavor, like mustard greens, but milder. It has thick, dark green leaves with crisp, juicy stalks. Tatsoi is best cooked, when added to soups, stir-fries, or simply sautéed. Baby tatsoi can be served raw in salads. In the United States, Tatsoi may not be found at most grocery stores; however, Asian markets may carry it.

Turnip Greens
Like many leafy vegetables, turnips are in the Brassica plant family. The greens are simply the leafy tops that grow upward from turnips. The greens have a slightly peppery flavor and are often cooked in a similar way as collard greens. They can be braised or sautéed and served with ham shanks and potatoes. They are sometimes prepared in a slow cooker into a rich and spicy soup. Turnip greens are almost always cooked. They have a prickly texture which makes them undesirable for eating raw. Turnip greens are more nutritious than turnip bulbs. They are packed with antioxidants, calcium, manganese, and Vitamins A, C, and K.

Watercress is an aquatic plant that has small, rounded leaves. Like many of the foods discussed in this article, watercress is also a member of the Brassica plant family. The flavor of watercress is similar to that of arugula and mustard greens. It tastes slightly spicy and bitter. Watercress may be eaten raw or cooked. It is often sautéed or cooked as a side dish or added to soups. It supplies a lot of Vitamin K and antioxidants and has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. Watercress is often used in herbal medicine around the world.

Recipe Links
50 Ways to Get More Leafy Greens in Your Life

79 Green Vegetable Recipes for Soups, Salads, Sautés, and More

19 New Ways to Eat Leafy Greens

13 Leafy Green Dinners That Go Beyond Kale

Creative Vegetarian Recipes That Make Leafy Greens the Star of Your Plate

Basic Sautéed Leafy Greens

Tortellini, White Bean, and Turnip Greens Soup Recipe

Roasted Baby Turnips with Turnip Green Pesto

Turnip Green Salad Recipe

Turnip Greens Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad

Vegan Chickpea Quinoa Arugula Salad with Lemon Garlic Dressing

Japanese Spinach Salad with Sesame Dressing

Vegan Cobb Salad

The Ultimate Fall Salad

Kale Citrus Salad

Thanksgiving Kale Salad with Maple-Tahini Dressing

Vegan Kale Salad with Almond Butter Dressing

Kale and Zucchini Salad with Roasted Parsnip Chips

Arugula Salad with Peaches

38 Amazing Broccoli Recipes Even Broccoli Haters Can’t Hate

Caramelized Broccoli with Garlic

Our Very Best Broccoli Recipes

Roasted Broccoli

50 of the Best Broccoli Recipes We’ve Ever Tasted

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Sautéed Broccoli


Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Broccoli 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

This is an update to my original post on Broccoli 101 – The Basics. This post has expanded, more comprehensive information about broccoli. However, the original post has a lot of valuable information, so please check it out too!


Broccoli 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)

About Broccoli
Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables in the cruciferous family and is enjoyed worldwide in many different cuisines. It is a member of the Brassica family of plants, and is related to many other popular vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, and Brussels sprouts.

The most popular variety of broccoli forms a “head,” referring to a flowering portion of the plant. This is the part of the plant we commonly refer to as the “florets.” If the plant is left to mature, the florets (head) would develop flowers that eventually produce seeds. Non-heading varieties of broccoli produce florets throughout the plant at the ends of the shoots. Broccoli varieties can range in color from deep sage to dark green to purplish green.

From what we understand, broccoli had its origins as a type of wild cabbage. Through centuries of selective planting, it was developed into the varieties that we are familiar with today. It is now grown in virtually all continents around the world and is especially diverse and plentiful in the Mediterranean area of Europe, the central and western parts of Asia, and the western half of North America. Almost all of the broccoli produced commercially in the United States is grown in California, followed by Arizona. Broccoli imported to America mostly comes from Mexico.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Broccoli is exceptionally high in many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It is an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, chromium and folate. It also supplies a lot of fiber, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, potassium, copper, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin, and selenium. One cup of cooked broccoli has as much Vitamin C as an orange. It is also very low in calories, with one cup having only 31 calories. It is truly a powerhouse of nutrition!

In addition to its long list of vitamins and minerals, broccoli is concentrated with an array of phytonutrients which are key to its important health-promoting benefits.

Anti-Cancer Connection. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are particularly high in glucosinolates, which are converted into a group of compounds called isothiocyanates. These compounds are known to help shut down the inflammatory process. Sulforaphane is one of the well-known isothiocyanates known to squelch the inflammatory process, providing powerful health benefits.

There are other compounds in broccoli that work together synergistically providing potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, helping to reduce our risk for assorted types of cancer. Laboratory animal and test tube studies have shown sulforaphane to reduce both the size and number of cancer cells. Population studies have found that people who have a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables have a significantly lower cancer rate than those who eat less cruciferous vegetables.

It is noteworthy that sulforaphane is only activated through enzyme interaction when the vegetable is cut or chewed. Also, raw mature broccoli has more sulforaphane potential than lightly steamed broccoli. Broccoli sprouts have been found to have many times more of the health-boosting phytonutrients, including sulforaphane, than mature broccoli. To learn how to grow your own broccoli sprouts, see my video …

Detoxification. In conjunction with the anti-cancer benefits of broccoli, it also has detoxification properties. Compounds in broccoli have been shown to improve Phase 2 of our detoxification process, which also helps to reduce our risk for cancer. The amount of broccoli shown to produce this effect is from 1 to 2 cups per day.

The vast blend of compounds in broccoli makes it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention. Oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and inadequate detoxification are well-documented connections to the development of cancer. Research has shown that broccoli has compounds that fight all three of those problems, thereby making it a highly valuable food in the fight against cancer. Even though 1 to 2 cups of broccoli a day may be ideal, researchers have found benefit with as little as ½ cup of broccoli daily. Even a 2-cup serving twice a week is enough to offer valuable benefits.  So, “the moral of the story” is…Eat your broccoli, whenever you can, as much as you can!

Cardiovascular Support. Recent studies have shown that broccoli can lower LDL cholesterol levels, decreasing our risk for heart disease. A recent study showed that as little as 1/3 cup of broccoli per day for 3 months lowered LDL cholesterol in subjects by 2.5 percent. Both raw and steamed broccoli showed cholesterol-lowering effects, although a stronger LDL-lowering effect was found with steamed broccoli.

Broccoli is also high in Vitamin B6 and folate, both of which are important nutrients in lowering homocysteine levels. Having lower homocysteine levels is associated with lowered risk for atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack.

Eye Health. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids found in significant amounts in broccoli, are especially important for eye health. Low levels of these compounds can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration, both raising our risk for vision loss. Therefore, eating broccoli on a regular basis can help to prevent eye issues that can lead to vision loss over time.

Diabetes Risk. A human study reported in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, showed significantly reduced insulin resistance in subjects with Type 2 diabetes who ate broccoli sprouts daily for one month.

Healthy Digestion. Broccoli is high in fiber and antioxidants, both of which support healthy digestive function and the gut microbiome. Nutrients, such as those found in broccoli, have been found to promote reduced levels of inflammation in the colon along with favorable changes in the gut bacteria.

Brain Support. Some of the compounds in broccoli may slow mental decline and support healthy brain function. A study with 960 older adults showed that one serving a day of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, helped to resist mental decline associated with aging. Animal studies showed that a compound in broccoli, kaempferol, lowered the incidence of brain injury and reduced inflammation following a stroke-like event. Another animal study showed that mice treated with sulforaphane had significant brain tissue recovery and reduced inflammation after a brain injury or toxic exposure.

Most of the current research on the effects of compounds found in broccoli on brain health are limited to animal studies. However, they are promising and may lead to further human studies.

Other Benefits of Broccoli. There are numerous other potential benefits of eating broccoli on a regular basis. The high Vitamin C level in broccoli supports a healthy immune system. The antioxidants found in broccoli, especially sulforaphane, may help to slow the aging process. Some of the compounds found in broccoli have been shown to support dental and oral health. Vitamin C, calcium, and kaempferol, a flavonoid found in broccoli, appear to play a role in preventing periodontal disease. Sulforaphane in broccoli may also reduce the risk for oral cancers. Broccoli is high in Vitamin K, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, all of which are nutrients vital for maintaining strong bones. Researchers have extensively studied the health benefits of broccoli and its components, and are finding new implications regularly. Joint health, pregnancy support, and skin health are also among the areas being studied.

