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Mississippi's superfood a Southern staple

The Magnolia State is not known for its health food, but a new state-by-state list shines a spotlight on a Southern staple packed with vitamins: turnip greens.

The Huffington Post compared official state fruits and vegetables with seasonal produce lists to compile a list of "superfoods" for each state, a trendy food term used to describe fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and nutrients.

"Why we love turnip greens: Although they're attached to the turnips themselves, turnip greens -- grown in Mississippi -- are loaded with unique health benefits, including a helping of vitamin K, iron and calcium."

Studies have shown dark, leafy greens lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which protect cells in the eyes from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays, helping to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

South Carolina took collard greens in the list, and Alabama and Louisiana got blackberries and sweet potatoes, respectively.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention completed a study in July that attempted to define "superfoods," or what it termed "powerhouse fruits and vegetables."

It ranked produce according to its ratio of nutrients to calories and found that cruciferous vegetables (such as turnip, collard and mustard greens as well as broccoli and Brussels sprouts) had the highest ratio. View the whole list here.

All three greens were ranked in the top 20, below spinach but above the trendy it-ingredient kale.

The study also found a few foods were found to not be so super: the raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion and blueberry did not meet the study's criteria for what it termed "powerhouse" fruits and vegetables.

A few suggestions from the Sun Herald archives for whippin' up a mess of greens:

PASTA AND GREENSThis is another Southern-inspired pasta that you are sure to like. Depending on the season, use collard, turnip greens or fresh spinach. Delete the cream if you want a healthier version.1 pound pasta prepared according to package directions1 package spinach (summer time)1/4 cup chopped smoked ham2-3 cloves chopped garlic1/4 cup cream (optional)Fresh ground black pepperParmigiano-ReggianoOlive oilSauté the ham in a little olive oil until it starts to brown, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the spinach, and a little more oil if necessary, and toss over a medium flame until the spinach wilts. Add the cream, some Parmigiano-Reggiano, season with the pepper and toss in the pasta. Serve warm.

CORNBREAD DUMPLINGS AND TURNIP GREENS1 pound pork bones1 quartered onion2 bunches collard or turnip greens1 cup cornmeal2 pinches salt1 small chopped red onion1 eggRoast the bones in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, place in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add the onion and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the bones and pick the meat off, discard the bones. Strain the stock and discard the solids. Stem the greens and simmer in the stock, along with the meat, until tender 35-45 minutes. Remove the greens, but leave the liquor in the pot. Combine the cornmeal, salt, onion and egg. Bring the liquor to a simmer and drop the dumplings in by the spoonful. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the greens back to the pot and serve at once.- Andrea Yeager

BLACK-EYED PEAS AND GREENS SOUPBlack-eyed pea recipe above1 quart chicken stock (homemade is best)1 bunch collard greens (kale, turnip greens or spinach all work as well)3-4 chopped toes of garlic3-4 tablespoons olive oil1-2 cups waterMake the black-eyed pea recipe above. Remove the tough stems from the greens and rinse well. Sauté the garlic in the oil, then add the greens a hand full at a time, stirring until they begin to wilt, add the water and steam until tender. Remove the greens, add to the peas along with the stock and simmer until well incorporated. Serve piping hot.- Andrea Yeager

TURNIP GREEN SOUP1 tablespoon olive oil1 medium onion chopped (or 1 bag frozen)2 or 3 gloves of garlic, minced (I use already minced garlic and sometimes I use dry minced)2 to 3 cups waterTwo 1-pound bags frozen turnip greens (I put the greens in frozen. If you want to use fresh, you will need 3 to 4 cups chopped greens. You can also use mustard or collard greens.)1 can great northern beans, undrained (I use two cans)1 package dried vegetable soup mix (any brand)1 teaspoon Tabasco1 tablespoon sugar1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon pepper1 pound sliced Polish sausage (could use some other kind of sausage)In a large saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until tender. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook for 25-30 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Enjoy! (You can freeze to have later. Delicious with cornbread.) Serves 8.- Submitted by Toni Dennis

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