In Season: Greens

There are few meals more comforting in the winter than a simple bowl of sautéed greens, brown rice, and maybe a small piece of fish or chicken. Mustard is my favorite variety of green by far, but I'm not picky in the winter — any cooking green will make for a satisfying (and light, particularly after Thanksgiving) meal. As we progress into winter, cooking greens are a vegetable that actually improves in eating quality; greens grow slower and the cool weather gives them a deeper color and sweeter, more robust flavor.

Click here to see the In Season: Greens (Slideshow)

Cooking green varieties can vary depending on where you live but here are some of the more common varieties:

  • Swiss Chard: Red, green, and rainbow Swiss chard is similar in texture to spinach and has a mild pleasant flavor.
  • Mustard: Generally considered the strongest "flavored," mustards have a sharp "peppery" flavor but there are several varieties of Asian mustard (like mizuna) that are milder.
  • Collard: An extremely popular green in the South, collards have broad, flat leaves and a bold, distinctive flavor.
  • Dandelion: Available in both red and green varieties.
  • Kale: The most common variety is curly green kale but there is also a Red Russian and narrow leaf Lacinato.

You can steam, sauté, braze, roast, or slow cook greens; or eat them raw for maximum nutritional value. My favorite method is a simple sauté:

One bunch of your favorite greens: rinse thoroughly and remove the large stems. Tear leaves into small, bite size pieces. In a large skillet heat a tablespoon of olive or peanut oil over medium-high heat (I also add a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil for flavor sometimes). Add greens and sauté until you reach a desired degree of doneness — I add a dash of soy sauce at the end right before serving. I like mine only slightly sautéed, so 8 to 10 minutes is good for me but cooking time can vary depending on the density of the leaf. I also add some fresh grated ginger at the end for a little extra zip.

It may be a little silly to get romantic about a vegetable but a bowl of greens, in a comfortable chair in a warm room, looking outside at the wind blowing the last leaves off the trees, is one of the best ways to steal a few quiet moments during the mad crush of the holidays — very satisfying for the body and soul.

—    James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market