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How Well Do You Know Your Greens?


As you drive past farmers markets’, parking lots and even on the side of the road you have seen truck vendors with the bed of the truck full of greens. If you are tempted to stop but not sure what to do with them, let me help you out.

Leafy green vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber but low in calories. One half cup serving is only 18 calories, and low in sodium, with 26 milligrams per serving.

When someone mentions greens, they could be talking about as kale, collard, spinach, mustard and turnip greens. When referring to turnip or mustard greens, they are referring to the dark-green leafy tops of the plant turnip. The greens indeed hold more nutrition profile than the vegetable tuber itself

Greens have been a staple in the southern households for generations. They used to be considered to be eaten only by the poor. Now these nutritional powerhouses can be found in homes of all throughout the United States regardless of their income.

With chart-topping lutein content, turnip greens are a nutrient powerhouse. One cup delivers more than 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin K and a third of daily vitamin C and is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A and calcium.

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron by making it more soluble. It helps the body produce collagen, which helps form connective tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy.

Vitamin A is crucial for proper vision. It boosts the immune system, as well as has antioxidant qualities. Just one cup of cooked greens, or 2 servings, can almost meet a person’s daily requirement of vitamin A.

Vitamin E, found mainly in collard and turnip greens, functions as an antioxidant that helps prevent heart disease and aging.

When shopping for greens, choose those that are very young and tender. The older larger leaves are likely to be bitter. This is the same for all types of greens.

When choosing Kale, the thick, ruffled leaves should be crisp, green and clean. Avoid kale with woody stalks and yellowing edges.

Collard greens have broad, flat, dark green leaves. Avoid leaves with signs of yellowing, wilting or insect damage.

Spinach has dark green, spade-shaped leaves, which, depending upon the variety, are either smooth or curled. Do not settle for spinach with any signs of decay, yellowing, wilting or slime.

Probably one of the more popular greens for our area is mustard or turnip greens. When purchasing these, they should be fresh, tender, crisp and of good green color. Avoid those with brown or yellow spots. Choose smaller leaves, 6 to 12 inches long.

Greens do not have a very long shelf life. For best nutritional value, use within 1 to 2 days of purchase. They should be stored, unwashed, in plastic bags in the coldest part of the refrigerator. 

There are many opinions on how to wash greens. The easiest way to remove all the dirt from the leaves is to dip the leaves in salted water (1 to 2 teaspoons salt per gallon of water) and lift from water. Rinse well and shake off excess water. If necessary, repeat process again using clean salted water. If storing, spread on paper towels to dry.

Not all greens are the same. They all have distinct flavors and are often served as a vegetable, main dish and even in salads and soups. When cooking, avoid using aluminum or copper pans. These types of pans cause the sulfur compounds in the greens to react, causing an unpleasant odor and flavor, as well as, and destroying some of the vital nutrients and vitamins.

As you begin to settle into the routine of fall, don’t forget to include greens of all varieties in your meals.  Not only are they inexpensive; they are very nutritious.

For your free copy of our Greens publication - Arkansas Fresh Greens, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

Turnip Greens with a Kick

3 slices bacon

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon pepper

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1 pound fresh greens, cut into 2-inch pieces


Cook bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from pan, crumble and return. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until just fragrant. Add greens and cook until they start to wilt. Add chicken broth, and seasonings. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.


By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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