How to Select Broccoli
Look for bright green heads of broccoli with tightly clustered florets. The more open the florets, the older the broccoli is. The florets should be uniformly colored with no yellowing. Look for firm, strong stalks (flimsy stalks that bend are older and becoming dehydrated). Broccoli should feel heavy for its size. Any attached leaves should be vibrant in color and not wilted.

How to Store Fresh Broccoli
Do not wash fresh broccoli until you are ready to use it. Store it in the refrigerator. It may be stored in a plastic bag if you plan to use it quickly. However, for the longest storage life, place it in a container with a lid, with the bottom lined with a paper towel or clean cloth. That will absorb any moisture released by the broccoli, preventing it from sitting in water. At the same time, the cloth or paper towel will help to maintain a humid environment when it becomes damp from the moisture released by the broccoli. This will help to keep it from dehydrating. Use your fresh broccoli within 7 days.

How to Prepare Fresh Broccoli
Rinse fresh broccoli when you’re ready to use it. If it has started to dehydrate (get limp) in the refrigerator, it may be soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes to help crisp it back up.

The florets may be cooked whole or cut into smaller pieces, depending upon how you plan to use them. Of course, the smaller pieces will cook faster than the whole florets.

The stalks are often cut off and discarded. This is unfortunate, because they are edible and taste just like the florets. The outer edges of the stalks me be somewhat “woody.” If they are, the outer, tough area may be trimmed away (and discarded) either with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Then simply cut the stalks into desired size pieces, roughly the same size as the florets and cook them along with the florets.

Fresh broccoli may be eaten raw or cooked and used in just about any way imaginable: steamed, boiled, stir-fried, stir-steamed, roasted, added to casseroles, soups, stews, salads, smoothies, and juices. The use for broccoli is limited only to your imagination!

How to Preserve Fresh Broccoli
There is a trend today among some people to simply wash, chop, and place vegetables in the freezer without being pretreated first. Although this method does save time, it is appropriate for some vegetables (such as onions and bell peppers), but not for all. Broccoli is one of the vegetables that should be pretreated first to stop the enzyme activity that will cause the vegetable pieces to continue to age while in the freezer. If you insist on freezing broccoli without pretreating it, be sure to label it with the current date and use it within three months for best quality. Pretreating your broccoli first to disable the enzymes, will allow you to keep your broccoli for much longer with a better quality, up to about a year. It will be edible beyond that but the quality will dwindle over time.

Freezing Broccoli (Blanching). First wash the broccoli, and cut the florets into desired size pieces. The stems may be frozen, but first remove the woody area along the outer edges, then cut the stems into desired size pieces, comparable to the size of the florets. If you prefer larger pieces, it is best if all of the florets are no more than one inch across and stems are no longer than five inches.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place your prepared broccoli in the boiling water and set your timer right away. Allow smaller pieces to blanch (remain in the hot water) for 3 minutes. If your pieces are very large, they will need to remain in the water for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size. Once the timer has finished, immediately transfer the broccoli to a large bowl of ice water. Allow the broccoli to chill in the cold water for as long as it was in the hot water. Then drain the broccoli well and transfer it to freezer bags or containers. To prevent it from freezing in a large lump, you could first spread your blanched broccoli pieces on a tray and place that in the freezer. When the pieces are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. Label the container with the current date, and return them to the freezer. Use your broccoli within 12 months for best quality.

For a video demonstration on how to blanch broccoli, watch this video…

Freezing Broccoli (Steaming). Fresh broccoli may also be preserved by steaming it first, instead of water blanching. Prepare your broccoli as detailed above. Place a steamer basket in a pot (that has a lid) and add water to a level that will not rise above the bottom of the steaming basket when the water boils. Bring the water to boil. Add the broccoli pieces and place the lid on the pot. Set the timer for 4 minutes if the pieces are small, or 5 minutes if the pieces are large. When the timer is finished, transfer the steamed broccoli pieces to a large bowl of ice water and follow the same procedure as detailed above for chilling and freezing your broccoli.

Dehydrating Fresh Broccoli: Broccoli florets may be dehydrated. The stems may remain a bit tough with dehydration, so it is only recommended to dehydrate the florets. Blanch and cool your broccoli pieces as detailed above. They may either be water blanched or steam blanched. Once the broccoli pieces have been cooled, spread them on your dehydrator mesh tray. Follow the dehydrator manufacturer’s directions for the length of time and temperature for proper dehydration with your machine.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Broccoli
* Try raw broccoli served with a dip or hummus.

* Add broccoli, raw or cooked, to your next green salad.

* Try roasting broccoli with cauliflower, flavored with olive oil and garam masala.

* Add broccoli to your next breakfast omelet or quiche.

* For a quick pasta dish, toss cooked pasta with some olive oil, pine nuts, and steamed broccoli. Season with a pinch of garlic powder, parsley and oregano. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

* Try making “broccoli rice.” Simply place chopped raw broccoli in a food processor. Pulse until the broccoli is in small, rice-like pieces. Then briefly sauté it in a skillet like you would make fried rice.

* Try adding some frozen and thawed chopped broccoli along with some shredded cheddar cheese to your next batch of corn bread. The bread will be moist and flavorful.

* If your raw broccoli has started to get limp, soak it in cold water for about 10 minutes and it will crisp back up.

* Make a broccoli dip by blending steamed broccoli, yogurt, chives or green onions, paprika, and fresh garlic. Use it as a dip for raw vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, yellow squash, and zucchini.

* Try steamed broccoli topped with your favorite hummus.

* For some citrus-flavored broccoli, stir-steam broccoli in a little orange juice with a pinch of orange zest. Add some crushed red pepper flakes or black pepper for extra “zing.”

* Make your broccoli with a Mediterranean flare. Top steamed broccoli with a little marinara sauce and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese or shredded mozzarella.

* Make a salad with lightly steamed broccoli, feta cheese, grape tomatoes, olive oil and red wine vinegar.

* Try a stir-fry with broccoli, red bell peppers, and sesame oil. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

* Make delicious side dish by roasting broccoli pieces flavored with olive oil, salt and pepper. When it’s finished, drizzle it with a little lemon juice, then sprinkle with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Broccoli
Basil, capers, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, coriander, curry powder, dill, marjoram, mustard (seeds, powder), oregano, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, sage, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Broccoli
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (esp. cannellini, green, white), beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, flax seeds, ham, hazelnuts, mung bean sprouts, nuts (in general), peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, sausage, seafood, sesame seeds, soybeans, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Bell peppers, cauliflower, chiles, chives, garlic, ginger, greens (in general), leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (summer and winter), tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Avocado, coconut, lemon, lime, olives, orange

Grains and Grain Products: Bread crumbs, bulgur, noodles and pasta (in general), quinoa, rice, seitan, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter and browned butter, cheese (in general, esp. feta, cheddar, goat, Parmesan), coconut milk, cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Mayonnaise, miso, mustard (Dijon), oil (esp. olive, peanut, sesame, walnut), sauces (esp. Hollandaise), soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinaigrette, vinegar (esp. balsamic, rice, tarragon), wine (dry white)

Broccoli has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Casseroles, crepes, crudités, curries, egg dishes (custards, omelets, quiches), gratins, guacamole, hummus, pizzas, baked potatoes (toppings), salads (i.e., green, pasta, tomato, vegetable), sauces, slaws, soufflés, soups (esp. broccoli, creamy), stews, stir-fries, tempura

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Broccoli
Add broccoli to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Citrus Fruits + Garlic
Almonds + Mushrooms
Almonds + Romano Cheese
Basil + Garlic + Olive Oil + Parmesan Cheese + Walnuts
Bell Peppers + Capers + Olives
Bell Peppers + Mozzarella Cheese
Chiles + Garlic + Ginger + Lime + Olive Oil
Chiles + Garlic + Olive Oil
Chiles + Garlic + Orange (juice, zest)
Feta Cheese + Mint + Red Onions
Flax Seeds + Lemon
Garlic + Ginger + Sesame Oil/Seeds + Tamari
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Chili Pepper Flakes
Garlic + Lemon + Tahini
Ginger + Orange
Lemon + Parsley
Lime + Noodles + Peanuts
Onions + Orange
Orange + Parmesan Cheese + Tomatoes
Red Onions + Yogurt
Rice Vinegar + Sesame Oil + Sesame Seeds + Soy Sauce or Tamari

Recipe Links
Cook Frozen Broccoli (Not Mushy)

How to Steam Broccoli

How to Blanch Broccoli

Easily Cut Fresh Broccoli with Less Mess

How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts

Lemon-Garlic Broccoli (NOT Mushy! Using Frozen Broccoli)

35+ Of Our Best Broccoli Recipes

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The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. 3rd ed. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Bell Peppers

Bell Peppers 101 – The Basics


Bell Peppers 101 – The Basics

About Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are native to the Caribbean and North, Central, and South America. These popular peppers were gradually distributed around the world and are now grown in a number of countries. Bell peppers are commercially grown in greenhouse and non-greenhouse settings. In the United States, most greenhouse bell peppers are imported, usually from Mexico. The United States also imports bell peppers from Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Spain. Within the United States, bell peppers are a popular summer food to grow among home gardeners. They are also grown commercially in California, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan.

