Spring into salads
It’s May, and farmstands are beginning to open! My favorite farmer is back, and I bought lettuce, radishes and eggs.
With those ingredients, I made a salad that same day, because fresh is best!
Fresh greens available now are spring lettuce varieties, pea shoots, arugula and baby spinach. Dandelion greens are abundant and free for picking, too.
Fresh, green salads with young, tender spring leaves are a special seasonal treat. They’re easy to put together, light, healthy and make delicious eating.
Fresh greens are not only delicious, they’re healthy, low in calories and packed with nutrients. Lettuce has just 9 calories per cup; one cup of arugula has only 5; a cup of raw spinach has 7; a cup of beet greens has 8. One cup of raw dandelion greens has slightly more — 25 calories. Sweet pea shoots have the most, coming in at 40.
Those low-calorie greens are loaded with key nutrients. They are rich in antioxidants that protect cells from damage and help prevent disease. They’re good sources of minerals like potassium, calcium and iron. They supply important vitamins — C, A and folic acid. Of course, each green has its own specific, unique array of important nutrients. Generally, the spine and ribs contain the most fiber and vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the leaves. The darker the leaves, the higher the concentration of beta carotene (vitamin A).
Lettuce and spinach were common in ancient Babylon, Persia and Egypt. Arugula, beet greens and chard are native to the sandy shores of the Mediterranean, from northern Africa to southern Europe. Both Greeks and Romans were familiar with chard. Arugula is still popular in Italian and Turkish cuisines. Pea shoots are traditionally grown in the Orient from snow peas, but can come from any pea plant, and are becoming more popular in the U.S. Dandelions grow everywhere — they were brought to North America by European colonists as a food crop.
Greens are tender and perishable. They like cool weather so they’re best when harvested in May or early June. And they won’t keep long in your fridge, so use them quickly.
Mix them up. Fresh greens provide a wide range of tastes and textures to your salads. For optimal nutritional value as well as the best flavor, greens should be eaten as fresh as possible.
Greek-Style greens and grains salad
You can use farro, large (Israeli) couscous, orzo pasta, even rice in this salad. Dandelions and spicy arugula go well but your can use any greens.
2 cups cooked farro, couscous, etc.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can drained and rinsed)
10 ounces fresh greens – spinach, arugula, or a mixture of spring greens
1 bunch scallions, chives, or 1 sweet onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, diced.
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Cook grain or pasta according to package directions. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice.
Stir in chick peas, greens. Scallions, garlic, olives, red bell pepper, and feta. Taste to adjust seasonings. Stir in Greek yogurt, if desired. Garnish with additional feta and olives.
Spring baby greens and radish salad
3 to 4 cups baby spring greens – I used the lettuce I bought, but you can also add spinach, arugula, dandelion greens
1 bunch radishes
2 small or 1 larger cucumber
1/2 to 1 cup snipped chives, scallion or sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt, kefir, sour cream or combination
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Hard cook eggs. Peel and set aside.
Wash greens, drain and place in salad bowl.
Remove root ends from radishes, rinse, slice, and add to the greens in the bowl. Thinly slice cucumber (peeling optional and depends also on type of cucumber). Stir in to the greens. Sprinkle with salt, and stir. Slice scallions or chives, and add.
Chop reserved hard-cooked eggs, and add. Stir in yogurt and feta. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.