by Tara Pederson

I’ve never understood why lettuce gets such a bad rap (no pun intended).  I’ve always been a vegetable lover. I find salad to be the perfect accompaniment to almost every meal in some form or fashion.
We have so many varieties of greenery available to us, a world of additions, textures, flavors and nutrition to add to it, and when it comes to dressings, the sky really is the limit.
Mind you, this comes from a woman whose first restaurant job began in a mind blowingly busy pantry station.  Among many, many other things,  I’d massage scratch made dressings into kale and quinoa on the daily, I plated beds of greens for proteins and put together entree salads in a mad dash.
My anything but glorious job required not only repetition, but the speed and where withall to be ahead of whatever was going on with the rest of the line at all times.
And the prep. Oh the prep-  chopping and washing and spinning cases and cases of romaine, kale, butter lettuce, cabbage-I had coworkers that swore they never wanted to see another salad again.  But I never felt that way.
Which greens are best?
The basics, per cup-
*Green leaf has 5 calories, 70 mg potassium and is high in vitamin A.
*Romaine has 8 calories and boasts some vitamin C and calcium.
*Iceberg- contrary to rumors, it does have some nutritional value.  Namely, good amounts of vitamins A and K.  It is high in water content, which makes it the most hydrating.
*kale- high in protein, vitamins A and C, and fiber, it weighs in at 45 calories per cup, cooked. And does more with those calories than almost any other green.
*spinach- 7 calories, and a great source of iron, Vitamin C, fiber and flame
*dandelion greens- 25 calories, and packed with B6 and prebiotic fiber, which is fantastic for digestion
* collard greens- 12 calories,  complete daily requirements for vitamin K, and significant amounts of Vitamins C and E.  (Maybe they’re the secret to our southern glow after all…)
In our area, we have some form of edible greenery available year round from local sources.  Where you cook them, chop them into tiny pieces, shred them or leave the leaves whole to give yourself and workout of a meal component, there’s only one real way to go wrong with salad and greens.  Not using them before they go bad!
To avoid that, my suggestion is buying only what you’ll use for the next meal or 2, until or unless you work it into your daily diet.
Try some new things in your salads if you haven’t already. Check out that cheese you’ve never had before. Add some fruit like pears, berries or citrus. Toasted nuts or seeds add nice texture, flavor and nutritional value. Avocadois another way to change up your texture and flavor while packing in nutrition.
To me, it’s all about a balance of some kind. Sweet and salty, crunchy and smooth, tangy and savory. What’s your favorite combination?
A dressing recipe for your salads-
Mine is tossed with shredded collard greens and brussels sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, and fresh herbs.  I put it on jasmine rice and topped it with flaked grilled fish, (pictured) but it really goes with almost everything!
Mix together:
1 mashed avocado, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup sour cream, the juice of 2 limes, 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 3 minced garlic cloves, a big pinch of chopped fresh parsley and thyme and salt to taste.