Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

Getting the Most Out of Leafy Greens

November 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It doesn’t take much to purchase leafy greens such as mustard greens and dandelion greens and let them sit in the refrigerator until they go bad. This often leads to discouragement of even trying to make use of these produce items, which leads people back to using and eating what they are used to.

However, if you know how to make leafy greens a delicious part of your diet without letting them slowly die in the refrigerator, you may be interested in trying something new.

One alternative method of preparing leafy greens is to ferment them, which makes them even more nutrient-dense and keeps them shelf stable for months.

Leafy greens are some of the easiest produce to grow in your own back yard. The wide variety of options bring a combination of shapes, colors, and textures, that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Leafy greens even help people with type 2 diabetes, due to their high concentration of magnesium.

Growing Leafy Greens

Using your own backyard to grow leafy greens is about as local as you can get. Using good soil is key to creating the best crop. While plain dirt is often too heavy for plants to survive, mixing in compost or peat moss lightens it up for proper growth. Temperatures for the best results are between 60 and 65 degrees and it is best to use soil that is well-drained.

Tips to Growing Lettuce

You can start seeds for lettuce indoors approximately six weeks prior to the last frost. This will give your leafy greens a head start on the season. Warmer climates are able to plant seeds later, but it is important to remember that mature plants don’t often prosper in the frost.

Lettuce seeds only need about 8 tablespoons of soil each. The seeds require light to grow, so it is important that they are not firmly impacted in the soil. The seeds should be lightly watered and will then begin to sprout within a few days.

If a cold front occurs, seeds will survive underground, and seedlings can be covered overnight with plastic cups. Always remove the cups in the morning to allow sunlight to reach the seeds during the day.

When it is about 65 degrees outside, start cutting off the outer leaves of the leafy greens so that the inner leaves are able to continue to prosper. Similar to lettuce, arugula and watercress have a fast growing season, so they can be harvested early and often.

Fermenting Your Greens

Along with cabbage, you can ferment your greens to give them a longer shelf life. Even if you purchase leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, or collard greens, they can be fermented as easily as cabbage, by using as few as two jars simultaneously with only a few hours. In order to ferment leafy greens, begin with making a brine of 1 quart chlorine free water and 3 tablespoons of sea salt. Boil this mixture before letting it cool to room temperature.

Soak the leafy greens in a large amount of cold water before rinsing them off again. Use a salad spinner to remove excess water, and place the dried leafy greens on a pan.

Remove the thick ribs from each leaf and slice the leaves lengthwise into thin strips. Weigh these strips down into the brine by keeping some leaves in tact on top, creating a barrier. Sterilize the entire jar and use a funnel and stone to hold the vegetables beneath the brine in the jar. Boil them in a large stock pot, and remove them with a clamp once they are finished.

Add a teaspoon of caraway seeds in each jar before packing it tightly with greens, followed by whole leaves on top. Add the brine on top of the leaves and remove all of the air bubbles in the jar before tightly securing it.


Lacto-fermentation is the process that is created by Lactobacillus, which is considered to be a “good” bacteria. This bacteria is on every plant, especially plants that are closest to the ground. They convert the sugars of the plant into lactic acid.

Lactic acid acts as a natural preservative. It stops the growth of bacteria that may be harmful if ingested. Lacto-fermentation also preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels of vegetables, as well as their digestibility. Lactobacillus is largely related to good health.

Lacto-fermentation has been around for centuries and used across cultures to help preserve food. Different vegetable combinations can introduce various levels of heat and flavor, depending on the greens and spices that are used.

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Frank Salvatore