Recently, the general public, especially younger people in the cities, have begun to embrace strong flavors previously thought of as icky, like bitterness, fermentation, funk, fat and umami, which are now all prized flavors. This is good. But Americans, as always, are unable to do anything in moderation, and, hypnotized by the constant racket of food television, food blogs, restaurant blogs, and have-you-tried-this, insist that if strong flavors can be good, then even stronger flavors must be better. This is why we can’t have a hoppy IPA; we have to have the hoppiest quadruple-IPA science can concoct. We can’t have a normal bowl of chili; we have to bump up the savory flavor with umami-heavy ingredients like marmite, soy sauce, and anchovies, and who cares if those flavors work together? And we can’t use spinach anymore, because there are greens that are stronger and more bitter, and thus better, like kale. Eating spinach is something your parents would do. Eating kale — stringy, bitter, aggressive kale — is the mark of an adventurous, flavor-forward connoisseur.
Kale is a perfectly fine ingredient, but its bitterness and toughness have become indicators of quality to a certain segment of Americans, rather than characteristics to be overcome through cooking. And that’s led to its usage as a trendy ingredient in weird new places. But: Dishes do not usually become better or even more interesting when a trendy ingredient or process is foisted onto them. They almost always become worse. For example: the classic spinach, bacon, and egg salad, familiar to anyone who’s ever been to a steakhouse. This is a classic for a reason. The flavors and textures work beautifully, each individual ingredient holding its own. Replace the spinach with kale, and everything’s thrown off. Typically, the hot vinaigrette slightly wilts the spinach, adding a new flavor and texture, but kale is much tougher and won’t even notice that a hot vinaigrette has been added. Kale’s raw flavor, unchanged by the dressing, will thus overwhelm the egg and bacon.
That’s not to say that kale is a bad ingredient; it just needs to be used thoughtfully. Kale is in the brassica family, like collards, so it’s related to cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. It’s not related to spinach, which is in the beet family. The greens in the beet family, which also include chard, are more delicate and tender than the brassica greens; they cook much more quickly and can be eaten raw, without the rigamarole of massage (and I’d argue that no matter how thorough the massage, raw kale never attains an appropriately tender texture). The stems of beet-family greens are also edible and delicious, even the tougher chard stems (which take well to roasting and pickling).
Spinach comes in a few different forms. Probably the most common on grocery store shelves is bagged baby spinach. Never buy this. (Never buy any bagged green, now that I think about it. They go bad within a day of being opened, and are typically several times more expensive than the non-bagged kind.) If you can get real spinach from the farmers market, the kind with the little pink caps on the roots still attached, do that, but totally usable tasty spinach is also available year-round in grocery stores. It should come in a bundle, and in probably two types: one is very dark green and has curled edges around the leaves; this is called savoy spinach. The other is slightly lighter and has flat leaves, like a larger version of baby spinach. I tend to prefer savoy if I’m cooking it for awhile, and flat-leaf if I’m eating it raw, or doing a real quick cook.
In the fall and winter, I pretty much stick wholly to cooking with greens; they become hearty and filling and satisfying, just what you want in cold weather. Let’s start the recipe section off with a pretty simple lentil soup with spinach.
To start, saute a chopped onion and about five cloves of garlic in olive oil in a heavy soup pot or dutch oven. While that’s softening, take one bunch of flat-leaf spinach and chop it. I like to keep the stems all tied up the way it came at the grocery store and then just chop the leaves into slices about half an inch wide. Chopping spinach is key for wilting, which is what we’ll be doing here; you don’t want a huge drippy slimy leaf of spinach, you want it to break down into almost a sauce. Throw them in a colander, wash, and either spin dry or let sit.
When the onion is translucent, throw in maybe a spoonful of ground coriander. Stir the onions around to fry the coriander; a bunch of stuff will stick to the pan, which is fine. Add a cup of split red lentils (do NOT substitute any other kind of lentils, the recipe will not work) and about three cups of water or chicken stock or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover it. Cook for about forty-five minutes, stirring every five or ten minutes, until the lentils have broken down and no longer look like lentils. When done, season heavily with salt and pepper, then put in your entire bunch of spinach. This will look like too much spinach! It is not too much spinach. Add maybe a handful at a time, stirring until it wilts enough to add in the next handful. When done, squeeze about half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice into the soup. Serve with pita.
I also love spinach tacos! These are totally non-traditional, but who cares. First, you’ll have to make your pickles. Either with a mandoline (best option) or a knife, slice one whole red onion into paper thin slices. Scatter them in a glass storage container. In a saucepot, bring a cup of apple cider vinegar and a quarter cup of sugar to a boil, and when it boils, pour it over the onion and loosely cover. Let it sit out and cool while you do the rest of your work.
In a dutch oven, saute a sliced (not diced) onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil until translucent, then dash in a bit of cumin and dried chile powder (or flakes) and stir to fry and coat. When fragrant, add in a whole bunch of spinach, sliced and washed exactly the way you did it for the lentil soup, but you can use the savoy variety for this one. Mix that all up until it starts to wilt, then pour in about a quarter cup of beer (I usually use some kind of mild pale beer like Presidente). Stir hard with a spatula to deglaze all the good stuff on the bottom, then cover and lower heat and cook until the spinach is done but not mush — about five to ten minutes, or however long it takes you to finish the rest of the beer you opened. Then season with salt to taste.