Bell peppers are members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, along with chili peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes (not sweet potatoes). The name “bell peppers” was applied to these fruits (that we use as vegetables) to distinguish them from their hot cousins, including cayenne and jalapeno peppers.

Classic bell peppers have four lobes on the bottom. Increasingly, we’ll find three-lobed green bell peppers in the bin in grocery stores. These are more elongated in shape and are referred to as the Lamuyo type of pepper. Bell peppers are considered to be sweet rather than hot because they do not contain capsaicinoids that give hot peppers their classic, flavorful “heat.” The amount of capsaicinoids in a pepper is measured on the Scoville heat scale. It’s an indication of how “hot” a pepper is. Bell peppers are given a score of “0” on this scale, whereas the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers have a score of 2 million! Ouch!!

Most varieties of bell peppers are green during the growing process and will undergo a color change during maturation. The colors can be yellow, orange, red, purple, lilac, brown, and even ivory. The colorful peppers are usually more expensive than the green, less mature peppers. This is because it takes a longer growing time to allow the peppers to mature, so the cost of production is increased. It is noteworthy that some varieties of bell peppers remain green, even with maturation, and others undergo color changes early in the development process.

Mini bell peppers are relatively new on the market. They are not young bell peppers, but are separate varieties of peppers. They can be more challenging to grow since they are less disease resistant than the larger peppers. Hence, they can be more expensive.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Bell peppers are an excellent source of Vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. They also contain a lot of folate, molybdenum, Vitamin E, fiber, Vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin, and potassium. They also contain Vitamin K, manganese, Vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium.

The shining star of bell peppers is their abundant content of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. These many, assorted compounds in bell peppers provide an array of health benefits. Overall, such compounds reduce oxidative stress. This in itself reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Eye Health. The carotenoids and other antioxidants have been shown to help prevent age-related macular degeneration of the eyes, which can result in vision loss.

Neurodegenerative Diseases. The compounds in bell peppers can help ward off neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds in bell peppers, especially ripe, colorful bell peppers, have been shown to block the release of amyloid proteins. It is the release of such proteins that allows them to accumulate around certain nerve cells in the brain (cholinergic neurons) that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Although all bell peppers contain these antioxidants (primarily lutein and zeaxanthin), the darker, richer colored peppers contain more than the green, immature peppers.

How to Select Bell Peppers
Choose bell peppers that are bright in color, firm, with smooth skin, and no blemishes. The stems should be green and fresh looking. They should be heavy for their size. Avoid those that are soft and wrinkled, have blemishes, or are damaged in some way.

How to Store Bell Peppers
Store bell peppers, unwashed, in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. The drawer slider should be set on high humidity (with the air vent closed). Since bell peppers are high in water content, this will help to keep them hydrated during storage. They should be in a humid, but not wet environment. Stored this way, they should keep for about 7 to 10 days.

Once cut, bell peppers should be placed in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. Use them as quickly as possible, within two or three days.

How to Prepare a Bell Pepper
Preparing bell peppers is very easy. Simply wash them well under cold water and pat them dry. With a sharp knife, cut across the top of the pepper, as if you were creating a “lid” for the lower portion of the pepper. The stem can then easily be removed from the top section and the top portion can then be cut and used as desired. Then, the seed core can easily be grasped and removed from the lower portion of the pepper. It’s best to do that over a trash can or bowl, since individual seeds will likely be released in the process. If desired, remaining membranes can easily be removed from the interior of the peppers. The pepper can then be cut and used as desired.  To see my demonstration on how to cut bell peppers with this method, watch this brief video …

How to Freeze Bell Peppers
Freezing bell peppers is really about as easy as it can get. They can be blanched, but it’s optional. Bear in mind, that once frozen, they will not be appropriate for use like you would have used fresh peppers. Their texture will be soft, so they will be suitable only for cooked applications.

First, simply wash and dry your whole peppers. Remove the stems and seeds (like detailed under “How to Prepare a Bell Pepper” in this article). Cut the peppers into whatever size pieces you want, depending upon your intended use(s) later. To allow them to freeze separately so they won’t freeze into one big lump, spread the cut peppers out on a baking sheet or tray. Place it in the freezer until the peppers are completely frozen. Transfer the frozen pepper pieces to an airtight freezer container or bag. Label them with the date and return them to the freezer. To avoid freezer burn, use them within six months.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Bell Peppers
* Add slices of bell peppers to your snack trays for scooping up dips. They would add color, crunch, flavor, AND nutrition.

* Add bell peppers to omelets, soups, and pasta sauces.

* Use diced or sliced bell peppers as pizza toppings.

* Are you looking for ways to get children to eat more veggies? Stuff bell peppers with macaroni and cheese.

* Add bell peppers to your favorite stir-fry.

* Add chopped bell peppers to tuna, chicken, and potato salad.

* Don’t store bell peppers in sealed plastic bags (even in the refrigerator). Moisture will develop inside the bag, inviting them to spoil faster.

* Sauté sliced bell peppers with onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Add the mixture to tacos, fajitas, sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, pastas, frittatas, and quiches. This mixture can also be used as a foundation for soups, stews, and sauces.

* Add diced bell peppers to any green salad for extra flavor, crunch, and nutrition.

* Stuff bell peppers with any meat or bean, grain, and vegetable mixture that you enjoy. Bake them until the peppers are just tender and enjoy! Embellish the baked stuffed pepper with your favorite tomato or other sauce for added flavor and moisture.

* Mix up a batch of your favorite hummus and use bell pepper slices for dipping the hummus. Take this one step farther by stuffing mini bell peppers with hummus, making small, bite-size appetizers.

* Add diced bell peppers to your next batch of corn bread. It’s a perfect match and will give the corn bread a touch of sweetness.

* Add diced bell peppers to your favorite green smoothie. Using red, orange or yellow peppers will add a touch of sweetness.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Bell Peppers
Anise, basil, bay leaf, capers, cayenne, celery seeds, chervil, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, coriander, cumin, marjoram, mint, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper (black), saffron, sage, salt, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Bell Peppers
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. black, fava, red), beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, ham, lentils, pine nuts, pork, sausage, seafood (in general), sesame seeds, snow peas, tahini, tempeh, tofu, tuna, walnuts

Vegetables: Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chiles, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, garlic, ginger, greens (salad), jicama, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots, squash (summer), sweet potatoes, tomatoes (fresh, paste, sauce, sun-dried), vegetables (summer), zucchini

Fruits: Lemon, lime, mango, olives, peaches, pears, pineapple, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread, bulgur, corn, corn bread, grains (whole), millet, noodles (Asian), pasta, polenta, quinoa, rice (esp. brown, wild)

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (esp. cheddar, feta, goat, mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, soft), coconut milk, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, miso, oil (esp. canola, corn, olive, peanut, sesame), pomegranate molasses, stock, vinegar (esp. balsamic, red wine, sherry), wine (dry red, white)

Bell peppers have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Bruschetta, casseroles, chili, coulis, couscous, curries, dips, egg dishes (frittatas, omelets, quiches, scrambled, tortillas), gazpacho, gratins, hash, meatloaf, Mediterranean cuisines, Mexican cuisine, pasta dishes (lasagna, linguini, orzo, spaghetti), pilafs, pizzas, purees, quesadillas, ratatouille, relishes, risottos, romesco sauce, salads (bean, green, pasta, potato, tomato, vegetable), sandwiches, sauces, slaws, sofritoes, soups (i.e., bean, gazpacho, gumbo, red pepper, tomato, vegetable), South American cuisines, spreads, stews, stir-fries, stuffed peppers, stuffings, Tex-Mex cuisine, Thai cuisine, Turkish cuisine

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Bell Peppers
Add bell peppers to any of the following combinations…

