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Turning Over a New Leaf

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If you are cutting back on meat in the heat of summer, use this abundant season to get your fill of glorious greens with all the healthy vitamins and minerals they contain. Farmer’s markets are a great source for a variety of local greens, including the iron- and calcium-rich spinach, chard and collard greens.

My mother would tell me the most delicious white lies about dark greens. She said that cooked spinach would make my hair shine, chard would make my hair grow and kale would help me run like the wind—all believable fibs to a 6- or 7-year-old. Her tales helped expose me to healthy food early on and encouraged me to form smart lifelong eating habits.

One of the most loved and despised vegetables is chard, a member of the beet family. The leafy green grows with yellow, red or white ribs, meaning stems. All varieties grow in average soil types April through November, since chard can tolerate heavy chills. Whichever variety you choose, it is recommended that you cut the ribs from the greens, as the stems take longer to cook. Cut them in one-inch pieces and boil or sauté before adding the green cut-up leaves.

Remember to wash greens well, as oil and insects can hang on the underside of leaves. Store greens in a plastic bag with holes and a paper towel to absorb extra moisture; they will keep for a few days in the fridge.

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Keep in mind that vegetables provide more nutritional value when eaten raw, although the somewhat bitter chard leaf becomes more mellow when cooked. I like to steam chard or sautée it in a little butter or chicken broth.

Chard Wrapped Fish

Blanch whole chard leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove, dry and set aside. Blanching makes chard more pliable and it retains the bright green color.

Season one pound of firm white fish, like cod or halibut, with lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper, and wrap it with the whole chard leaves. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.