To serve: throw some corn tortillas on a hot dry cast iron pan to brown, then place a glob of spinach on the tortilla, followed by some queso fresco (or feta), some chopped cilantro, a few pickled onions, a squeeze of lime, and some hot sauce of your choosing. (JK, you don’t get to choose. Use Tapatio.)
Finally, let’s move to the north of India for saag paneer. Chop and wash spinach as before. If you have a mortar and pestle, throw in a few cloves of garlic, one chile (serrano or chile de arbol or Thai birds-eye would be good), and about a thumb’s worth of peeled and loosely chopped ginger, and smash thoroughly into a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, toss everything in the food processor until it’s a paste.) In a heavy-bottomed pan, add some vegetable oil and then this paste, frying to add a little color, then add about a teaspoon of garam masala mix. Toast that until fragrant, then add in the spinach and cook until soft, maybe five or ten minutes. From here you can do a few things: you can add coconut milk or cream to make it richer (I usually don’t), and you can either puree this in the food processor or not (I usually do; I like a very smooth saag).
If you want to make your own paneer, it’s easier than you’d think; you basically just curdle milk with lemon juice and then press the curds together. (This is a good basic recipe.) Saag paneer also works well with tofu, which is basically just paneer but made with soymilk instead of cow milk. Sear your paneer or tofu in oil, then mix with the saag. Serve over rice.
Spinach may not be cool, but I hope it stays that way, because it costs about two bucks for a huge bundle and it’s delicious, healthful, and tremendously flexible and easy to work with — easier, by a long shot, than kale. A good cook will think about ingredients and methods, what those ingredients are best at and what they’re not so good at, and use them accordingly, rather than blindly following food trends to their illogical extreme. And a good cook will also use spinach. Because spinach is so tasty.
Crop Chef is a column about the correct ways to prepare and consume plant matter, by Dan Nosowitz, a freelance human who enjoys hot salads and lives in Brooklyn, naturally.
Photo by David Wagoner
By Kresha Faber, Contributing Writer
In my final year of university, all graduates were encouraged to attend a multi-course dinner hosted for the sake of teaching its graduates some basic etiquette. This wasn’t an act of compassion for society at large, per se, but specifically for the reason that the powers-that-be at the university wanted to give us the tools we needed to succeed in business – including business lunches.
Toward the end of the first course, I began demurely munching on the kale set on the plate. The host stopped his lecture mid-sentence to call across the room and remind me that the kale was merely decoration and was not to be touched.
In the years since that dinner, kale has most definitely moved from the limelight into the spotlight. While it’s still used as culinary decor, these days kale is added to everything from smoothies to power drinks and in my local grocery store, there are more than five brands of kale chips offered as a substitute for potato chips (and they’re easy to make at home, too). And just last month, another contributing writer here at Keeper of the Home posted this photo just to show how trendy kale has become:
- 5+ Creative Ways to Eat More Kale
- Kale Pesto
- A Visual Guide to Leafy Greens: How to Cook and Store Them
- What’s my surprise green? A quest for leafy knowledge.
- The Lettuce Family
- The Brassica Family (1/3)
- The Brassica Family (2/3)
- The Brassica Family (3/3)
- The Cress & Other Greens Family
- The Microgreens Family (1/2)
- The Microgreens Family (2/2)
- How to Prep and Store Greens
- Choosing Your Greens
- 2. Beet Greens
- 3. Bok Choy
- 4. Broccoli Rabe
- 5. Butterhead Lettuce
- 6. Cabbage: Green, Savoy, Red, Napa
- 7. Carrot Greens
- 8. Chard: Swiss and Rainbow
- 9. Collards
- 10. Dandelion Greens
- 11. Endive: Belgian, Curly (Frisee), Broad-Leafed (Escarole), and Red Belgian (Radicchio)
- 12. Kale
- 13. Kohlrabi Greens
- 14. Mustard Greens
- 15. Radish Greens
- 16. Red Leaf Lettuce
- 17. Romaine Lettuce
- 18. Sorrel
- 19. Spinach
- 20. Turnip Greens
- 21. Watercress
- What’s GreenBlender?
- 10 Best Leafy Greens
- Get into the Green Routine
- Swiss Chard
- Beet Greens
- Carrot Tops
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Sips of Satisfaction
- Which Leafy Green Is More Nutritious: Spinach or Kale?
- Read all about the latest gym openings, healthy events, and fitness trends in our twice weekly Wellness newsletter.
Photo credit: Andrea Green, contributing writer
However, there’s a lot more to kale than meets the eye and there are about a bazillion ways to enjoy it beyond just in smoothies and as a crispy snack.
First of all, when most people hear the word “kale,” they think of curly kale, which is the type that’s pictured at the top of this article. However, Cornell University lists 48 different varieties that provide an entire range of textures, colors, and flavors that range from purple to pink to white to deep dark green. Personally, I only have regular access to three varieties: curly, Red Russian, and Lacinato, so most of my recipes and tips deal with these three.
Also, kale – in all its varieties – is packed with nutrients, so the fact that the trendy reference to it as a “superfood” isn’t far off the mark. According to WHFoods, kale provides noticeably high levels of Vitamins K, A, C, and B6, as well as the minerals manganese, copper, iron, and a number of others.
(Of course, while most of us don’t run the risk of eating too much kale, do keep in mind that both your colon and your thyroid will thank you for eating generous but well-balanced portions of kale. In other words, it’s a superfood only when consumed as part of a diet balanced with other nutrient-dense foods. See more about why kale is a goitrogenic food.)
