Spring is the perfect time to focus on May’s Harvest of the Month, which happens to be one of the first crops of the season – mixed greens!
There are many varieties of mixed greens that are grown in Vermont – from spinach and arugula to bib and red oak leaf lettuces. Mixed greens are a great source of vitamins A and C, and the darker greens are especially good sources of folate and antioxidants. These tender lettuces and other greens grow best in cooler weather before the sun gets too strong and the temperature really begins to rise. When grown in the middle of the summer, greens can become more bitter and tough. Greens don’t take up much space in the garden, and they like the shadier spots that you may want to avoid with other crops, making them a great addition to any backyard plot.
Whether you grow them yourself, get them in a CSA or just buy them at the store, you’ll be amazed at the variety of tastes and the amount of flavor that fresh spring greens provide. Arugula can be quite peppery and even spicy while pea shoots are sweet and mild. Fresh spinach – which has more iron by weight than beef – has a lovely deep earthy flavor and soft texture while frisee is slightly bitter and crunchy. With all the unique flavors the different varieties provide, its no wonder that mixed greens have become a salad staple.
But salads are just the beginning! There are so many uses for greens and ways to include them in your daily meals. Try making a pesto with arugula or baby kale for a tangier sauce with a little more bite. Top a pizza fresh out of the oven with arugula or spinach and let the greens wilt just a bit while the pizza cools enough to enjoy. Use mixed greens in scrambled eggs, omelettes or a quick frittata to add texture and nutrition. Using different greens in place of your usual lettuce on sandwiches and wraps can also be a nice change of flavor.
This month’s feature recipe is mixed greens with feta and dried cranberries. The greens are tossed in a modest vinaigrette that allows the flavors of the tender greens to shine through. Feta adds some saltiness while dried cranberries contribute a tangy-sweet pop. Try the recipe at home with mixed greens or substitute spinach or another fresh spring green.
Mix up your menu by trying a few new kinds of greens this spring. For more information and ideas for using mixed greens at home, check on the Vermont Harvest of the Month’s website.
Mixed Greens with Feta and Dried Cranberries
- 6cupsmixed greens, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1/2cupdried cranberries
- 1cupslivered almonds, lightly toasted
- 1cupfeta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2cupolive oil
- 1/4cupcider vinegar*
- 1/2medium onion, chopped
- 1/4tspdry mustard
- 1/4tspcelery salt
- *Can substitute balsamic vinegar
- Whisk last 8 ingredients (starting with olive oil) together to make a vinaigrette, and set aside.
- Combine greens, cranberries, almonds, and feta in a large bowl.
- Add vinaigrette, toss to coat, and serve immediately.
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietician at The University of Vermont Medical Center.