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All About Leafy Vegetables

Leaf Vegetables

A leaf vegetable is one that is grown for its edible leaves. They have high nutritional value and are considered the most beneficial foods for health — and with so many varieties to choose from, there are lots of delicious ways to reap the benefits!


Bok choy (pak choi)

Bok choy is one of the 33 varieties of Chinese cabbage found in Asia. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A and potassium, as well as a good source of Vitamin C and folic acid. It also contains Vitamin B6, calcium and iron. Its white stems are mild, juicy and crunchy and its veined leaves are dark green and milder tasting than those of cabbage. Some varieties of bok choy have long stems, while others have short stems.

Look for bok choy with compact, firm and fresh stems, with no brown spots. You should wash bok choy only when you are ready to use it. Bok choy should be stored in a perforated plastic bag, in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. It is preferable to use it as soon as possible after purchase for maximum flavour and crunch. Bok choy can be used in soups, mixed into rice or stir-fried and served as a side dish. It can be found year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.

Leaf Vegetables: Bok choy

Leaf Vegetable: Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

The Brussels sprout is from the same family as wild cabbage and appears to have developed only a few hundred years ago near Brussels, hence its name. The sprouts grow along a stem that can reach one metre in height and carry up to 40 miniature round cabbages! Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of Vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and are known to have cancer-fighting properties.

Look for small, firm and compact, bright green sprouts with tight outer leaves. Small, young cabbages are generally more tender and sweet. They will keep for three to four days if placed in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. To eliminate any worms that might be present, soak Brussels sprouts in lemon or vinegar water for 15 minutes. Take care not to overcook Brussels sprouts, which will make them taste bitter. Brussels sprouts are available year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.


Endive

Endive has crunchy white leaves, which become yellow at the tip and have a slightly bitter taste. There is a variety of red endive which is a hybrid of the white endive and radicchio; the red endive is sweeter than the white. Very low in calories, the endive is an excellent source of folic acid and potassium. It also contains Vitamin C, riboflavin and copper.

Choose firm endives that are shiny and plump without spots or brown leaves. Wrapped in a damp cloth or plastic bag, endives can be stored for five to seven days in the refrigerator; they cannot be frozen. Cut and season endives just before use to prevent browning from contact with air. Raw endives are excellent in salads as its leaves can be used to hold hors d’oeuvres. To remove any trace of bitterness, discard the small white inner core at the base of the vegetable. Endives can also be fried, steamed or braised. Endives are available year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.

Leafy Vegetable: Endive

Leafy Vegetables: Chicory and escarole

Chicory and escarole

Chicory, escarole and endive all belong to the same family, the endive having been farm-produced from wild chicory. Low in calories, chicory and escarole are excellent sources of folic acid, Vitamin A and potassium. They also contain Vitamin C, zinc, iron, copper and calcium.

Choose chicory or escarole with pale green ribs and firm, crunchy, very curly and dark green leaves. Placed in a perforated bag or humid cloth, they can be refrigerated for up to one week. Escarole and chicory are too bitter to be used alone in a salad and should be mixed with other greens, such as lettuce or spinach. They can be braised or simmered in soups and casseroles to add flavour. Chicory and escarole are available year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.


Collard (collard greens)

Collard is one of the oldest members of the cabbage family. The ribbed leaves of collard greens are smooth and thick. The central ribs of the leaves are whitish, tough and not very pleasant to eat. Collard is known for its intense flavour, though it is quite a bit milder than that of curly cabbage. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C. It also contains potassium and folic acid.

Look for collard with firm, richly coloured leaves that are small and free of spots or mould. It can be stored for several days in the fridge if unwashed and wrapped in a moist paper towel and placed in a perforated plastic bag. As a rule, collard greens can be prepared like spinach. If you find them too bitter, blanching the collard greens before adding them to your recipes will make them taste milder. Use them to pair with barley, brown rice, potatoes and legumes, or to spice up soups and stews. Collard greens are available year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.