Kale also tends to be fairly inexpensive (especially the curly variety), so it can be a great way to pack a punch with your grocery dollars.
Okay, with all of that, how can we go about increasing the amount of kale in our diets without drowning ourselves in smoothies or making kale chips every day?
5+ Creative Ways to Eat More Kale
Here are 5 creative ways (plus one not-so-creative idea!) for adding kale to your family’s menu:
Basic sauté of kale and feta
This is the not-so-creative idea, but my family eats this as a side at dinner at least three times a week because it’s so yummy, so this list would be incomplete without it.
Merely chop one bunch of kale (any variety) into 1-inch strips, then sauté it over medium heat in either butter or olive oil, turning frequently, until it’s fully wilted. Crumble 1/2 cup feta cheese over the top and serve hot.
Substitute for spinach in your favorite dish (spanakopita, lasagna, etc.)
Spinach makes its way into lots of baked entreés – spanakopita, lasagna, quiche, omelettes, gratins, fritattas, Eggs Florentine, and spinach & artichoke dip, just to name a few.
Little known secret: kale works just as well in all of them. Prepare the kale as you would the spinach in any recipe, but keep in mind that kale is slightly more fibrous, so you may need to sauté it a bit longer than you do spinach. Other than that, it can be a simple switch.
Kale also works beautifully in pretty much any dish that features beans, bacon, or sausage, plus softer baby kale is lovely on a Margherita pizza. Go ahead – try it!
My favorite baked spinach dish that kale transforms is Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna. Scrumptious!
Photo Credit: Andrea Green, contributing writer
As a salad
Most people don’t think of kale as a salad green because it’s not as soft and delicate as typical salad greens, such as lettuce, mizuna, or spinach. But try making a salad with Lacinato kale (also known as Tuscan kale or Black kale) or with baby kale, which has a softer texture and a milder flavor, tossed in a creamy dressing.
My favorite creamy dressing for a kale salad has an avocado base and you can find it in my book, The DIY Pantry, but unless you’re standing in a bookstore as you read this, a faster and more comprehensive recipe comes from Heidi Swanson at 101Cookbooks. She has an absolutely swoon-worthy kale salad with an avocado-based dressing that I’ve made numerous times. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.
You can take the salad a different direction too, if creamy doesn’t suit you. This Cranberry Apple Kale Salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette offers just the right perk every time.
This is the totally legitimate way to hide greens in your brownies (and other chocolate goodies).
The next time you mix up a batch of brownies, toss in about 1/4 cup of very finely diced raw kale. (If your recipe uses any liquid, you could also place the kale and that liquid in a blender and pureé it to make it smooth.)
Bake as normal and enjoy fully.
… and in Fudge Pops and Chocolate Pudding
Speaking of chocolate – which will hide pretty much anything, by the way – add a bit of pureéd kale to your next batch of fudge pops or chocolate pudding. I use about 1 tablespoon of pureé per fudge pop, so that works out to about 1/2 cup of pureé per 4 cups of fudge pop mixture or chocolate pudding.
In Sandwiches and Burgers
When you’re layering your favorite bun for a sandwich or burger, use a kale leaf instead of lettuce. Non-curly varieties work best for this, such as Red Russian or baby kale. If your family won’t stand for such an option, consider adding chopped, sauteéd kale into the meat mixture before you shape them into patties. (They’ll never know!)
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This pesto is fabulous tossed with pasta, spread under a burger, dolloped on top of salmon, or any other way you love pesto. Course: Condiments Author: Ann Timm
- 1 bunch kale any variety, stemmed and chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts or pecans chopped
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic chopped (more if desired)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 pinch each salt and pepper to taste
- Blanch chopped kale in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain and set in a prepared bowl of ice water. Dry thoroughly.
- In a food processor, pulse together kale, nuts, Parmesan cheese, and garlic until coarsely ground. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper until finely chopped. Add salt as needed.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Photos: Pond5 (top); Pond5 (bottom)
From green juice to salads, spinach and kale are the workhorses of the produce section, acting as the base of healthy dishes you’re used to (like this chicken, strawberry and spinach salad), along with less traditional ones (hello, cauliflower-kale pasta). And they’ve earned their place on your plate thanks to some serious health benefits: Leafy greens are rich in nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E and K, yet also have a low calorie count. Plus, because they’re fiber-rich, they’ll keep you fuller, longer. But since produce doesn’t stay fresh forever (spinach will last only 3-5 short days!), you can’t exactly keep a fridge stocked full of leafy greens. So, we’re pitting kale against spinach in this Daily Burn Face-Off to decide: Which packs more nutritional bang per bite?
RELATED: 11 Delicious Green Smoothie Recipes
While there’s no wrong choice, we asked two nutritionists — Erin Paterson, Culinary Nutritionist for Go2Go, a meal delivery service, and Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, founder of Foodtrainers, a nutrition practice in NYC — to weigh in on which is best for you.
The Benefits of Leafy Greens
Real talk: Both veggies offer a slew of benefits. “From cardiovascular health and bone health to immune support and cancer prevention, leafy greens help with it all,” says Paterson. And since they’re especially rich in vitamins C, you’ll get a surprising beauty boost from eating them, too. Paterson adds, “The vitamin C in leafy greens is as good as any anti-aging cream.” Science confirms this, too: According to Oregon State University, vitamin C may help counter UV damage to skin.
Yet despite both being nutritional powerhouses, there are key differences between the two. Most importantly is the taste: In comparison, kale is bitterer than spinach. (Interestingly, that bitter flavor is caused by the very same compounds in kale that are actually good for you, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.) It also maintains its shape and volume better after cooking.
