In the Garden:
(l to r) Golden, Bull's Blood, and Detroit Dark Red beet foliage provides varied color in the garden and on the plate.
Grow Your Greens
Greens -- beet greens, chard, collards, turnip, mustard, kale, and spinach -- have similar growing requirements and offer similar benefits. Seeds are easy to sow directly into the soil. Plants continue producing for months, leaves are simple to harvest, and all pack a wallop of nutritional benefits. So many varieties are now available that you can mix and match a crazy quilt of colors and leaf textures that are as beautiful to enjoy as they are healthful to eat.
Greens Are Not Only Green Anymore
Red, ruby, yellow, gold, blue, purple -- "greens" offer a varied color palette that's good for health and a visual feast in the garden. The following varieties perform well in the low desert, but these are just a sampling -- there are many more to try.
Beets: Golden, Bull's Blood, Detroit Dark Red
Chard: Rainbow, Ruby Red
Kale: Dwarf Blue Curled, Red Winter, Redbor, Nero de Toscano
Mustard Greens: Florida Broad Leaf, Red Giant, Green Wave, India, Mizuna
Spinach: Bloomsdale, Bordeux, Lavewa, Monstrueaux de Viroflay, Tyee
Specific percentages vary, but cooked greens are very good sources of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron and manganese. They are also considered good sources of protein, Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Greens are low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol.
If you don't consume dairy or wish to increase your calcium sources, some greens provide significant calcium. For example, one cup of cooked collards provides 27% of daily calcium requirements; one cup of cooked turnip greens provides 20%; and one cup of cooked mustard, 10 percent. Search nutrition data at the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/) or Nutrition Data (http://nutritiondata.self.com/).
Greens prefer cooler weather, and planting dates vary widely across the Southwest based on elevation. In the lowest elevations, greens can be sown directly into the soil from about mid-August through February or early March. At mid elevations, there are often two plantings after the last frost date in February/March/April and before the first frost date in August/September. At high elevations, sow (or transplant) after your last frost date. Check with your county Cooperative Extension for preferred dates for your area.
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