The arrival of spring greens heralds the start of - go on, you'll never guess which season. Like many green leafy vegetables they have suffered the curse of overcooking in school dinners but, even if you have bad memories, please give them another chance. They are sweet, crunchy and if all you can be bothered to do is steam them, they still taste delicious. Of course, that would mean that you'd need enough restraint to actually cook them and not nibble them raw, which is very tempting.
Spring greens are also packed with vitamins C, E and K, iron, potassium, fibre and calcium. One quick tip: don't discard the stems - just slice them more thinly than the green parts, they are actually sweeter than the leaf.
So, here are three ways to get creative with your spring greens - from a five-minutes-from-fridge-to-plate creation from Riverford, to a much more lavish creation from the wonderful Paradiso Seasons by Dennis Cotter (of Cork's Cafe Paradiso).
Only have five minutes?
Spring Greens with garlic and soy sauce
2 small heads of spring greens
2-4 table spoons sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic soy sauce
Chop two whole greens cross-ways into strips of 1cm or less. Chop almost down to the stump. The stems and leaf ribs are the sweetest bits.
Heat the oil in a wok or heavy bottomed pan over a high heat. Peel and lightly crush the garlic with the back of a knife. Keeping the cloves whole will avoid burning. Cook in the oil for just about 20 seconds and add the greens before the garlic browns. Cook for about 2 minutes turning constantly in the oil.
Add two or three shakes of soy sauce, cook for a further 15 seconds and serve.
Half an hour to spare?
100g fresh coconut
60g baby spinach leaves, young kale or spring greens, washed and coarse stalks removed
½-1 fresh hot red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
Lemon or lime juice
Salt and pepper
A sambal is a chilli-hot relish found in the cooking of Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, and served in small amounts alongside other dishes. This is a very simple, very delicious, very refreshing example. It's essential to cut everything finely, so take your time. This one makes a great accompaniment to veg curry, but is also delicious with grilled fish or even roast chicken or lamb.
Grate the coconut on a medium grater. Roll the spinach into tight, cigar-like wads and slice into very fine ribbons. Combine the coconut, spinach and chilli with a good squeeze of lemon juice, some salt and pepper. Leave for about 15 minutes for the flavours to mingle, then toss again.
All the time in the world?
Braised spring cabbage and tomato pesto rolls
From Paradiso Seasons by Dennis Cotter
2 tablespoons pinenuts
3 tablespoons thick tomato pesto (see below)
1 head spring cabbage olive oil
200-300mils vegetable stock
To make the pesto:
100g of sundried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
300mls olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season
Soak the sundried tomatoes for 20 minutes in enough warm water to cover them. Puree them in a food processor with the garlic, then pour in the olive oil, with the motor running, until you get a thick but pourable consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the rolls:
Lightly toast the pinenuts in a heavy pan over low heat, or on a tray in the oven, until very lightly coloured. Tip them on a chopping board and chop them roughly with a knife, then stir them into the tomato pesto.
Cut the base off the cabbage and separate the leaves. Bring a pot of water to the boil, drop in the leaves, giving the dark outer ones a head start of a minute or two, and cook them until tender, about six to eight minutes. Remove the leaves to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking while preserving their lovely colour. Lay the leaves flat on a work surface and spread a thin layer of the pinenuts in pesto on each one. Fold a third of a large leaf over on itself, then fold again. Starting at a short end, roll the leaf reasonably tightly but not so the pesto squirts out. You should have something that resembles a green cigar stub.
Repeat this with the rest of the leaves, bearing in mind that smaller leaves will possibly just take on initial fold. Cut the larger stubs in half but leave the smaller ones - an inch is a nice size. Place them in a small oven dish, brush them generously with a good olive oil and spoon over enough stock to just cover the bottom of the dish. Place the dish in a moderate oven, about 180°c/ 350°f, for 12-15 minutes. Ideally the oils from the brushing and the pesto will have mingled perfectly with the stock to give a sweet rich gravy to serve the rolls in.
Do you have something better for spring greens in your repertoire? Email your recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each month we'll put the best up on the web, and the most unusual, exciting, or just plain tasty will win a box of organic fruit and veg from Riverford.