RELATED: Eat These 10 Foods, Get More Calcium
Interestingly, kale is higher in calories and carbohydrates (49 calories per 100 g of raw kale, versus 23 calories per 100 g of spinach). Additionally, it’s also a bit richer in those essential nutrients, says Paterson. “In addition to vitamins A and K, it’s high in calcium, which is not only beneficial for your bone health, but aids in proper blood clotting, too.”
Spinach, on the other hand, is higher in folate, a B vitamin especially essential during infancy, pregnancy and for women whom are breastfeeding. It’s also higher in iron, another nutrient particularly particularly important for women who are or plan to become pregnant, according to research published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. (Iron’s also key for those who battle with anemia.) And with six times the magnesium as kale, spinach can help you get in some good zzz’s. says Slayton. And anyone can benefit from more of this nutrient. “Magnesium is important for restful sleep and muscle relaxation,” says Slayton.
Does How I Eat It Matter?
While both kale and spinach are seemingly everywhere, we’re not just seeing them in their traditional leaf form: These veggies can both be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. But if you’re worried that how you consume them matters, don’t fret. “There are always slight differences in the nutrition of raw versus cooked versus juiced vegetables,” says Paterson. “But are they of enough significance to worry about eating it one way versus the other? No. Consuming more vegetables and leafy greens, no matter how you eat them provides a host of benefits.” So go for the smoothie or the salad — you’re eating well regardless.
RELATED: 10 Creative Kale Recipes
Kale vs. Spinach: The Bottom Line
When it comes down to the final answer in the battle of kale vs. spinach, it’s definitely not black and white: Which leafy green you choose depends on several factors, including what your own individual needs are at any given time. For example, women of childbearing age may find that spinach offers more nutrients that they need, like folate and iron, whereas those who don’t get calcium from other sources (vegans, for example) may choose kale in support of their bone health. Regardless, leafy greens are an amazing addition to any diet — whether you choose kale or spinach.
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A Visual Guide to Leafy Greens: How to Cook and Store Them
You know all about kale, the hearty, green superfood making its way onto every menu and sweatshirt. It’s so popular yet, somehow, it never makes it into your grocery basket. Or maybe it does, but you end up watching it die a slow, wilt-y death in your refrigerator. Good news: Your relationship with greens (not just kale) changes today.
Gone are the days of being overwhelmed in the produce aisle and not knowing what to do with the goods when you get home: Properly identify each one, understand the best methods for storing them so they last, and start cooking. We promise these tips will change the way you look at (and eat) those green guys.
You’ll find the versatile, peppery salad green in some lettuce mixes, but its sharp flavor really makes it a great standalone option when dressed in a punchy vinaigrette. Better yet: You can sauté and chop arugula, just like spinach, and add it to creamy pasta dishes for extra bite. Fun fact: Brits and Aussies call arugula “rocket.”Next time you’re at the salad bar go ahead and say, “I’ll have a rocket salad, please.”
The next time you’re wondering if you should keep those stems? The answer is YAS. They look tough, but these greens actually cook to tender pretty quickly, whether you steam or sauté them. If you want to add more flavor to wilted or raw beet greens, go with a squeeze of citrus, minced raw shallots, or a Dijon mustard-based vinaigrette.
Who doesn’t love adding small baby bok choy leaves to a wok for a better-than-restaurant-quality Asian stir-fry? It’s so mild and tender, making it easy to cook down, plus with baby bok choy, you don’t need to spend time tearing apart the leaves into bite-size pieces. The stem and leaf can be torn from the base and placed whole into any cooking pan, which will give it a crunchy texture. If you buy large bok choy, the mom and pop of the bok choy fam, give yourself a little more time to rip into smaller pieces, just like you would with chard or kale.
Similar to Mr. Popular (kale) in heft and nutrition, collards have a more assertive, slightly bitter flavor and a chewier texture. Collards require cooking—braise, steam, or stir-fry—to break down some of the toughness of the leaves, but they’re also amazing for rolling up your favorite sandwich ingredients when you’re going easy on the bread.
Don’t be fooled: It looks like a dark head of lettuce, but escarole has slightly thicker leaves and a distinctive bite that lends robust flavor to salads. Escarole sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and cannellini beans is a classic combination, especially in a warm, hearty soup.
The celebrity of dark, leafy greens, kale has a mildly bitter bite when eaten raw, but the flavor mellows when sautéd with a little olive oil (just be sure to chop it or tear it finely). Kale chips (kale leaves tossed with olive oil and roasted at 350 degrees until crispy) will change the way you think about any leafy green. Or try this simple sauté combo: kale + garlic + olive oil + red wine vinegar. Boom, your side dish is ready.
These greens have a spicy, peppery kick that pairs well with acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice, when cooked. Asian-inspired accents (soy, sesame oil, garlic, rice vinegar) and Southern flavors (bacon, ham hocks, beans, onions) are also a good… no, a great match.
There are umpteen varieties of lettuce, but as a general rule of thumb, the darker and thicker the leaf, the more nutritious it is. (Sorry, iceberg.) Think beyond the salad bowl and use hearty lettuce leaves to make Korean-style lettuce wraps with stir-fried sesame chicken.
