No other category defines quality and freshness more than fresh lettuces and greens. As celebrants of everything local, Union Market eagerly awaits the growing season every year, salad tongs in hand.
This year’s heavy spring rains pushed planting back a couple of weeks for just about all our growers, but greens from upstate, Long Island and New Jersey have started arriving. Whether you’re looking for a flavorful salad green or a tempting, healthy side dish, the bounty of regionally-grown greens is sure to have something for every occasion and palate.
Red and Green Leaf Lettuces
Tender, refreshing and elegant, leaf lettuces are amongst the most popular salad greens. When freshly picked, you’ll detect a slight note of hazelnut. There’s no difference in flavor between the red and the green. What you didn’t know about leaf lettuces is that they are about the most nutritious lettuce growing. They’re the highest in antioxidants, with generous percentages of vitamins A, K and C, plus folacin and iron.
Certainly the best-selling lettuce we carry, romaine is reliably crisp and crunchy with a touch of sharpness. Sturdy enough not only to be the foundation for a salad, romaine can also be braised or sautéed. It can last in the fridge for up to a week. Romaine is very high in dietary fiber and also an excellent source for vitamins K, A and C, as well as a good dose of antioxidants.
AKA Butter, Butterhead or Bibb lettuce. The most tender and subtle of all the lettuces, we’re sure the butter moniker comes from its melt-in-your mouth qualities. Boston lettuce is a good source of Vitamin K, with slightly lesser amounts of vitamins C and A. Due to its delicate nature, Boston lettuce will only last in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, and make sure you give it some breathing room. Boston that is wrapped up air tight will turn in a day or two.
Simply put, kale is about the most nutritious vegetable on the planet. It is extremely high in antioxidants, and a generous source of beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C, and is very rich in calcium. Kale is a type of cabbage, considered to be closest to wild cabbage of all the cultivated greens. A firm leaf with a big, zesty, bitter flavor, kale should be cooked, but not overcooked. Gently steam for a few minutes, just until the leaf give up some of its resistance, or slice into strips and sauté with garlic and oil.
An heirloom breed dating back to 18th century Italy, lacinato kale is much more delicate than its hearty American cousin. The leaves are purple and green; the flavor is sweeter than curly kale, but still slightly bitter and earthy. Lacinato kale can be used raw in a salad or cooked as you would traditional kale, but its tender leaves will cook more quickly, so keep an eye on things.
Collards are grown worldwide, and go by many different names. In the U.S., collards are a staple of Southern cuisine. A big, sturdy leaf that’s bitter but not quite as sharp as kale, it has a sweetness that marries well with everything from caramelized onions to ham hocks to seafood. A typical side dish serving of collards will contain a whopping 600% of your daily dose of vitamin K, along with plenty of calcium, and vitamins C and A.
Chard is unlike almost any other green in that its flavor is focused in the tender stalk. Barely bitter, young Swiss chard can be used raw in a salad, but is most popular as a steamed or sautéed green. Cooking removes any traces of sharpness, leaving a refined flavor much more like spinach. Chard is very high in vitamins A, K and C, and is a good source of minerals, dietary fiber and protein.