Balsamic vinegar + basil + garlic + olive oil
Balsamic vinegar + chili pepper flakes + garlic + olive oil
Balsamic vinegar + olive oil + red onions
Basil + chiles + garlic
Basil + eggplant + garlic
Basil + fennel + goat cheese
Basil + garlic + olive oil + onions + oregano + tomatoes
Cheese + eggs + tomatoes
Chiles + cilantro + lime + mint + scallions
Cucumbers + garlic + tomatoes
Dried cranberries + mushrooms + sage + wild rice
Eggs + mushrooms + onions
Garlic + olive oil + tomatoes + zucchini
Cider vinegar + garlic + honey + olive oil + red onions
Lemon juice + mint + pine nuts + rice
Olive oil + onions + red wine vinegar + thyme
Pomegranate molasses + walnuts

Recipe Links
45 of Our Favorite Bell Pepper Recipes

25 Bell Pepper Recipes That Make the Most of This Colorful Veg

Pan-Roasted Peppers

15 Favorite Bell Pepper Recipes

Healthy Veggie Salad

Zesty Mexican Soup

Braised Kidney Beans and Sweet Potato

Spicy Black Bean Burrito

Sautéed Vegetables with Cashews

Tahini and Crudités Appetizer

Romaine and Avocado Salad

Black Bean Chili

Bell Pepper Lentil Dip

11 Best Bell Pepper Recipes/Easy Bell Pepper Recipes


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Spearmint (Mint) 101 – The Basics


Spearmint 101 – The Basics

About Spearmint
When someone uses the general term, “mint,” they are usually referring to spearmint, Mentha spicata. This same perennial herb has also been called garden mint, lamb’s mint, Our Lady’s mint, spire mint, and sage of Bethlehem.

Spearmint is native to the Mediterranean region, where it has long been a popular herb used as both food and medicine. In ancient times, mint was known as an herb of hospitality. The leaves were used to clean and scent tables and floors. It has been stuffed in pillows and mattresses and scattered on floors to cover odors and deter pests and rodents. Mint was also used with other herbs in tombs as an aromatic. The Romans brought mint to Europe. Mint was carried to America by early English settlers who used it medicinally, to make tea, and as an aromatic for the body and home.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Mint is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folate, along with the trace minerals manganese and iron. It also contains some calcium and magnesium.

Digestive Upsets. Mint tea has been used to help relieve nausea, cramping, and indigestion.

Respiratory Problems. Inhaling steam scented with mint has been used to help relieve respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis.

Antibacterial Agent. Spearmint is added to many toothpastes and mouthwashes. In addition to freshening the breath, spearmint has been found to contain antimicrobial properties that can help kill harmful bacteria in the mouth. Furthermore, research has shown that spearmint essential oil can help destroy harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and Listeria, that cause foodborne illnesses.

Lowers Blood Sugar. Animal studies have shown that spearmint tea may help to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Human studies in this area are lacking, but the animal studies that have been conducted are promising.

Reduces Stress. In many countries, spearmint tea is commonly used to induce relaxation and reduce stress. Animal studies have shown that spearmint tea does, in fact, produce such an effect. The menthol in the leaves may be responsible for this effect. So, if you’re feeling stressed, enjoy a cup of mint tea! Furthermore, mint aromatherapy has been used to help ease mental sluggishness and agitation.

Relieves Arthritis. Animal and human studies have found that spearmint can help relieve arthritis pain. People who drank spearmint tea twice a day for 16 weeks had reduced stiffness, pain, and physical disability from arthritis of the knee.

How to Select Spearmint
Look for fresh mint leaves that are bright green and not wilted. If possible, smell them. Their aroma will clue you into their degree of freshness. If they have no aroma, they’re not fresh. If your bunch of leaves was tied together with a twist tie or rubber band, remove it when you get it home.

How to Store Fresh Spearmint
Fresh spearmint is delicate and can bruise easily. If it was purchased in a closed plastic container, store it dry in the refrigerator, in that same container until you’re ready to use it. Wait to wash it until you’re ready to use it.

If your mint leaves were bundled, they may be stored in a couple different ways. First, you can store them like cut flowers, in the refrigerator. Place the stems, cut side down in a glass or jar with a small amount of water. Cover them loosely with a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. Change the water every day or two.

Another way to store fresh mint leaves would be to spread them out on a SLIGHTLY damp paper towel or cloth. Roll the towel or cloth like a jelly-roll and place that loosely in a plastic bag. Store it in the refrigerator. Try to use your stored fresh mint within a week.

How to Preserve Mint
Freeze. Fresh mint may be washed, removed from stems, chopped, then frozen in ice cube trays with water. Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag or container and use them when you want to add mint flavor to cold beverages or any cooked dish calling for mint.

Fresh mint may also be washed, dried, then frozen whole in an airtight plastic bag. This mint would be best used in pesto, sauce, or jelly.

Dry. There are several ways that fresh mint leaves can be dried.

(1) Wash the mint leaves while still on the stems. Carefully dry the leaves, then remove the stems. Place the leaves on a baking tray in a single layer. Be sure the leaves are completely dry before proceeding. Place the tray in a warm oven at its lowest temperature or 180°F until the leaves are dry. It may take two hours or longer. Watch them carefully so they do not burn. Allow them to cool completely, then store them in an airtight container. The dried leaves may be left whole or crumbled. If crumbled, sift them through a screen to remove any remaining stems.

(2) Fresh mint leaves may also be dried in a dehydrator. Prepare the leaves as detailed above and lay them in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the recommended temperature and length of time to dry the leaves.

(3) Yet another way to dry fresh spearmint would be to wash and dry the leaves completely. They may be removed from the stems or left on. Place them in a paper bag and close the bag by folding over the top edges. Lay the bag on its side and shake the bag to disburse the leaves so they’re not in a big clump. Place the bag away from a heat source and sunlight. Two or three times a day, shake the bag and turn it over to “toss” the leaves around, then lay it on its side again. Continue to do this until the leaves are completely dry. This may take a week or more. Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems, if not already done and transfer them to an airtight container.

After your dried mint leaves have been placed in their storage container, check the container after a few days to be sure there is no moisture inside. This would indicate that the leaves were not completely dry, and will invite decay. If moisture is found, remove the leaves and dry them again.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Spearmint
* Recipes that call for “mint” generally mean spearmint, so the two terms are usually interchangeable.

* For a quick dessert or snack, combine sliced strawberries, mint leaves, and yogurt.

* Make an easy mint tea by placing 5 to 10 torn mint leaves in a mug. Muddle (smash) them just a bit with a wooden spoon. Pour hot (not boiling) water over the leaves and allow them to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Removing the leaves is optional. Enjoy!

* To make mint tea using dried leaves, steep 1 teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of hot water for about three minutes. Strain and enjoy!

* Add 3 or 4 fresh mint leaves to your favorite chocolate or berry smoothie.

* Make a delicious strawberry salad that can be eaten as it is, used as a topping for a green salad, or as a topping for your favorite bread along with some goat or ricotta cheese. Combine 2 cups of sliced strawberries with 10 to 20 chopped fresh mint leaves, an equal number of chopped fresh basil leaves, and 3 to 4 tablespoons of your favorite balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

* Dress up diced watermelon with equal parts of chopped fresh mint and basil leaves, some feta cheese, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

* Add fresh mint leaves to plain or sparkling water for a nice refresher. Better yet, freeze mint leaves with water in ice cube trays. Cool your water with mint ice cubes.

* When ingesting spearmint, use only dried or fresh leaves. Use spearmint essential oil for aromatherapy or dilute it in a carrier oil when massaging it on the body.

* Add fresh mint leaves to a mixed fruit salad to make it extra special.

* Make a simple refreshing sachet by placing some dried mint leaves in a small square of fabric or cheesecloth. Tie the ends together and place it in drawers, closets, shoes, or anywhere you want to freshen with the aroma of mint.

* Here’s a fun activity if you like mint-chocolate. Wash and dry fresh mint leaves. One at a time, dip each leaf in your favorite melted chocolate. Place the leaves on a wax paper-lined dish. When all the leaves have been dipped, place the dish in the refrigerator until the chocolate has hardened. Enjoy!

* Try adding finely chopped mint leaves to your favorite chocolate pudding or ice cream.

* If you only have dried spearmint and need fresh, or vice versa, here’s the conversion rate: 1 part of dried mint = 3 parts of fresh. Example: 1 teaspoon of dried mint is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint.

