Planting Roots for Leafy Greens

Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Planting Roots for Leafy Greens

In this week’s episode, we’re discussing how to harvest two different types of food from the same plant. Plenty of root vegetables can also be harvested for their leafy greens. We’ll give you the lowdown on the best root veggie ‘twofers’ to plant, how to harvest and store both their leaves and their roots, as well as some great tips for what to do with them in the kitchen.

You can listen in here, or download for later:

Planting Roots for Leafy Greens

The Lowdown on Getting Greens from Roots
Which Root Veggies Will Give Us Greens?
How to Harvest and Store Leafy Greens from Roots
Recipe Ideas for Leafy Greens
Why Do You Grow Food?

Why not plant some root veggies and harvest both the leaves and the greens? Why? Besides the obvious 2 for 1 payoff, there are a couple of other reasons to look to underground developers for their above ground greens.

For starters, some roots, like radishes are known for being ultra-quick to develop. If you need food right quick, look no further. Beyond speed, another great reason to get your greens from roots is to consider the root itself a real workhorse.

While you’re eyeing the tasty tops, the root below will be disturbing the lower layers of your soil, breaking up tough clay and opening up much-needed pathways for water, air, and your favorite soil critters.

Which Root Veggies Will Give Us Greens?

Turnips, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, & carrots are all players! If you plan to go for greens, as you do your seed shopping you can actually choose varieties that are meant to put more energy into their greens.One hint is to look for the word “Top” – Alltop Turnips, Tall Top Beets, or the word “Leaf”, like “Leaf Radishes”.

Best varieties for planting roots with leafy greens:

Turnips: Alltop, Seven Top, Topper
Beets: Lutz Green Leaf, Bull’s Blood, Early Wonder Tall Top
Radishes: Saisai Leaf, Amethyst, Scarlet Globe
Kohlrabi: Quickstar, Kolibri, Delicacy White
Carrots: no specific varieties – any carrot will do 🙂

How to Harvest and Store Leafy Greens from Roots

Like with all greens (and roots!) don’t forget that your garden is often the best storage facility you have – leaving veggies in place until you need them will offer you the best-tasting and freshest produce on your plate. Of course, as the season progresses, you’ll need to know how and when to take leaves from your plants.

As soon as the plant has at least 10-12 green leaves, that are at least 4 inches tall, you’ll know that it’s capable of parting with some. At this point, you can start taking some young leaves from each plant – no more than 1/3 apiece. Again young leaves are tender and sweet and do well raw in salads, while older greens might do better cooked.

If you’re going for just the greens, you can cut them right down with a knife, discard any wilted or funny looking ones, rinse, dry and refrigerate (best tips below). If you’re harvesting both the greens and the roots together, be sure to separate them before refrigerating, as the roots will literally suck all of the moisture from their green tops at lightning speed!

Best Ways to Store Leafy Greens:
For use the same day: trim stems and place leaves in a water-filled jar, just like a bouquet of flowers.
For use within 1-2 days: after air drying washed and spun greens on a tea towel, roll them up and place them in the fridge as is, making sure that the roll is secure.
For use within 5 days: place washed and spun or air-dried greens in a plastic zipper bag with a folded napkin or paper towel placed in the bottom.
For use within 10 days: place washed and spun or air-dried greens in a plastic or glass-lidded container with a folded napkin or paper towel placed in the bottom.

Recipe Ideas for Leafy Greens

Young tender greens are perfect for raw eating, in salads or wrapped around grains, beans or other fillings.

Older greens can become tough and fibrous, which makes them perfect for my favorite method: braising. Learn to make a dynamite braise with my recipe below.

Beet, turnip, kohlrabi, and radish greens all do well when quickly sauteed with garlic and butter/oil, as well as added herbs. You can also add your greens to quiche or frittata, make your favorite version of pesto, create a creamy ravioli or lasagna filling (I freeze both my ravioli fillings and pestos) or opt to preserve your greens for the long haul, by making a dehydrated leaf powder.

Looking to use carrot tops for greens? To dispel the myth – they are not toxic, and are even sold in bunches at markets in Europe. You can use them to make broth or add them to soups. Other recipe to try include pesto or chimichurri, or in a bean or grain salad like parsley (think tabbouleh).

Braised Restaurant Kale

If you’ve ever struggled with preparing kale in a flavorful and enjoyable way, but have tasted its amazing potential at a restaurant or hot food bar, I have a big fat secret to share with you. Having worked in restaurants there are two rules that most diners never catch on to: 1) everything is cooked in duck fat, even vegetables served to vegetarians and 2) the cup of soup is usually the same volume as the bowl, only the price is different. For shame!

But my Braised ‘Restaurant’ Kale recipe has no duck fat or any other animal fat—the secret has to do with the preparation. Before I get all caught up again in how much I love braising, let me just stress that the reason it is the best friend of the farmer (and the peasant) is that whether preparing vegetables or meat, braising refines, softens, and sweetens tough ingredients. Kale can be tough. Here’s the recipe:

1 Large bunch kale, washed & trimmed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ C vegetable stock and/or wine
red wine vinegar

Choose a large pan with a lid and sauté the garlic in oil over medium-high heat, stirring until soft. Raise the heat to high, add the kale leaves and ½ cup (120 ml) of vegetable stock, water and/or wine; stir and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, remove the cover and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates. Season with salt, pepper, herbs, soy, vinegar or your favorite vinaigrette.

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week May from a wonderful non profit organization in Chicago, Gardeneers tells us why she loves growing food in school gardens!

May won win a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food.