Leafy Vegetables: Collard

Leafy Vegetables: Cress

Cress

Cress is a plant with roots that grow in clear, cold, running water. Its long stems can grow 20 to 50 cm high and have clusters of tiny round leaves that are dark green and taste spicy and peppery. The most common varieties are watercress and garden cress. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and riboflavin, and have cancer-fighting properties.

Choose fresh leaves that are tender and bright green. Cress is very fragile and will not keep more than a day or two in the fridge. If sold with its roots, wrap a moist paper towel around the roots and place in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Without roots, separate and wash cress under very cold water, then dry thoroughly with paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag with a paper towel. To prepare cress, trim the bottom of the stems first. Cress is great for salads and can be cooked like spinach or puréed for soup. It is available year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.


Dandelion

Farm-grown dandelion leaves, part of the lettuce and endive family, have a very pleasant, acidulated flavour and delicate taste. They are low in calories and a good source of vitamins A and C and potassium. Dandelion is reported to be purgative, diuretic and tonic, and has long been used to relieve ulcers, hepatitis and itchy rashes.

Choose fresh young leaves still attached to the roots and wash only when ready to use. In a perforated plastic bag, dandelion will keep for about five days in the refrigerator. Blanching leaves for one or two minutes will lessen their bitterness. Dandelion can be eaten like spinach and served in salads or cooked. It is available in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.

Leafy Vegetable: Dandelion

Leafy Vegetables: Kale

Kale

Kale is the most robust species of cabbage. Unlike other varieties of cabbage, its leaves do not grow in the form of a head but rather in branches, which makes it easy to distinguish. Its long, very curly, fibrous leaves can be light green, blue-green or dark green. Kale is considered to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is an excellent source of vitamins A and C as well as a good source of potassium.

Look for kale with very firm, deeply-coloured and rather small leaves, with no spots or mould. To keep kale in optimal conditions, store the cabbage leaves in the refrigerator, tightly packed and unwashed, in a perforated plastic bag. It will keep for 5 to 10 days, but it’s best to use as soon as possible because it tends to become bitter with time. Kale is great for salads, soups, stews, casseroles or used for wraps. Kale is available year-round in the produce section of your Metro supermarket.


Lettuce

The tender and crunchy leaves of lettuce are normally green, but can also be red. Very low in calories, lettuce has very high water content and contains many vitamins and minerals; the greener the lettuce, the more vitamins and minerals it contains. Look for bright, firm and crunchy leaves. Properly washed and dried lettuce leaves should be refrigerated wrapped in a paper towel and placed in a perforated plastic bag for up to one week.

There are over 100 varieties of lettuce. The best known varieties of lettuce are: leaf lettuce (has red to green curly, rippled leaves that hold together at the base); romaine lettuce (has long, crisp and dark green leaves and a firm white vein running through the middle), butterhead or Boston lettuce (tender, floppy, pale green leaves), head lettuce or iceberg lettuce (firm and compact outer light green leaves that are crunchy), Batavia lettuce or Batavian endive (large, curly, jagged leaves; the heart of the lettuce is bulky but not as firm as the head lettuce) and mesclun lettuce (a mix of wild baby greens, including young escarole, radicchio, chicory, dandelion, oak leaf, arugula and sorrel). Most of the popular varieties are available year-round in your Metro supermarket.

Leaf Vegetables: Lettuce

Leaf Vegetables: Nappa Cabbage

Nappa cabbage (Chinese cabbage)

Nappa cabbage is part of the cruciferous family and originates from China where it has been widely used in local cuisine for thousands of years. It is an elongated head vegetable that looks similar to Romaine lettuce, but with compact, light green, curly-edged leaves that are crunchy. The light and delicate taste of Nappa cabbage is reminiscent of round cabbage, but slightly sweeter and milder. It is rich in Vitamin C, a good source of fibre and contains cancer-fighting nutrients.

