I've always loved baby spinach for its mild flavour, and, quite frankly, its convenience. No prep work needed – just toss the leaves into a salad or stir them into a pasta sauce. Recently Loblaw added baby kale to its line-up of prewashed salad greens, and I'm a fan. With no thick stalks to cut way and no leaves to trim, I can eat this nutrition powerhouse at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seriously.
Baby greens come from seeds planted in soil or a soil substitute like peat moss; they're not processed in water like sprouts. The leaves of the plant – be it spinach, kale, arugula or romaine – are harvested before they are mature. As a result, baby greens are tender and have a milder flavour than mature ones.
The nutritional and health benefits of leafy greens are impressive. They offer fibre, vitamins C and K, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and beta-carotene, and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Spinach, kale, arugula and romaine also deliver plenty of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that guard against cataract and macular degeneration.
If you don't know how to cook leafy greens, or you're wary of their bold flavour, try baby greens. They're delicious to eat as a salad, but it's their versatility I really love.
Sauté them with garlic and olive oil and finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar (try raspberry vinegar with spinach). Cooked, a five-ounce container serves two as a side dish. A bonus: you'll get more calcium, magnesium, iron, beta-carotene and lutein if you eat your greens cooked rather than raw. That's because cooking breaks down cell walls, increasing the amount of minerals and antioxidants available to your body for absorption.
Add baby greens to sandwiches, wraps and tacos. Stir them into soups and pasta sauces near the end of cooking. Add them to omelettes and frittatas. Top a cooked pizza with baby greens (arugula is my favourite on pizza). Make a green smoothie with baby spinach and baby kale.
Many brands of baby greens are prewashed or triple washed and ready to use. If the bag doesn't say washed, rinse the greens thoroughly. Consume baby greens by their "use by" date, but regardless of the date, throw out the package if they are starting to spoil.