The spinach news left us all feeling green about the gills. Here we are, heading into winter, and one of our favorite fresh foods is off the menu.

But there is a silver lining in the salad bowl: This is your chance to branch out.

There are plenty of leafy greens that are just as good as spinach. Maybe even better.

Beet greens have the same delicate texture. Chards, from Swiss chard to rainbow, are like getting two vegetables in one – ruffled leaves and celery-like stalks.

Kale and collards can usually handle the same cooking methods as spinach, without that sulphury taste and slippery texture.

And there are the “-oys” – bok choy, pac choi and tatsoi – that are waiting to make your acquaintance.

Fresh had been removed from stores recently, a victim of an outbreak of E.coli O157:H7, one of the biggest, baddest bacterial bugs. Produce departments all over the country wiped shelves clean of fresh spinach. Frozen spinach is still safe, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Adminstration. Frozen spinach is still safe, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, as most frozen spinach products were produced before the latest outbreak.

Fresh spinach will be back soon. Stores are already getting it from new sources far from California, and locally grown spinach also should appear in farmers markets soon.

In the meantime, take a look around the produce department. There's enough variety to make Popeye green with envy.


Serves 4 to 6. Forget Waldorf salad with all that mayonnaise. This is better, with a sweet dressing and crunchy bits of bok choy. You'll have extra dressing left over; it'll keep a few days in the refrigerator.

From Farmer John's Cookbook , by John Peterson (Gibbs Smith, 2006).

1?2 cup slivered or sliced blanched almonds

1 cup vegetable oil

1?2 cup honey

1?2 cup white vinegar

4 ounces silken tofu

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 1?2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 1?4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons minced onion or shallot

1 head bok choy or pac choi

1 large sweet apple, cored and diced

1 cup seedless grapes, halves

Toast the almonds in a dry, heavy skillet until slightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Put the oil, honey, vinegar, tofu, poppy seeds, dry mustard and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the onion. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to finish the salad.

Separate the choy into leaves and trim off the bottoms. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices and cut the green leaves into thin slices.

Place choy stalks and leaves in a large bowl with the diced apple and grapes. Toss to blend. Pour in enough dressing to moisten all the ingredients and stir together. Let stand 15 minutes to meld the flavors.

Sprinkle with toasted almonds just before serving.


Makes 4 servings. Greens can be divided by tough – collards, mustard and kale – and tender – beet greens, chard leaves and spinach. This method works great with any tender greens. We tested it with a mix of beet and chard leaves. From Best American Side Dishes . We loved these served over soft-cooked polenta.

2 pounds tender greens, such as beet greens, chard leaves or spinach (see note)

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lemon wedges

Trim stems from leaves and chop leaves coarsely. Swish in cold water and shake to remove excess water.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other deep pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook just until garlic sizzles and turns light brown, 1 to 2 minutes. (Don't burn it.)

Add damp greens, cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.

Uncover and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and cook until the liquid evaporates, 2 to 3 minutes. (This may take longer, depending on how much water was clinging to the leaves.)

Season with a squirt of lemon juice and serve immediately.

NOTE: If you're using chard with this recipe, you can cook the stems too. Trim them into slices, then add them to the oil when you add the garlic.


This is a good time for a refresher on cleaning fresh produce:

Wash your hands with warm or hot water and soap for 20 seconds before handling food. All produce should be washed under running water. Don't use detergents; commercial cleaners for fruits or vegetables aren't necessary. Scrub off surface dirt with a soft brush if necessary.

Leafy greens should be washed and spun or shaken dry. Vegetables that are going to be cut or peeled should be washed first – cutting can spread bacteria from the outside to the inside.

Keep cut produce refrigerated just as you would fresh meat or poultry.

Don't cross-contaminate: Wash knives, cutting boards and hands before switching between preparing produce and meats, or when switching from raw to cooked foods. Even better: Use separate cutting boards for meat and produce.

When preparing fruits and vegetables, cut away and discard damaged areas. Bacteria can thrive in those spots.

© 2006, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.