Popeye’s favorite food packs 5.36 grams of protein per cup (cooked), making it one of the most protein-rich veggies out there. Spinach has a mildly bitter flavor that pairs well with accent flavors of bacon, lemon, garlic, black pepper, or sesame seeds. Don’t be afraid of the fresh spinach bunches. Even though they have a little dirt on them, they’ll probably be more flavorful than the baby leaves in a plastic container (although those are super convenient for smoothies).
Think of chard as the lighter, more tender cousin of kale—these mild leaves taste similar to beet greens and spinach, and the crunchy, slightly sweet stems might remind you of bok choy. Like most greens, garlic and chard are a good combination, but you can also punch up the flavor of sautéed or steamed chard with a few dashes of balsamic or red wine vinegar, or dare we say crushed red pepper flakes?
Yes, turnips. (You can eat the greens of almost any root vegetable, including carrots and parsnips). Turnip greens have a slightly peppery bite, giving your taste buds a little more excitement. Cook them with black-eyed peas, ham hocks, onions, or bacon. FYI: This image shows the turnip greens growing back; eventually they will look similar to the beet greens.
How to Shop for the Best-Quality Greens
When you’re at the market or grocery store, you want to look for fresh greens: crisp, rich in color, and not wilted.Avoid any bunch with slimy or yellowing or brown leaves: They will taste bitter when cooked and also might cause the whole bunch to spoil faster than normal.
How to Store Greens So They Last
Before storing your greens, always remove twist-ties or bands around the stems. The tight packaging can can cause bruising and make the greens wilt faster (not good). Need more tips? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty (literally) of storage.
Root Vegetable Greens
- If you buy a bunch of beet or turnip greens still attached to the root, always remove the greens from the vegetable before storing. If the greens remain attached, the leaves will slurp the moisture out of the root vegetable and make them soft.
- Use these greens within three to five days of cutting from the root. (The vegetables will last in a cool refrigerator drawer for weeks, but these delicate greens will lose moisture and start to wilt within days.)
- Hearty, thick greens (think: kale, collards, chard, spinach, mustard greens) should be washed before storing because they often hold more dirt and grit, which you don’t want in your refrigerator. Swish them in water until the water runs clear.
- Dry greens thoroughly—either in a salad spinner or by gently patting dry with a towel—and store them in a zip-top plastic bag with a damp paper towel to keep them fresh.
- These greens should be used within five to seven days of washing.
- Unwashed lettuce greens can be washed—swished around in cool water—before storing or before you use them in a salad.
- If you wash before storing, dry the leaves thoroughly in a spinner or by gently patting dry with a towel. (Too much moisture will cause the leaves to brown and turn slimy faster.)
- Store lettuce in a zip-top plastic bag (or the plastic container they’re packaged in) to keep it fresh for five to seven days.
Don’t Make This Mistake
Do not store leafy greens in thin grocery store produce bags, which are too porous to hold in moisture and keep greens fresh. We like reusable gallon-size produce bags like Neat-O’s Farmers Market zipper bags. If you’re thrifty, you can reuse clean, plastic spring mix lettuce containers a few times. Line with a damp paper towel and layer freshly washed and dried greens in the container. Lay a clean paper towel on top of the greens to catch any condensation that collects on the lid of the container. To keep the bottom layer from getting smashed, flip the container upside down every day (or so).
Time to Dig In
Newsflash: You can eat the tough stems of hearty greens—some are mild, such as chard and kale, and some are punchy, such as mustard and collards. Chop them into smaller pieces to help them cook evenly. If you want to remove the stems, fold the leaf in half lengthwise and tear the tough end of the stem away from the leaf. Stack several leaves on top of one another and roll. If you’re eating the greens raw, thinly slice the leaves into ribbons and take a couple minutes to massage the salad dressing into the greens. This softens the texture. Looking to cook? Slice the leaves in one-inch pieces for a sauté or stew.
What’s my surprise green? A quest for leafy knowledge.
“We got some kind of unidentifiable green (even when comparing with photos online), so we spent a week staring at it in the fridge…not knowing what to do with it!”
– Sophie O.
Many Lufavores (like, a whole bunch of you) have had similar comments about our Anjou greens, especially the ones sold as Surprise Greens. And we get it. We have so many new greens that even we can’t tell them apart sometimes.
As you might know, we’re on a mission to find ways to use fewer resources and produce less waste. This is partly why the surprise greens product was created – it allows us to harvest what’s ready to be harvested each day and ensure it doesn’t go to waste. At the same time, we have to be quick and ensure efficient day-to-day operations in our farms and distribution centre (those baskets have to get picked, packed, and delivered pronto!). And this is partly why we haven’t been identifying the bags of greens you get. If we did, we’d have a whole lot of labels and labelling on our hands. Sooo, our team got together and came up with a pretty neat greens guide instead. Get ready, grab a mystery leaf, and let the quest begin!
The Lettuce Family
Boston Lettuce. Pale green with soft, cup-shaped leaves. Looks a lot like a great big green rose in full bloom. Its mild and sweet taste makes it ideal for straightforward salads, with a simple dressing. The leaves are also the perfect size for sandwiches.
Green Butter Lettuce. Similar to Boston lettuce, but with smaller, slightly darker silken leaves. Looks a lot like a large blooming peony.
Red Butter Lettuce. Like green butter lettuce, but with dark red accented leaves. Also looks a lot like a large blooming peony.
Green Oakleaf Lettuce. Looks like a bunch of small leaves packed together, rather than a typical head of lettuce. Its leaves are reminiscent of small green oak leaves (hence the name).
Red Oakleaf Lettuce. Think green oakleaf but with deep red oak leaves.
