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Five Tips for Picking the Best Leafy Greens

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Leanne Ely, CNC: Dark, leafy greens are in season right now, and if was up to me, I'd put some on everyone's grocery list this week! Swiss chard, kale and collard greens, to name a few, are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Broccoli is also in season; add that to your list, and you've got some serious cancer-fighting power.

broccoli
All of these veggies contain liberal amounts of phytonutrients called lutein and zeaxanthin, known for their cancer-fighting prowess.

I know you know what broccoli looks like, and I am betting you've cooked with it, too. It's the other greens that mystify even the more experienced produce-picker. To the uninitiated, they look like piles of weeds sitting in the produce department! Let's remedy that and get cooking with greens. Here are a quick five tips for choosing greens:

1. Go Green. Make sure you pick greens that are definitely green -- not yellow -- with nice, healthy leaves.
2. Stem Search. Some greens, like kale, collards and chard, have thicker stems that should be removed before cooking. (Save them, freeze them and then chop them up and add them to soups or stews for extra fiber.) When purchasing the thicker-stemmed varieties, make sure that the stems are in good shape, not dried out, split and tough.
3. Sweet Smell. If the greens you are considering smell rather "strong," you might want to avoid them. They've probably been hanging around the produce department too long and need to be pitched.
4. Cold Storage. Greens are hearty and can take refrigeration for up to five days if they're left in their plastic bags and stored in the crisper.
5. Quick Prep. Get rid of big stems by tearing the leaves off one side and then off the other using your hands -- a lot easier and faster than using a knife. 

Now that you know how to pick, store and prep them, let's cook with them!

Beans and Greens 
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or other hearty green, rinsed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken broth

Method
In a large skillet, heat olive oil.
Add the onion and garlic and cook for three minutes or so, until soft.
Add the greens and stir.
Stir in the beans, salting and peppering to taste.
Add the chicken broth, cover and simmer till tender (10 to 15 minutes).

Leanne Ely is the New York Times bestselling author of "Body Clutter" and the "Saving Dinner" series. Her "Dinner Diva" syndicated column appears in 250 newspapers nationwide. Learn how to cook great and save significant money with the Dinner Diva's menus, recipes and shopping lists at www.savingdinner.com.


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