* When adding fresh spearmint to a cooked dish, add it toward the end of cooking, or when cooking is finished, for best flavor. When adding dried spearmint to a cooked dish, add it early during cooking so it will have time to rehydrate and release its flavor.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Spearmint
Basil, cardamom, cilantro, coriander, dill, lemongrass, lovage, parsley

Foods That Go Well with Spearmint
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (esp. black, green, white), bean shoots, beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, lamb, lentils, lima beans, peanuts, peas, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, salmon (and other seafood), turkey, veal

Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chiles, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, garlic, ginger, jicama, kale, lettuce, marinated vegetables, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, radishes, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (winter and summer), tomatoes, zucchini

Fruits: Apples, berries (esp. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), citrus fruits (in general), coconut, figs, fruits (in general, dried and fresh), grapefruit, grapes and grape juice, lemon, lime, mangoes (green), melon (esp. honeydew), olives, oranges and orange juice, papaya (esp. green), peaches, pears, pineapple, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, corn, couscous, grains (in general), millet, noodles (Asian, esp. rice), pasta, quinoa, rice, wheat berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e., feta, ricotta), coconut milk, cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Bourbon, chocolate, gin, rum, sugar (esp. brown), vinegar (esp. balsamic, white wine)

Spearmint has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Asian cuisines, beverages (juleps, lassis, lemonades, mojitos, teas), cakes, candies, chutneys, curries, desserts, frostings, ice cream, Indian cuisine, jellies and jams, Mediterranean cuisines, Middle Eastern cuisine, Moroccan cuisine, pestos, pies, pilafs, raitas, risotto, salads (bean, fruit, grain, green, Thai, vegetables), salsas, sauces, soups, Southeast Asian cuisines, stuffings, tabbouleh, teas, Vietnamese cuisines

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Spearmint
Add spearmint to any of the following combinations…

Artichokes + chiles
Balsamic vinegar + berries
Balsamic vinegar + peaches + ricotta cheese
Bell peppers + chiles + garlic + papaya + pineapple
Cardamom + ginger + lemon
Chiles + cilantro + garlic + olive oil + vinegar
Chiles + lemon + shallots + sugar
Citrus + zucchini
Cucumber + yogurt
Feta cheese + lentils
Feta cheese + peas + rice
Lemon + strawberries
Olive oil + white beans + white wine vinegar

Recipe Links
20 Recipes That Use Fresh Mint

50 Ways to Cook with Fresh, Fragrant Mint

20 Recipes for Mint Lovers

14 Recipes That Freshen Up Dinner with Mint

Thai Ground Beef Recipe with Mint, Carrots, and Peppers

Spiced Beef Stew with Carrots and Mint

63 Fresh Mint Recipes to Help You Use Up That Bumper Crop

Middle Eastern Tomato Salad

27 Fresh Recipes for Leftover Mint

18 Recipes for Leftover Mint


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Celery 101 – The Basics


Celery 101 – The Basics

About Celery
The celery we are most familiar with, that we commonly see in just about any grocery store, is green to pale-green in color, with long, firm stalks, and leafy ends. The variety is Pascal celery. Interestingly, there are many other types of celery that are usually smaller than Pascal celery. The colors can vary from white to deep gold, and even red. Celery is a botanical cousin to carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, cilantro, parsnip, anise, caraway, chervil, and cumin.

Many different types of celery are commonly grown around the world and are often referred to as “wild celery.” Pascal celery was cultivated as far back as 1000 B.C in parts of Europe and the Mediterranean. It was used as a medicinal plant in ancient Egypt. There is also evidence that ancient Greek athletes were awarded celery leaves to commemorate a win.

Around the world, celery is often served as a major vegetable in a meal, rather than an addition to salads, or a flavoring agent in soups and stews, like it is commonly used in America. Also, the large root ball, celery root, is often prized as a food in other parts of the world, over the stalks that are so popular in the United States.

Today, the United States produces over 1 billion pounds of celery each year. The average American adult eats about 6 pounds of celery annually. The United States exports about 200 million pounds of celery annually to Canada. Despite that, a substantial amount of celery consumed in the United States is imported from Mexico.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Celery is an excellent source of Vitamin K and molybdenum. It also contains a lot of folate, potassium, fiber, manganese, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B2, copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin A (carotenoids).

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Support. Celery is VERY rich in phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds include Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese. But the antioxidant support provided by celery goes far beyond that. There are at least a dozen other compounds found in celery that demonstrate such benefits. Animal studies have shown that celery extracts have lowered the risk of oxidative damage to body fats and blood vessel walls. They have also been shown to prevent inflammatory reactions in the digestive tract and blood vessels. The extracts were even found to help protect the digestive tract and liver from damage due to acrylamides, which are harmful compounds that can form in foods during the frying process.

Further research on celery juice and extracts has demonstrated that celery has powerful anti-inflammatory effects by decreasing levels of specific factors that promote inflammation. This helps to keep those factors in check, preventing unwanted inflammation.

Digestive Tract Support. Celery contains specific pectin-based fibers that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Animal studies have found that extracts of these compounds in celery appear to improve the integrity of the stomach lining, lowering the risk of stomach ulcers, and providing better control of stomach secretions.

Cardiovascular Support. Many cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis, are promoted by oxidative stress and inflammation in the bloodstream. Because of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties already found in celery, researchers are taking interest in celery for its potential cardiovascular health benefits.

Cancer Prevention. Because compounds in celery have been found to have such strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, researchers are taking note of celery for its possible anti-cancer benefits. Human research in this area has yet to be conducted, but there has been speculation that celery may help to prevent stomach, colon, and bladder cancers.

Sodium Content. Celery contains about 35 milligrams of naturally-occurring sodium per stalk. If you are on a reduced sodium diet, your intake of celery should be monitored to help you keep track of your sodium intake.

How to Select Celery
Choose celery that looks crisp, with a clean bright green color, few blemishes, and with a tightly formed bunch. Avoid those that are limp, or with yellow or brown patches, especially in the leaves, as this indicates age.

How to Store Celery
Celery should be stored in the refrigerator. There are a number of ways to store celery to keep it crisp. But note that nothing will keep celery crisp forever. It’s full of water and the refrigerator is a very dry environment, so celery tends to wilt easily. Here are some easy ways to help minimize water loss and keep it crisp longer.

(1) When you get your celery home, simply pull the original bag upward and secure a twist tie or rubber band around the top of the bag. This will help minimize water loss, while still allowing for air flow because the original bags that celery are packed in have air holes along the length of the bag.

(2) Remove the celery from the base and wrap the stalks in aluminum foil. This method is effective in keeping celery crisp and fresh for extended periods of time.

(3) Celery may be stored in a closed container. There are long plastic containers made specifically for storing celery. They usually have a mesh insert that celery can rest on, allowing for air flow around the stalks as they are stored.

(4) Celery may also be stored in any plastic container it will fit in. The stalks may need to be removed from the base, and even cut in half so they will fit in the container, and that is fine for this purpose. It is helpful to place a paper towel or clean cloth under the celery pieces. This will soak up any excess moisture that forms in the container, while maintaining a humid environment, helping to maintain its crispness.

If your celery has become somewhat dehydrated and limp, simply sprinkle the stalks with a little water, or place them cut side down in a little water in a jar or glass. Place that in the refrigerator. They should crisp up within a couple hours or overnight. Then remove them from the glass or jar and continue to store them as usual. [If left in the water for a prolonged time, the internal cells of the celery will eventually burst from trying to absorb more water than they can hold. This will cause the stalks to collapse and be very limp.]

If possible, use your celery within one week of purchase for optimal flavor, texture and nutrient retention.

How to Prepare Fresh Celery
Remove the stalk from the base of the bunch. Wash the leaves and stalk under cool running water. Cut the stalk as desired for your recipe. If the outside of the stalk contains fibrous strings, they may be removed by making a small cut into the outside with a knife. The stringy fibers may then be peeled away and discarded.

For a simple way to cut celery with little to no strings, watch my video…

How to Preserve Celery
If you cannot use your celery within a reasonable amount of time, it may be frozen or dehydrated for later use. However, when thawed or rehydrated, the texture will be soft. It will be suitable for being immediately added to cooked dishes, like soups, stews, stocks, sauces, and casseroles. Dehydrated celery may also be ground up and used as a seasoning. Previously frozen or dehydrated celery will not be appropriate for eating fresh, such as in salads or being stuffed for a crispy snack, since it will be soft.

Freezing Celery. Wash your celery well and shake off excess water. Cut the celery into the size pieces you will need them to be when used later. Celery may be frozen with or without being blanched first. However, blanched celery will keep longer with a better quality and flavor than celery that was not blanched.

