Greens, including spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, and swiss chard contain some of nature’s most wonderful bounty. Greens are loaded with vitamin A, betacarotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, potassium, phytochemicals, and fiber. In fact these foods provide more cancer protection than any other food in the produce section. Studies have shown that some greens can neutralize carcinogens before they damage cells. Others can shut down the growth of hormone-dependent tumors like breast cancer (at least in lab mice). And just as calcium is required for strong bones, studies have recently shown that vitamin K is essential for strong bones as well, and one half cup of dark leafy greens provides a daily dose of vitamin K. All these benefits are rolled into a package of less than 50 calories per serving. In addition, greens are a veritable bargain, many costing only 99 cents per pound.

Many people pass them by because we don’t know how to prepare them, or because we didn’t grow up eating them. But learning to cook these foods is simple, and well worth the effort.

''Great Greens: Fresh, Flavorful, and Innovative Recipes'' by Georgeanne Brennan provides 60 delicious ways to enjoy these wonderful foods. The following recipes are from this book. Enjoy!

Bok choy, technically a cabbage, contains isothiocyanates, the same phytochemical as in broccoli. The following recipe takes only 10 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook:

Fettuccine with Bok Choy, Prosciutto, and Pecans

  • 1 tsp. oil, divided

  • 4 heads baby bok choy or 1 head regular

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

  • ¼ tsp. ground pepper

  • ½ cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 oz thin sliced prosciutto cut into thin strips

  • 1 (9-oz) package fresh fettuccine (about 1 pound) cut lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ¾ teaspoon salt and fettuccine, cook 4 minutes. Drain; place pasta in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon butter and pepper, and toss well to coat. Keep warm. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bok choy; cover and cook 3 minutes, or until wilted. Remove bok choy from skillet with a slotted spoon; add to fettuccine along with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Add pecans and prosciutto to skillet; sauté 30 seconds, or until pecans are lightly toasted. Add half the pecan mixture to pasta; toss gently. Sprinkle with remaining pecan mixture. Serves 4.

Romaine, Parsley, and Celery Salad

Romaine has a generous helping of folic acid, and six times as much vitamin C as iceberg lettuce, and 10 times the betacarotene. The parsley adds more vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid.

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin oil

  • 10 cups torn romaine lettuce

  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • 5 cups thinly sliced celery (about 8 ribs)

  • ¾ tsp. salt

  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves

  • ½ tsp. ground pepper

  • 2-1/2 ounces shaved parmesan cheese

Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add lettuce, celery, and parsley toss well. Garnish with cheese.

Wilted Greens with Lemon (commonly seen in Italian restaurants)

  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin oil

  • Soy sauce

  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 bunch leafy greens (kale, collards, broccoli) cleaned well and sliced into bite-size pieces

  • juice of 1 lemon

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add greens and a dash of soy sauce and cook until greens are tender and begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and toss greens with lemon juice. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.