Picking, storing those supergreens

Winter greens provide as much or more of the antioxidants and other beneficial phytonutrients that have led nutritionists to tag blueberries and such as superfoods. They also are a rich source of Vitamins A, C and K.

But be aware that bitter greens with leaves that are larger and thicker will need more cooking time than other greens, usually about 10 minutes more. Chopping the greens into thin strips (about 1-inch width) can help speed the process.

Stronger flavors can be toned down by adding vinegar, lemon or other citrus, garlic and/or hot peppers to the seasoning.

Start expanding your winter menus with these fresh local greens:

Chard (ruby and rainbow Swiss chard, leaf beet) has spinachlike flavor and texture. Except for young chard, the stalks are best trimmed and put in the pot to start cooking before adding the leaves.

Collard greens have a slightly stronger flavor than cabbage but are basically mild. The leaves are chewy if not cooked long and slow on low heat.

Kale, which comes in curly, flowering, dinosaur (dark and pebbly), and red Siberian varieties, is available through much of the year, but the winter crop is said to yield the tastiest leaves. Dinosaur kale (also known as lacinato, Tuscan, blue or black kale) is easily recognized by its dark blue-green hue and pebbly, alligator-skin leaves. Trim and discard tough stems before cooking.

Mustard greens (green or reddish) have the tang and aroma of mustard, yet mellow when cooked. Smaller leaves are milder.

Most bitter of all, to most tastes, are turnip greens, which are made tender only by long cooking, ideally in broth.

Whichever type of greens you choose, look for leaves with a strong green color and no yellowing, wilting or bruising.

Refrigerate fresh greens unwashed, wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag, and use within a few days of purchase. To hold longer than one week, blanch greens for 2 to 3 minutes, rinse in icy cold water to stop cooking, drain, pack in airtight containers, and freeze. When defrosted, complete the cooking process for the desired recipe. Kale in particular freezes well, gaining more flavor and sweetness when exposed to frost.

- Marilynn Marter