To freeze celery without blanching it first, wash it and cut the celery stalks, as described above. The prepared pieces may simply be placed in a freezer bag and stored in the freezer. To prevent it from freezing into one big lump, it can first be spread out on a parchment paper-lined tray and placed in the freezer. When frozen, transfer the celery pieces to an air-tight freezer container or bag. Label with the date and use it within 3 months for best flavor and quality.

Unblanched, finely diced celery may also be frozen in ice cube trays. Place a measured amount of celery pieces in each cell of an ice cube tray. Fill with water, then place in the freezer. When frozen, transfer the cubes to an air-tight container. These would be suitable for adding to soups and stews or any cooked food where added liquid would be used.

To freeze celery by blanching, first prepare your celery pieces as described above. Then steam them or boil them for 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces). Immediately transfer your blanched celery pieces to a bowl of cold water to quickly cool them down. After they are cooled, drain them well and spread them out on a parchment paper-lined tray in the freezer. When frozen, transfer your blanched celery pieces to an air-tight freezer container or bag. Label the container with the date and use them within one year for best quality.

Dehydrating Celery. Celery may be dehydrated in a dehydrator or oven. Some resources consider blanching celery before dehydrating to be an optional step. However, celery that is dried without being blanched may turn an unappetizing tan color. Whereas celery that was blanched first will maintain its green color. The choice is yours!

To blanch celery before dehydrating, bring a pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, wash the celery. Cut the celery into desired size pieces and boil them for 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces). Immediately transfer them to a bowl of cold water to quickly chill them down. Drain them well.

Dehydrator. To dry your celery pieces in a dehydrator, arrange them in a single layer on a dehydrator tray. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for time and temperature for drying your celery. Usually 135°F is the recommended temperature for dehydrating vegetables. The celery will be dry when it is very brittle, and has no sign of moisture inside when broken open. Store it in an air-tight jar away from heat and sunlight. For extended storage, it is helpful to place an oxygen absorber packet in the jar. Properly dehydrated celery will keep for many years.

Oven. Prepare the celery pieces as directed above. Set your oven at its lowest temperature. If it will not go below 150°F, the oven door will need to be left slightly open by propping a towel or wooden spoon inside the door. This will waste a lot of energy. If you plan to dehydrate a lot of food, investing in a dehydrator may be a sound investment.

If possible, arrange the prepared celery pieces in a single layer on a small screen or rack over a baking tray. This will allow for air flow as the celery dries. If you don’t have a mesh screen or rack, the celery pieces may be placed directly on a baking tray. They should be stirred occasionally as they dry so they will dry evenly and completely. The process may take 6 to 8 hours for them to dry completely. They should feel completely dry and crisp with no sign of moisture inside when broken open. When done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Store them in jars with tight-fitting lids or air-tight containers. Placing an oxygen absorber in the container will help to prolong the shelf-life of your dried celery.  Store it away from heat and sunlight, and it should keep well for years.

Note that celery will shrink a lot as it dries. Using a very fine mesh screen or rack will help to keep the pieces from falling through during the drying process.

To rehydrate dehydrated celery. Simply add 3 parts of water to 1 part of dehydrated celery in a bowl. Allow the celery to sit for 20 minutes up to 2 hours, until fully rehydrated. The length of time will depend upon how big the pieces were before they were dried. If desired, dehydrated celery can simply be added to soups or stews without rehydration, since they will be cooked in liquid for enough time to allow the vegetables to become rehydrated. Just be sure there is enough liquid in your pot to compensate for the rehydration process.

Equivalents. When examining rehydrating charts from various resources, the equivalents vary somewhat. It may depend upon how big the celery pieces were when they were fresh. Larger pieces may yield a greater conversion rate than those that were cut very small. So, consider the following equivalents to be rough estimates, since there is a lot of variation based on the resource.

According to “Seed to Pantry School,” an online DIY food school, one tablespoon of finely chopped fresh celery is equivalent to ½ teaspoon dried. That’s a 6-fold increase in volume from dried to fresh of finely chopped celery. Note that the celery was very finely chopped.

According to Harmony House Foods, that sells dehydrated foods online, one cup of dehydrated celery yields 3-1/4 cups when hydrated. That’s a little more than a 3-fold increase in volume when rehydrated. Obviously, their celery pieces were not cut as small as those in the above conversion comparison by “Seed to Pantry School.”

According to Honeyville, that sells freeze-dried foods online, ½ cup of freeze-dried celery will yield 1 cup when rehydrated. That’s only a two-fold increase in volume. Also, USA Emergency Supply, another online seller of dehydrated foods, states that celery doubles in volume when rehydrated in cool water.

Suggestion for Rehydration Equivalents.  Test a small amount of your own dehydrated celery by measuring a small amount of your dried celery. Place it in a bowl and cover it with plenty of water. Allow it to sit until the celery is completely rehydrated, then measure the celery. This will give you the conversion rate of what you have available. Then you can determine how much dried celery to add to a dish so you can follow the recipe appropriately.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Celery
* Are you looking for a simple snack that has some crunch? Try celery stalks! Dress them up by stuffing them with whatever you have that sounds good at the moment…cream cheese, any nut butter, or even cottage or ricotta cheese. Or just dip them in your favorite salad dressing.

* Make a quick salad by combining chopped celery, apples, grapes, and walnuts or pecans. Top it with your favorite dressing or a little olive oil and white-wine vinegar.

* For some crunch, add diced celery to your favorite tuna, chicken, egg, macaroni, or potato salad.

* Make an easy vegetable salad by combining diced celery, tomatoes, and sweet onion. Add a little cucumber if you have it available. Top it with your favorite vinaigrette or other salad dressing.

* Don’t discard the celery leaves. They are perfectly edible and taste like celery. Also, they contain a lot of Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. Why not just use them along with the celery stalks? They work especially well in salads. Or, freeze them and add them later to soups, stews, sauces, or stock.

* If you’re cooking celery, research has found that most (83 to 99 percent) of the antioxidants in celery were retained when celery was steamed, even after 10 minutes. However, when celery was blanched for 3 minutes, or boiled for 10 minutes, 38 to 41 percent of the antioxidants were lost.

* To retain most of the nutrients in celery, wait to cut it up until you’re ready to use it. Studies found that nutrients in celery were lost, even when it was cut up the night before it was to be used (despite being stored in the refrigerator).

* If your celery has wilted and become soft, sprinkle some water on it and return it to the refrigerator. You may also place wilted celery stalks, cut side down, in a little water in a tall glass or jar. Place it in the refrigerator and it will crisp up quickly (in a couple hours to overnight). Once crispy, remove it from the glass and store it as usual.

* Celery leaves can be used to substitute for parsley in pretty much any dish.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Celery
Anise seeds, basil, bay leaf, caraway, celery salt, celery seeds, chervil, cloves, cumin, dill, lovage, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Celery
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, almond butter, bacon, beans (in general), beef, chestnuts, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, hazelnuts, lentils, nuts (in general), peanuts, peanut butter, peas, pecans, pistachios, pork, shrimp (seafood in general), snow peas, sunflower seeds, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Artichokes, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery root, chives, cucumbers, endive, fennel, garlic, greens (in general), kohlrabi, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, radishes, scallions, shallots, squash (winter and summer), tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts, watercress

Fruits: Apples, grapes, lemon, lime, oranges, pears, pineapple, raisins, strawberries

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread crumbs, bulgur, corn, pasta, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, browned butter, cheese (esp. Blue, cheddar, cream, goat, Parmesan, Swiss), cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Capers, maple syrup, mayonnaise, mustard (Dijon), oil (esp. nut, olive, walnut), soy sauce, vinegar

Celery has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Casseroles, cocktails (i.e. Bloody Marys), crudités, curries, gratins, mirepoix (celery + carrots + onions), risotto, salads (egg, fruit, pasta, potato, vegetable), sauces, slaws, soups (i.e. celery, celery root, potato, vegetable), stews, stir-fries, stocks (i.e. vegetable), stuffed celery, stuffings

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Celery
Add celery to any of the following combinations…

Almond butter + raisins
Apples + walnuts
Carrots + onions
Cheese + fruit + nuts
Cucumbers + mustard
Garlic + tomatoes
Oranges + pecans
Parsley + tomatoes
Pistachios + yogurt

Recipe Links
Simple Celery Soup

28 Non-Boring Ways to Use Celery

35 Recipes That Feature Celery—From Toast to Cocktails

22 Delicious Ideas for Celery That You Will Crave All the Time

Braised Celery

23 Celery Recipes That Prove There’s Much More to It Than Ants on a Log

Lentil and Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Escarole

Ideas for Using Celery Leaves

Unexpectedly Tasty Celery Recipes That Are Easy to Make

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Parmesan



Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. 3rd ed. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. (2015) The Dehydrator Bible. Ontario, Canada, Toronto: Robert Rose, Inc.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Strawberries 101 – The Basics


Strawberries 101 – The Basics

About Strawberries
Strawberries have grown wild in Europe, Asia, North America, and lower South America for thousands of years. For hundreds of years, they have been cultivated around the world. Today, strawberries are among the most popular berries worldwide. The United States currently produces the most strawberries, with over one million metric tons annually. This amounts to about 30 percent of strawberries commercially grown worldwide. Most are grown in California, followed by Florida, then Oregon. Most strawberries grown in the United States are consumed fresh, while about 20 percent are sold frozen.

