These bundles of green goodness are the ideal antidote to months of winter stodge
Spring greens – not to be confused with other green leaves that grow at this time of year – are the most biddable type of cabbage. Similar to a cos lettuce in shape, but looser in form, and without much of a heart, they don’t have the fibrous crunch of round cabbages.
If you show them steam, or blanch them in boiling water, spring greens positively swoon. They have a silky-soft texture, and taste sweeter and fresher than the robust, hearted cabbages we associate with winter, so they fit well with lighter spring and summer cooking.
There’s no need to chop them: you can just serve them whole. But if you roll up the leaves, shred them finely, then fry them, you get a dead ringer for the crispy seaweed served in Chinese restaurants.
Why are spring greens good for me?
You can’t eat enough of them. Spring greens belong to the brassica family, whose prodigious health benefits are well documented. They provide you with a seriously useful amount of vitamin C, to support your immune system, and vitamin K, to build bone strength.
They also contain natural compounds, such as sulforaphane and indoles. A body of evidence suggests these plant chemicals have a significant anti-cancer action, and anti-inflammatory properties, which could help protect against heart disease and stroke. To make the most of the nutrients in spring greens, refrigerate them and eat as close to purchase as possible.
Where to buy, what to pay
A springtime favourite in veggie box schemes, they are also easy to find in markets and supermarkets. Expect to pay around £2 a kilo for whole heads. By contrast, if you buy them ready chopped you’ll pay £5 a kilo – a total waste of money, because they take only seconds to prepare.
• Joanna Blythman is the author of What To Eat (Fourth Estate, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardianbookshop.co.uk
White bean, bacon and spring green cakes
If you feel like making these patties vegetarian, replace the bacon with some Wensleydale or Lancashire cheese. Serve the cakes as an accompaniment to a grilled pork chop, some chicken or a fried egg, or treat them like a burger of sorts and eat them in a bun with relish.
Makes 8 cakes
350g spring greens, washed and trimmed
60g smoked streaky bacon, snipped into 1cm pieces
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced
410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
50g dried white breadcrumbs
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
1 medium egg, beaten
Sunflower oil for frying
1 Blanch the greens in a pan of boiling salted water till tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Leave to drip dry.
2 Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan and cook the bacon until it starts to crisp and let off fat, then add the spring onions and the butter. Cook for 5 minutes until the spring onions are soft. Meanwhile, mash the cannellini beans with a fork.
3 Squeeze the greens to get rid of the excess moisture, then roughly chop and add to the beans along with the breadcrumbs, spring onions, bacon, mustard and egg. Taste and season.
4 Shape the mixture into 8 evenly sized cakes and chill for 15 minutes.
5 When you’re ready to cook the cakes, heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry for 5-6 minutes on each side until golden brown and heated through.