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In January, our thoughts turn to the sturdy greens of winter, chards, kales, beet greens, turnip greens, collards greens, dandelion greens, chicories, spinach, cress and more. Although most of these greens are grown year-round in Sonoma County, many taste better — sweeter and more crisp — after they've been kissed by a good frost.

Their winter appeal is further heightened because they are not eclipsed by summer's harvest and because they are considered so good for us. In January, everybody seems to be talking about getting healthier. Greens go a long way toward helping us achieve that goal.

When you have good greens — and you know where to get them, at a farmers market or farm stand — you don't have to do a lot to them. One of my favorite ways to prepare spinach, for example, is to rinse it in cool water, toss the wet leaves into a wok and cook for about 90 seconds, until the spinach just wilts. Add a squeeze of lemon and a little salt and that's it, c'est fini. For something more elaborate, I add a bit of butter or olive oil and press a clove or two of garlic into the wilted spinach.

Chard, kale and collards require more time on the heat but still lend themselves to simple preparations, should that be your inclination. They also welcome cured meats, from pancetta and bacon to ham and ham hocks, as well as hot sauce, vinegar and a bit of something sweet.

Steve Garner, co-host of the once and, we hope, future "Good Food Hour," gave me this recipe when I was working on my book "Salt & Pepper," which was published in 1999. I love the vivid accuracy with which he describes how he rolls, cuts and cooks the collards; the description has the authenticity of someone who really knows his greens. Garner's credentials — he's from Louisville, Kentucky — are impeccable.

Steve Garner's Collard Greens with Ham Hocks & Maple Syrup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds collard greens, rinsed, stems removed and discarded

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons peanut oil, plus more as needed

3 to 4 ounces smoked ham-hock meat, minced

— Kosher salt

? cup homemade chicken broth or stock

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

— Black pepper in a mill

— Red pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Set the collards on a clean work surface. Stack several together, roll them up like a cigar and cut them into ?-inch thick strips.

Heat the olive oil and peanut oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the meat and saute, stirring all the while, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add a handful of greens, use a wooden spoon to push them down into the pot and saute until they wilt; repeat, adding a handful of greens at a time and cooking until they wilt before making the next addition. Season with a generous pinch of salt, add the stock and when it begins to boil, reduce the heat as low as possible.

Cover and simmer until the greens are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Check now and then to be certain that the liquid has not evaporated; if the pan gets dry before the greens are tender, add a little more broth or stock.

When the greens are done, remove the lid, increase the heat and evaporate any remaining liquid. Add the vinegar, several turns of black pepper and either a generous pinch of red pepper flakes or several shakes of Tabasco sauce. Stir, add the maple syrup, stir again and transfer to a bowl.

Serve immediately.

When you buy beets and turnips at farmers markets, the beautiful greens are usually still attached. At supermarkets, sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't and sometimes they are shriveled and wilted. When you get beets or turnips home, you should cut the greens off right away and store them separately, in a plastic bag with plenty of air in it.

Sauteed Beet Greens with Vinegar and Bacon

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 pound beet greens, rinsed, stems and leaves separated

2 to 3 bacon slices

2 shallots, minced

3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

— Kosher salt

— Pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons best-quality vinegar (white wine, red vinegar or cider vinegar), plus more to taste

—Red pepper flakes

Set the beet greens and stems on a clean work surface. Mince the stems and set them aside. Stack the leaves and cut into 1/4-inch wide crosswise slices. Set aside.

Put the bacon into a medium skillet or saute pan and cook over medium-high heat until it is crisp. Transfer to absorbent paper.

Let the bacon fat cool slightly, return the pan to medium heat, add the shallots and beet stems and saute until tender, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, saute 1 minute more and season with salt and a generous pinch of sugar.

Reduce the heat to low, add the beet greens, turn to coat them, cover the pan and cook gently until wilted. Uncover, add the vinegar and continue to cook until the greens are as tender as you like them.

Chop or crumble the bacon.

Season the greens with red pepper flakes, taste, correct for salt and acid and transfer to a bowl. Top with the bacon and serve.

These collards are excellent alongside roasted chicken and homemade macaroni and cheese. They're also wonderful with almost any kind of beans and rice and spooned over creamy polenta. I like to shake a bit of Hawaiian Chili Water on the greens just before eating them.

Brazilian-Style Collard Greens

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds collard greens, trimmed and rinsed

6 to 8 garlic cloves, crushed

— Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons butter

— Black pepper in a mill

Set the collards on a clean work surface, stack several of them and roll them into a bundle. Holding the bundle with one hand, use a sharp knife to slice the rolled collards crosswise into 1/2-inch wide strips. Continue until all the greens have been cut. Fluff with your fingers and set aside.

Put the garlic into a suribachi or mortar, sprinkle generously with about a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt and use a wooden pestle to pound the garlic into a paste.

Put the olive oil and butter into a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the greens and saute, turning frequently, until they wilt. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until just tender, about 5 to 6 minutes, or longer if you prefer.

Remove from the heat, correct for salt, season with several turns of black pepper and serve.

Variation: Lacinato kale can be prepared in the same way, though it will need to be cooked longer, about 12 minutes or so, to be perfectly tender.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.