Strawberries are members of the rose family of plants, Rosaceae. Botanically, strawberries are related to blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and raspberries. Apples, almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums are also members of the rose family.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Strawberries
Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and manganese. They also supply a lot of fiber, folate, copper, potassium, biotin, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and even some omega-3 fatty acids (in the seeds). They are also a rich source of assorted antioxidant compounds that provide important health benefits.

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits. In addition to their high amount of Vitamin C, which is an extremely important antioxidant, strawberries contain a wide array of compounds that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Such compounds are known to help protect our blood vessels from damage, helping to reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease.

Blood Sugar Regulation. Preliminary research studies on animals have shown that eating strawberries after a meal helps to regulate blood sugar levels and the release of insulin. Strawberries have also been found to have a low glycemic index of 40, which is lower than many fruits. This lower glycemic index is also reflected in better blood sugar regulation following meals that contained strawberries. This effect may be partly due to the high level of folate in strawberries. Folate has been shown to play a role in blood sugar regulation.

Improved Cognitive Function. Research in the Nurses’ Health Study showed less cognitive decline in subjects who ate at least 1 to 2 servings of strawberries a week. Researchers speculate that this effect may be due to compounds in strawberries that promote nerve generation in areas of the brain that are involved in memory.

How to Select Strawberries
Strawberries are fragile fruit that are very perishable. Look for strawberries that appear firm and plump with a shiny, deep bright red color with attached green leaves. A dull red color indicates they are old and overripe. They should be free of mold and the inside of their containers should be dry. Strawberries do not further ripen after being picked, so unless you want tart berries, avoid those that are greenish or whitish, since they are not fully ripe.

Medium size strawberries often have a better flavor than those that are extremely large.

How to Store Strawberries
Before storing your freshly purchased strawberries, check them carefully and remove any that appear moist, soft, or moldy. They will quickly cause other berries to spoil. Store your UNWASHED strawberries in the container they came in (that has air vents in them). Strawberries need air flow to help keep moisture from accumulating in the container. Yet at the same time they have a high water content and can dry out easily. For optimal storage, place them in their container in a drawer in the refrigerator. Set it for high humidity (having the air vent of the drawer closed). Use fresh strawberries as quickly as you can, optimally, within 2 days.

How to Freeze Strawberries
To freeze extra strawberries, be sure they are fully ripe but still firm. Carefully wash them and pat them dry. The green leaves on top may be removed after they are washed, or they can be left intact. Strawberries may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, or crushed. To retain the most nutrients (especially Vitamin C), leave them whole. If you opt to cut or crush your strawberries before freezing them, adding a small amount of lemon juice will help to preserve their color. Arrange your washed berries in a single layer on a flat tray and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight freezer container or bag and return them to the freezer. Use them within one year.

Strawberries may also be sweetened before being frozen. Wash and dry the strawberries first. Then remove the hulls. The berries may be left whole or cut as desired. Add ½ cup of sugar to every 4 cups of berries (the amount of sugar may be adjusted, if desired). Gently stir the berries and sugar until the strawberries are well covered. Allow the mixture to rest 10 to 15 minutes for the natural juices to be drawn from the berries. Gently stir again to combine everything. Put a premeasured amount into heavy-duty freezer bags or containers. Remove as much air as possible. Seal, label the containers and place them in the freezer. Lay freezer bags flat so the contents are not in a big lump. Use them within one year.

How to Prepare Strawberries
Gently rinse your fresh strawberries in cold water immediately before using them. Do not soak the berries since they are porous and will absorb water, making them soft and reducing their flavor. The green leaves on top may be removed or left on. If you want to remove the leaves, wash the strawberries first. Pat the washed berries dry and they will be ready to use.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Strawberries
* Try a salad with mixed greens, sugar snap peas, chopped fennel, goat cheese, sliced strawberries, and toasted walnuts. Top it with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

* Try a salad with Spring Mix greens, sliced strawberries, toasted sunflower seeds, crumbled blue cheese, and dried cranberries. Top it with a white balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

* Add whole, sliced or crushed strawberries to fruit salads, ice cream, or sorbets.

* Decorate cheese trays with whole strawberries.

* For a tasty appetizer or dessert, hull strawberries then top them with mascarpone cheese that was mixed with a little lemon zest.

* Top your overnight oats with freshly sliced strawberries.

* For a simple dessert, top ice cream or yogurt with sliced strawberries. To REALLY dress it up, drizzle it with some melted dark chocolate. Enjoy!

* If your strawberries are overripe, include them in pies, cookies, mousses, soufflés, flans, smoothies, puddings, or cakes.

* Try a refreshing beverage by blending 2 cups of frozen strawberries, 2 cups seedless cubed watermelon, ¼ cup lemon juice, and ¼ cup sugar or sweetener of choice (frozen red grapes can be used in place of sugar…use as many as desired).

* Add sliced strawberries to ANY mixed green salad.

* For a fast and easy fruit sauce, blend strawberries with a little orange or pineapple juice. Add a little sugar or sweetener of choice, if desired.

* Strawberries are at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 “Dirty Dozen List” for being high in residual pesticides. If you want to avoid these residues in your food, opt for organic strawberries.

* Add strawberries to your breakfast smoothie.

* Make a parfait by layering yogurt, strawberry slices, fresh blueberries, and a little granola.

* Concentrate the natural sweetness of strawberries by roasting them. Wash, dry, then roast them at 350°F for about 20 minutes. Enjoy them warm or chilled. They will have a heightened sweetness and flavor, with a slightly softer texture than when raw. Use them as a yogurt, ice cream, or oatmeal topping. Add them to a salad or use them any way you would raw strawberries.

* Strawberries are most flavorful when they are room temperature. Store them in the refrigerator, but remove them early so they can warm up a little before eating them.

* Bring out the natural sweet flavor of strawberries by sprinkling them with a dash of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, orange, or pineapple juice.

* Adding a little sugar, lemon, orange, or pineapple juice to strawberries will help to preserve their color.

* When cleaning strawberries, avoid soaking them in water. They are porous and will absorb water, becoming waterlogged, which will diminish their flavor.

* One pint of fresh strawberries is about 2-1/2 cups whole, 1-3/4 cups sliced, 1-1/4 cups pureed, and usually contains about 24 medium or 36 small berries.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Strawberries
Basil, cinnamon, ginger, mint, pepper, thyme, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Strawberries
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, cashews, chicken, fish, hazelnuts, nuts (in general), pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, tofu (silken), walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, cucumbers, fennel, greens (salad), rhubarb, spinach, tomatoes

Fruits: Apples, apricots, bananas, berries (all other), coconut, figs, grapefruit, guava, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, melons (in general), nectarines, oranges, passion fruit, peaches, pears, pineapple, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Graham crackers, oats, oatmeal

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese (in general), cream, cream cheese, crème fraiche, mascarpone, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, whipped cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, caramel, champagne, chocolate, honey, liqueurs, maple syrup, oil (olive), rum, sugar (esp. brown, confectioners’), vinegar (esp. balsamic, red wine), wine

Strawberries have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Desserts (i.e. cobblers, crumbles, custards, ice creams, pies, puddings, sorbets, strawberry shortcake, tarts), drinks (i.e. sparkling water, sparkling wine), jams, pancakes, preserves, salads (fruit, green), sauces (dessert), shortcakes, smoothies, sorbets, soups (fruit), tarts

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Strawberries
Add strawberries to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + lemon
Arugula + balsamic vinegar + pine nuts + ricotta
Balsamic vinegar + spinach + walnuts
Basil + balsamic vinegar
Basil + lemon + mint
Brown sugar + cinnamon + oatmeal
Cream cheese + lemon
Ginger + maple syrup + rhubarb
Honey + lime
Lemon + ricotta cheese
Pistachios + yogurt

Recipe Links
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Strawberry Sauce