Mini Romaine Lettuce Mix. Romaine typically has long, narrow leaves. But we harvest these guys small, so you’ll need to rely on the thick rib running lengthwise in the middle of each leaf and on their exceptional crunchiness to identify them. We’re growing two varieties for now: green leaf and red leaf. Slightly bitter and crunchier than other lettuces, this is the go-to lettuce for Caesar salads. Note: If you get a lettuce with slightly burnt edges and want to pretty them, just do a little trim and they’re good to go.
Think Red Crisp but with tender green leaves that are a bit less trident or thistle-like than the red. If it’s quite bitter, there’s a good chance it’s Bitter Crisp.
The leaves have deep purplish red tips but progressively become green as you near the heart. It’s a very textured lettuce, with almost three-dimensional leaf tips that look a bit like thistle leaves or tridents. Its consistency is almost Iceberg-like when you bite into it.
The Brassica Family (1/3)
Dinosaur Kale. Thick, dark green (greyish blue hue depending on how the light hits), narrow leaves that resemble dinosaur skin. Use it raw in salads for a strong kale taste (sort of cabbage-like), but you’ll need to cook it if you want to use the stems. It’ll develop a nice nutty sweetness when sautéed. This is also the best type to use for kale chips.
Red Russian Kale. Long serrated leaves with purple veining. Use it like you would use any other kale, raw or cooked. If you want to eat the stems, we suggest you sauté your kale (amazing with garlic and onion) and serve it as a delicious side.
Siberian Kale. Large, more regular green leaves. Not as serrated as Red Russian, not as thick and textured as Dinosaur. With a more delicate and mild flavour than other kales, it can be used raw in salads, quick stir-fries, and juices.
Giant Mustard Greens. We’re growing two varieties, both with large elongated wavy leaves. One is all light green and the other has tinges of purplish red. The strong peppery flavour can take some getting used to, and it remains even after cooking. Common in mesclun mixes, it’s an excellent salad green (combined with other greens like collard and kale), but can also used in stir-fries and soups.
The Brassica Family (2/3)
Green Bok Choy. Spoon-shaped green leaves with broad whitish stems, that grow in crunchy bulb-bottomed bouquets. Green bok choy has a mild, borderline sweet flavour. A classic of Asian cuisine, it’s most often used cut in half (or quarters), steamed and served with flavourful, often sweet, sauces, but feel free to eat it raw with a trickle of walnut oil (it’s super crunchy and refreshing). Also use it in soups (with udon and poached egg), fried rice, noodle dishes (like soba), or simply sautéed with shiitake mushrooms (can’t say enough about this option!).
Red Bok Choy. Spoon-shaped deep purple leaves with a narrower stem (and slightly longer leaves) than its green counterpart. Red bok choy can be used in any recipe calling for bok choy (they’re pretty interchangeable).
Tatsoi. Similar to green bok choy but dark glossy green in colour, with narrower stems, and subtle veining. It grows quite a bit larger than bok choy (not the individual leaves but whole plant), and forms more of a head, clumping together in a flower shape. Raw tatsoi has a sweet, nutty flavour, and is often referred to as “the new spinach”. Use it raw or cooked.
Chinese Cabbage (aka Napa). Elongated head with tightly-packed, quite crinkly (almost like a lace ruffle), light-green leaves with white veining. The inside leaves typically have a light yellow colour. Of all the members of the cabbage family, this is probably the most subtle-tasting. Use it raw to make a pork or oyster-based spring roll with vermicelli, or ferment it into kimchi. You may also add it to soups, stir-fry it with firm tofu, or make an Asian inspired version of cabbage rolls, using the larger outer leaves, rice, and a mild sausage.
The Brassica Family (3/3)
Broccoli & Cauliflower Leaves. Broad, somewhat thick, dark matte green leaves (like collards but with longer, less rounded leaves). The cauliflower leaves are more spear-shaped than the broccoli leaves. We’re selling these leaves because they’re just as good as kale or collards (in our opinion), and we’re big believers in using all the edible plant parts (no waste!). Braising is probably your best option, to cook them down a bit and remove the toughness.
Collard Greens. Large, flat, somewhat thick, green leaves with light-coloured rib and veining. The tip of the leaf is quite round and the colour is matte (not glossy). Surprisingly mild (just a hint of bitterness), collards can be paired with strong and light flavors alike. It tastes best when cooked slowly at a low temperature, but you can also sauté them with onions, garlic and olive oil, or use as a shell for tacos, burritos, wraps, and cabbage rolls.
Mizuna. Another style of mustard greens with red or green serrated foliage.
Rapini Greens. Look for mid-green leaves with more of a stalk at the base, and you have yourself rapini – a more bitter broccoli relative that’s best cooked like kale, stems and all.
The Cress & Other Greens Family
Arugula. Narrow leaves made up of a large central lobe with smaller spiky side lobes. Doesn’t grow a head like lettuce, but presents itself as individual leaves and stems. Arugula has a peppery, slightly bitter taste, that may take some getting used to (but is also why it’s so sought after).
Watercress. This one’s easy. Cut the stem, and if it’s hollow, it’s watercress. Watercress has a peppery, slightly spicy flavour. The easiest way to enjoy its pepperiness is to toss it in a salad with other greens and veggies. Watercress soup is also a must-try.
