Athens Farmers Market's Greens Day!

By Rebecca Smith

Opening day at the Athens Farmers Market did not disappoint. Again, I stuffed my bag to the brim with farm fresh spinach, yellow and orange carrots, arugula, cornmeal, a loaf of freshly baked whole-wheat bread, beets, baby turnips, shiitake mushrooms, and turnip greens. So many colors and shades of greens were on display!

Growing up, my mom cooked wholesome healthy meals and, like many kids, I grew up having to finish my vegetables or face the prospect of no dessert. And so I finished my veggies. But surprisingly, leafy greens were not on the menu. It seems odd to me now that collards, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, and chard never made it to my plate. My first time at the market, the beautiful bunches of greens intrigued me so much that since then, I decided to find a vegetable I have never tried at each market. Surprisingly this has been a pretty easy task. Until I came to the market, I had never seen white baby turnips, purple okra, multi-colored squash, red Russian kale, or the countless varieties of heirloom tomatoes that our local farmers regularly provide!

Not to say there is anything wrong with a diet of traditional vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, but bringing variety to your diet will bring excitement and adventure to the foods you eat. The awesome part about eating locally grown food is that it is dependent on the seasons, meaning that the bounty at the market is always changing, as will the colors on your plate!

This Saturday the 13th is the market’s Greens Day! With this spotlight, the market intends to get more folks chomping on delicious leafy greens of all kinds. Etienne Brasserie will be on hand to show everyone how to utilize greens in healthy and affordable meals.

Personally, I have found that greens are a lovely addition to soups, hot sandwiches, stir-fries, and all kinds of salads. On top of that, they are packed full of nutrients, especially the B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and carotenoids. Here is a little more information on some common greens to be found at the market:

Kale- a hardy green that appears at the market in bunches. Choose dark green, crisp leaves with thinner stalks. Don’t forget to remove the tough stalk and central vein before preparation. Young kale leaves can be eaten raw with vinaigrette, toasted nuts, and feta. More mature kale can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, or prepared in the microwave. You can then sprinkle it with vinegar and serve with some Red Mule polenta from the market! Along with vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium, and fiber, kale is also high in the cancer preventing compounds sulforaphane, isothiocyanate and indoles.

Lettuce- many varieties can be found at the market including romaine, red leaf, watercress, arugula, spinach and buttercrunch. Since lettuce has such high water content, it is extremely perishable, so make sure you choose fresh leaves, like the lettuce from your local farms. Wrap leaves in paper towels in the fridge to soak up excess moisture and increase shelf life. Wilted lettuce can be refreshed by swishing in a bowl of cold water, then dried and tossed with dressing. Most lettuce varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A, and K, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

Chard- dark green, ruffled leaves are similar to spinach, but chewier. Choose bunches with dark green leaves and vividly colored stems. The bright yellow, orange, or pink stems of the rainbow chard at the market are breathtaking. I store mine wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator.  The stems are tougher than the leaves, so should be cooked longer. Chard is high in vitamins A, C, E, K; calcium, iron, potassium, lutein and zeaxanthin, and fiber.

Some experts believe you should cook kale and chard to neutralize the oxalic acid that irritates the mouth and intestinal tract. My favorite way to cook dark, leafy greens like chard and kale is to sauté chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil, add coarsely chopped greens, cover and steam for several minutes until wilted.  Then I usually add fresh garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Here are some recipes to try:

Sausage and Greens Soup

 By: Anna Ens

8 oz B&G Farms Andouille sausage or ham

1 cup chopped onions, green onions or chives

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup diced potatoes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 ½ cups evaporated milk

1-3 cups fresh spinach, kale, watercress, or other tender young greens


  1. Brown sausage in a soup pot. Leave a spoonful of fat and remove the meat.

  2. Sauté onions in reserved fat until soft. Return sausage to soup pot.

  3. Add broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are soft, 10-15 minutes.

  4. Add greens and cook until tender (just a minute for spinach, a few extra minutes for kale.)

  5. Garnish each bowl with Parmesan cheese.


Confetti Kale

6 cups chopped kale

1 minced clove of garlic

¾ cup corn

½ cup red sweet pepper

¼ cup water

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. In a large frypan sauté kale and garlic in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Stir constantly for 10 minutes.

  2. Mix in remaining ingredients and cook for 10 minutes.

  3. Serve immediately.


Recipe Source:

Lind, Mary Beth, and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. Expanded Edition. Harrisonburg, Va: Herald Press, 2009. 38, 201. Print.