55+ Sweet and Savory Strawberry Recipes

55 Recipes Made with Fresh Strawberries

20 Unconventional Recipe Ideas Using Strawberries

Strawberry Balsamic Chicken

Filet Mignon and Balsamic Strawberries

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Strawberries

Roasted Strawberry Glazed Pork Chops with Strawberry Spinach Salad

10-Minute Strawberries with Chocolate Crème

10-Minute Kiwi Mandala

How to Make Easy Chia Jam with Any Fruit

5 Delicious Ways to Use Up Overripe Strawberries

25 Amazing Things to Make with Strawberries

68 Sweet Strawberry Desserts You Won’t Be Able to Resist

Pan Fried Fish Fillets with Strawberry Salsa

Strawberry Salsa Recipe

Baked Strawberry Salmon

Strawberry Glazed Salmon


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Simplest Pasta Salad

Simplest Pasta Salad

If you’re looking for a REALLY easy salad to put together, look no further. This salad is fast to assemble, and allows you to include literally any vegetables you have available. They can be chopped fresh vegetables of choice, cooked leftover vegetables, or frozen and thawed vegetables. Literally, whatever you have that you want to include. AND, the dressing is just as flexible. Use your favorite dressing, whatever it is. Just be sure it’s fluid enough to coat your cooked pasta and chopped vegetables without being too thick. If you want to use a thick dressing, it’s advisable to thin it out first with a little liquid that goes with the dressing, such as juice, water or milk of choice. Suggestions are in the written recipe. Below is a video demonstration of how to make this salad, followed by the recipe I used in the video. Experiment with this one!


Simplest Pasta Salad
Makes 4 to 5 Servings

1-1/2 cups (3 oz.) uncooked spiral pasta
3 baby carrots, chopped
½ cucumber, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
12 sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
6 grape tomatoes, cut in half
½ of a large scallion, chopped

3 to 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, crushed)
½ tsp dried parsley flakes
¼ tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp dried oregano
pinch of sugar, optional

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool under running water. Allow to drain well, then transfer the cooked and cooled pasta to a large bowl. Add prepared, chopped vegetables and toss to combine.

Combine dressing ingredients or use your favorite salad dressing. Pour dressing over pasta-vegetable mixture. Toss to combine. The salad may be enjoyed immediately or covered and placed in the refrigerator for an hour to allow flavors to combine. Store any extra salad in a covered container in the refrigerator. Use within 3 days.

Tips: Literally any vegetables may be used in this salad. Leftover cooked vegetables, thawed frozen vegetables, other chopped fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, celery, snow peas, zucchini, yellow squash…literally anything you have available that you would like to add to your salad. The scallions may be increased, substituted with sliced red onion, or simply left out if you don’t want onion in your salad.

The above dressing is just a suggestion. Any favorite dressing will work in this salad. However, it is helpful if the dressing is not overly thick. A thinner dressing will coat the pasta and vegetables better. Also, as the salad sits in the refrigerator for a day or more, the pasta will absorb some of the dressing, so you may want to add a little more dressing to compensate for that, or simply add more as needed. Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil

Cucumber Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil

Here’s a salad that is true to my heart. It’s simple, refreshing, delicious, and nutritious! I make it with a simple vinaigrette dressing, but you could use any dressing you prefer. Also, you really don’t need to measure the ingredients. Just add the amount of vegetables you need for the moment and top it with your favorite salad dressing. It’s THAT simple! A video demonstration of my making this salad is below. The written recipe follows the video. Try it sometime!


Cucumber Salad with Sugar Snap Peas,
Tomatoes, and Fresh Basil

Makes 3 to 4 Servings

½ of a cucumber, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (1-1/4 cups)
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
6 grape tomatoes, cut in half
½ of a large scallion
3 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar of choice, or lemon juice)
Sprinkle of sea salt, optional

Wash and prepare the vegetables; place them in a large bowl and gently toss to combine. Add dressing ingredients and gently toss to coat the vegetables.

The salad may be eaten right away, or placed in a covered container in the refrigerator for about an hour for the flavors to blend. Store extra salad in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within three days.

Tips: This is a simple salad that’s absolutely “no fuss.” You don’t have to measure ingredients. Just use whatever amount of vegetables you will need for the number of people you need to feed. Adjust the amounts of ingredients according to your personal taste preference. If desired, the scallions may be omitted, or replaced with sliced red onion.

Literally any salad dressing may be used with this salad, although a thinner dressing that will easily coat the vegetables will work best. A creamy ranch, honey mustard, or French dressing would be excellent options.

Kumato Tomatoes

Kumato 101 – What is a Kumato?


Kumato 101 – What is a Kumato?

About Kumato Tomatoes
A Kumato is a type of naturally bred tomato that ripens from the inside out and is edible in all stages of ripeness. It started as a wild tomato from the Almerian coast of Spain and was crossed with cultivated tomato varieties. The result was a green and brown tomato with more flavor. The size of a Kumato is smaller than an average tomato. Each one is round with a diameter of two to three inches and weighing three to four ounces. Kumato tomatoes also come in a small, cherry tomato size variety.

The Kumato was first sold in grocery stores in the UK on a test basis in 2004. A few years later, they were sent to the United States and Canada. Today, they are also found in Germany, France, Australia, and most of Europe. Brown grape tomatoes have also been found in the United States, and their flavor is sweeter than the larger Kumato.

For the record, Kumato tomatoes are not genetically modified. They were created by cross breeding assorted tomato varieties, which is a natural process.

Kumato tomatoes should be available year-round, although there may be gaps at times due to fluctuations in demand and transportation.

Nutritional Aspects
Kumato tomatoes are high in potassium, magnesium, manganese, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Their nutrient profile can make them effective in helping to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure. As with other tomatoes, Kumatoes are exceptionally high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant being studied for its effects on cancer, heart health, Alzheimer’s disease, and degenerative eye diseases.

Kumato tomatoes have a flavor more like an heirloom tomato rather than that of a typical tomato found in today’s grocery stores. They are sweeter than many tomatoes commonly sold today because they have a higher sugar content. Yet, there is a hint of tartness, so they have a complex and robust flavor profile. The dark brown-red flesh is firm and juicy, while the brownish skin is firm.

The flavor of a Kumato tomato varies depending upon its stage of ripeness. They are edible and tasty during all stages of maturity. These tomatoes ripen from the inside out, and their color changes naturally from brownish-green to dark brown to a brownish-red. When they are brownish with a slight green overcast, they are at their best eating stage. At that point, they are juicy with a firm texture and have a higher fructose content than traditional red tomatoes. At that point they are very sweet and slightly tart, giving them a complex, succulent flavor. When they are dark brownish-red with no green on them, the flavor is mild and they are considered to be best for cooking at that stage.

How to Store Kumato Tomatoes
For best flavor, store Kumato tomatoes at room temperature. They should be placed in the refrigerator when they are very ripe or after they have been cut. Try to use them within several days of purchase, although they may be kept for up to two weeks after purchase.

Best Uses for Kumato Tomatoes
Kumato tomatoes are excellent for using fresh in salads or eaten on their own with olive oil and salt. They are an excellent tomato for a Caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olive oil, and salt). They are also a great choice for any tomato-based recipe, cooked or fresh. Since they are usually vine-ripened and ready to be eaten when you buy them, they can be used right away.

Recipe Links
Kumato Omelet

Seared Tuna and Kumato Salad

Kumato and Chicken Sandwich

Kumato Israeli Couscous Salad with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette



About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Fruity Butternut Squash Salad Dressing

Fruity Butternut Squash Salad Dressing

Here’s an interesting salad dressing that’s made with an ingredient you wouldn’t expect…butternut squash! It’s the “foundation” of this dressing. Fruit juice and natural sweeteners are added to make this dressing a delicious sweet-tart that works well on any green salad topped with vegetables and proteins of your choice. It’s worth giving it a try sometime, especially in the fall months when butternut squash are so plentiful!

Below is a video demonstration of how to make the dressing, followed by a video where I cover the “formula” for developing your own salad dressing. This dressing was based on that formula. The written recipe is below the video links.



Fruity Butternut Squash Salad Dressing
Makes 3 Cups

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Deglet Noor dates
1 stalk celery, diced
1-1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice, divided

Peel and cube the butternut squash. Cook the cubes in ¼ cup of the apple juice in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, for about 7 to 9 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender and the juice has been absorbed. Set aside to cool.

In a blender jar, add all ingredients (including the remaining 1-1/4 cups apple juice). Blend until smooth. Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and chill well before using.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.