Rooftop Celery. A pretty easy one. U-shaped celery stalks that form an elongated bulb with lots of bright green leaves that look a lot like flat-leaf parsley. There’s also a strong and distinct celery smell when you cut it. Raw is the yummiest (ants on a log perhaps?). The leaves are by far the most flavourful part of the plant. Use them to spruce up a salad, add a load of flavour to soups and stews, or you can dry them on low heat in the oven and grind up with sea salt for homemade celery salt.
Spinach. Looks like spinach (yeah we know). Very dark green but with soft lettuce-textured leaves rather than kale or cabbage-textured.
Rainbow Chard. Another easy one. Just look for rainbow-coloured stems! The leaves are dark green and glossy too.. A lot like spinach – raw or cooked both work great since our chard stems are quite tender.
Purslane. Member of the succulent family, the easiest way to identify purslane is by its thick leaves (really quite thick) clustered at the joints and the tips of its sometimes reddish, sometimes yellowish stem.
Dandelion Greens. These should look familiar, like the dandelions of the weed variety all around the place in summertime. They’re super (deliciously) bitter and often cooked down to tame the taste.
Amaranth Greens. These are quite distinctive with green leaves that have a red-pink center. Taste and use are similar to spinach.
Sorrel. We grow the red-veined variety because it’s gorgeous – long, narrow green leaves with vibrant red veins throughout. Sorrel is known for its citrus-like flavour and used fresh most often to highlight this.
Green Onions. These are pretty straightforward – long skinny baby onions with their green tops. Use the whole thing except for the roots, no need to waste the tops!
Baby Leeks. While they can be mistaken for green onions in appearance and flavour, they can still be easily distinguished by their flat (instead of rounded) leaves that look like big blades of grass.
The Microgreens Family (1/2)
Arugula Microgreens. The easiest way to identify this microgreen is to crush a leaf between your fingers, or to taste it. The pungent smell and typically peppery arugula taste are unmistakable. Visually, the leaves are bright green, and if you flatten one, it should look like a tiny green heart. Use them in green juices, salads, as burger toppings, or sprinkled on a parmesan and ricotta pizza.
Red Cabbage Microgreens. The partly dark green, partly dark purplish red leaves should give these guys away. Flattening one of these leaves should reveal a shape that looks a lot like a magic bean seen from the side. Use them in green juices, salads, as burger toppings, or on an open-faced goat cheese croque-monsieur.
Chive Microgreens. Real easy…They look like tiny little chives (sort of grass-like), and often still have the small black seed from which they sprouted on their very tip. Use them in salads, sandwiches, egg or fish dishes. Especially good with smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Micro Mix. This colourful mix of microgreens includes micro mustard, kale, and other brassicas (members of the cabbage family). Don’t try to identify them individually. If there is more than one type of leaf in your microgreens, it’s the Micro Mix!
The Microgreens Family (2/2)
Sunflower Microgreens. There’s one surefire way to identify these: some sprouts will have a sunflower seed still clinging to the tip of their leaves. No seeds? No problem. Look for two opposed light green leaves at the tip of a yellowish stem.
Radish Microgreens. Because the leaves could be confused with arugula microgreens (though their green is a bit lighter), we suggest you identify these by their light pink stems.
Fenugreek Microgreens. These microgreens typically have the dark yellow seed from which they sprouted still clinging to the tip of their leaves. No seeds? No problem. Try spotting two opposed light green, and spearhead-shaped leaves. You can offset their herbal and somewhat bitter taste by serving them with avocado. They’re also great in gazpacho-style cold soups.
Pea Shoot Microgreens. These microgreens are easily identified by the curly tendril growing between their two light green leaves. Their subtle taste of pea is pleasant in green juices, salads, or as a burger topping. Try them in stir-fries.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
People have been eating leafy greens since prehistoric times. But it wasn’t until the first Africans arrived in North America in the early 1600s that America got its first real tastes of dark green leafy vegetables, which they grew for themselves and their families. So, over the years, cooked greens developed into a traditional African American food. Ultimately, they became essential in Southern regional diets and are now enjoyed nationwide.
Dark green leafy vegetables are great sources of nutrition. Salad greens, kale and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and broccoli, bok choy and mustard are also rich in many of the B-vitamins. These vegetables also contain an abundance of carotenoids-antioxidants that protect cells and play roles in blocking the early stages of cancer. They also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Furthermore, greens have very little carbohydrates, sodium and cholesterol.
The dark greens supply a significant amount of folate, a B vitamin that promotes heart health and helps prevent certain birth defects. Folate is also necessary for DNA duplication and repair which protects against the development of cancer. Several large studies have shown that high intakes of folate may lower the risk of colon polyps by 30 to 40 percent compared to low intakes of this vitamin. Other research suggests that diets low in folate may increase the risk of cancers of the breast, cervix and lung.
The vitamin K contents of dark green leafy vegetables provide a number of health benefits including: protecting bones from osteoporosis and helping to prevent against inflammatory diseases.
Because of their high content of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods. Studies have shown that eating 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables per week may lower the risk of stomach, breast and skin cancer. These same antioxidants have also been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits of dark green leafy vegetables is their low calorie and carbohydrate contents and their low glycemic index. These features make them an ideal food to facilitate achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Adding more green vegetables to a balanced diet increases the intake of dietary fiber which, in turn, regulates the digestive system and aids in bowel health and weight management. These properties are particularly advantageous for those with type-2 diabetes.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing average intakes of fruits and vegetables, particularly those that provide more vitamins, minerals and fiber. Dark leafy greens fulfill this need. Many varieties of greens are available in the American markets-the most popular are collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, spinach and kale.