Select a Nappa cabbage that is compact and firm, with fresh crisp leaves that show no trace of yellowing. Nappa cabbage can be refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag for up to a week. It is very important not to wash it until ready to use. Nappa cabbage can be used in any recipe that calls for cabbage. It can be found year-round in your Metro supermarket.


Nasturtium

Nasturtium, like other edible flowers, should always be purchased from your Metro grocer and not from a florist — flowers from a florist could contain harmful chemicals.

The edible parts of the Nasturtium are the leaves, the flowers, the seeds and the floral buds. The leaves are round and green; they have a delicious slightly peppery taste. The trumpet-shaped flowers vary from bright yellow to deep red and orange. The leaves and flowers are great for salads. Marinated nasturtium buds can replace capers and dried, ground nasturtium seeds can be used instead of pepper. The nasturtium has stimulant, expectorant and diuretic properties.

Choose nasturtiums with fresh leaves and flowers and no sign of browning or withering. The leaves and flowers are fragile, so it’s best to eat them soon after purchase. Edible flowers are available year-round at your Metro grocer and specific varieties can be ordered at request.

Leaf Vegetables: Nasturtium

Leaf Vegetables: Radicchio

Radicchio (red chicory)

A garden plant from the north of Italy, radicchio looks like a small red cabbage with a white base. It has white-veined ruby red leaves, though some varieties have smaller leaves with red, pink or even green spots. Like the endive, it is slightly bitter. It is low in calories and contains folic acid, potassium, copper and Vitamin C.

Choose radicchio with a firm base and colourful, compact leaves with no browning. Radicchio can be stored for a few days in a cool area or in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Do not store in air-tight containers to prevent spoilage. Radicchio's slightly bitter taste is a good complement to other greens, providing colour and crunchiness. Eat raw or cooked. Radicchio is available year-round in your Metro supermarket.


Rocket (arugula)

Rocket is particularly prized in the south of France, Egypt and Italy. Part of the cruciferae family, rocket has long, narrow, irregular leaves that are shiny and bright green. When young, rocket has a wonderful hazelnut, pepper and cress flavour but many prefer to eat it when it is mature because it becomes spicier and slightly bitter-tasting. It is low in calories has diuretic, stimulant and digestive properties.

Look for small, young, fresh brunches of leaves picked just before flowering. Rocket is highly perishable and should be eaten as soon as possible after purchase. Wrap the roots in a moist paper towel, place in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate. Rocket can be eaten raw or cooked. When cooked, it loses some of its taste, but it can be prepared like spinach. It is available year-round in your Metro supermarket.

Leafy Vegetables: Rocket / Arugula

Spinach

Spinach grows in most temperate regions; it is harvested when still very young and tender, before it begins to flower. Depending on the varieties, spinach leaves can be crumpled or flat, oval, round or triangular and very dark green. It’s very low in calories and is a good source of folic acid, vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium and iron.

Choose tender, fresh-looking spinach with dark green leaves that show no yellowing. Stored in a perforated plastic bag, spinach will keep for five to seven days in the refrigerator. Wash spinach just before use but do not soak; swish leaves in cold water to remove any sand. Spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. To enhance the taste of spinach, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice. Spinach is available year-round in your Metro supermarket.

Leaf Vegetables: Spinach

Leaf Vegetables: Toy Choy

Toy choy

A miniature version of bok choy, toy choy cabbage has dark green leaves with slightly rounded white grooves that grow to a maximum of 10 to 15 cm. It looks a lot like Swiss chard with soft, juicy and crunchy stems. The grooved leaves of toy choy have a less pronounced flavour than those of round cabbage and are more delicate tasting that those of bok choy. Toy choy is an excellent source of Vitamin C and calcium.

Look for toy choy with compact, firm and fresh stems that show no traces of browning. It can be refrigerated in a perforated plastic bag for up to one week in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. It can be prepared like bok choy. Toy choy can be found year-round in your Metro supermarket.



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