Shopping for produce is all about convenience these days. When baby carrots hit the market, cleaned and ready to eat, sales of regular carrots took a nosedive.
The variety of greens packaged in cellophane is endless — romaine, baby greens, mesclun, spinach, collards, kale, cabbage and even combinations of greens for constructing specific salads. Bagged greens are very popular and no doubt are the result of a marketing strategy to get us all to eat more vegetables in our daily diet.
When it comes to using regular, non-packaged greens, do they need to be washed? And, if so, how is the best way to do it?
One reader sent an e-mail that caused me to smile. Occasionally, I get a letter fraught with frustration but written with so much wit it must be shared. This letter is in response to a kale salad recipe I published in this column. I had included instructions to wash the kale leaves. Although the letter was related to kale, it is applicable to many kinds of salad greens.
Q: I LOVE your kale salad, but it takes too much time to prepare the kale. Your article says after you get rid of the stems to WASH THE LEAVES.
Well, that takes FOREVER to go thru all those little ruffles. I spent over an hour just washing one bouquet of kale. I find a little bit of mud maybe once or twice washing one kale, but sometimes I want to make a large quantity. How do you do it? Just dip the whole row of ruffles a couple dips? That would surely expedite the “wash” routine.
My Minnesota Swedish grandmother (who lived to be 103 and a half) used to say, “You need to eat a peck of dirt before you die.”
I don’t want to cause anyone an early death, but I’m wasting MY life trying to save theirs. HOW DO YOU WASH KALE?
A: First of all, I want to commend you for being so diligent in your kale-washing. Actually, there is an easier way to wash kale and any other fresh greens that need washing.
Place the kale in a large container of cold water. I use a huge stainless steel bowl, but some people use the sink. Remember, if you use the sink, you must scrub it out really well so you do not contaminate the greens. After the greens are submerged in the cold water, swish them up and down a few times and lift the greens out of the water and transfer to a colander to drain. As you discard the water, look for dirt in the bottom of the container. If you see soil residue, repeat the process until the water appears clean.
Q: What is arugula? It often shows up in recipes and in trendy restaurants. Is it some kind of lettuce?
A: Arugula is a small leafy green that has a rich, peppery flavor. It is generally used in salads and often mixed with other small, tender leaf lettuce blends known as mesclun. It is a relative newcomer on the market, especially in our area. Nowadays, you can find it in large supermarkets, and it is packaged much like other baby greens.