Eating dark green leafy vegetables is vital to a healthy, balanced diet. There are many ways to enjoy a meal with leafy greens:
Make a salad: Keep salads interesting by varying their colors, textures and varieties. Perk them up with small tender leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach and arugula mixed with different kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.
Wrap it up: Make a wrap with tuna, chicken or turkey and add romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, and other veggies for some extra flavor.
Add to soup: Add greens with larger, tougher leaves such as collard greens, kale or mustard greens into your favorite soup.
Stir-fry: Add chopped spinach, bok choy or broccoli to chicken or tofu stir-fried with olive or canola oil with some garlic, onion or ginger.
Steamed: Steaming collard greens, mustard greens, kale or spinach until they are slightly soft.
In an omelet: Add steamed broccoli and/or spinach to an egg-white omelet for a vitamin and iron rich meal.
One of the most important parts of a healthy diet is leafy, green vegetables. They are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and fibers but they don’t load you up with calories.
There is no doubt that many health benefits come when you eat a diet rich in leafy greens. It reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, mental decline, and obesity.
Be sure to include these 10 leafy green vegetables in your diet:
There are so many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in kale that it is considered one of the most nutrient dense vegetables available.
When you look at what is in 1 cup of kale, it becomes easy to see why. It has 684% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin K, 134% of the DV for vitamin C and a whopping 206% of the DV for vitamin A1.
Lutein, beta-carotene and other antioxidants are also found in kale. They reduce your risk for diseases associated with oxidative stress.
It is best to eat kale raw so you get all of the benefits.
The immature greens that grow from seeds of herbs and vegetables are known as microgreens. They are usually anywhere from 1-3 inches long.
Many people have used these as a garnish or a decoration but they are also full of nutrients.
Even though they are small, they have loads of flavor, color and the goodness that our body needs. One study has even shown that there are as many as 40 times more nutrients in microgreens compared to the mature counterparts. Some of the vitamins you can expect to find in microgreens include vitamins C, E, and K2.
You can grow microgreens at home any time of the year so they are easy to acquire.
3. Collard Greens
Looseleaf greens known as collard greens are related to kale and spring greens. They have a slightly bitter taste.
The texture of collard greens is similar to cabbage and kale, which is perhaps why the word is associated with ‘colewort’.
You will find plenty of calcium in collard greens, along with vitamins A, C, and B9 (folate). They also contain a lot of vitamin K and are an excellent source for that vitamin. 1 cup of cooked collard greens has over 1000% of the DV for vitamin K!
Vitamin K is beneficial for blood clotting and research is ongoing in its benefit to improving bone health.
A study that involved 72,327 women between the ages of 38-63 showed that those who had a higher vitamin K intake had a reduced risk of hip fractures. Those who consumed less than 109 mcg per day of vitamin K were more likely to experience a hip fracture3.
Most people are probably more familiar with spinach than any other leafy green vegetable. You can include it in salads, soups, sauces, smoothies, and many other dishes.
Spinach has a rather impressive nutrient profile and 1 cup of raw spinach has 181% of the DV for vitamin K, 56% of the DV for vitamin A and 13% of the DV for manganese.
You also find plenty of folate in spinach, which can benefit you with increased red blood cell production and the prevention of neural tube defects during pregnancy.
There was a study associated with neural tube defect spinal Bifida and it found that one of the ways to prevent the risks associated with it was to include a low intake of folate during the first trimester4.
Taking a prenatal vitamin can benefit but eating spinach is another way to increase your folate intake during pregnancy.
Cabbage comes from the thick leaves that grow in clusters of green, purple and white. It is in the Brassica family, as are kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
The bitter flavor that is found in vegetables within this family comes from the glucosinolates that are contained within them.
Studies on animals show that these types of foods contain compounds that may actually prevent cancer, especially esophageal and lung cancer5.
You can also ferment cabbage and turn it into sauerkraut, which contains its own host of health benefits. Sauerkraut and other fermented foods can improve the digestive process and support the immune system. There is even some evidence that it can help with weight loss.
6. Beet Greens
Beets have been used for centuries because of their health benefits. They also contain a very high level of nutrients and can be used in many dishes but the greens are often ignored.
When you realize exactly how many nutrients are found in beet greens, however, you may never throw them away again. They are rich in calcium, riboflavin, potassium, fiber and vitamins A and K. 1 cup of cooked beet greens has 220% of the DV for vitamin A, and 37% of the DV for potassium. It also contains 17% of the fiber you need every day.
If that wasn’t enough, beet greens also contain beta-carotene and lutein, which are powerful antioxidants. They may be able to help reduce your risk for certain eye disorders, including cataracts and macular degeneration6.
You can use beet greens in or on soups, salads or just eat them as a side dish.
Watercress is similar to mustard greens or arugula because they are all from the Brassicaceae family. It is an aquatic plant that is renowned for its healing properties and has been used for centuries as a healing herb but as of yet, there are not any human studies on those benefits.
There were test tube studies done, however, that showed the beneficial effects of watercress in targeting cancer stem cells and limiting the reproduction and invasion of cancer cells7.
Watercress is often added to neutrally flavored foods because it is bitter tasting.
8. Romaine Lettuce
This is one of the most noticeable types of leafy green vegetables. It has a firm center and dark, sturdy leaves. The crunchy texture makes it a popular choice for salads, especially Caesar salad.
Romaine lettuce has 82% of the vitamin A you need every day and 60% of the vitamin K in only one cup.
In addition, research done on rats showed that consuming romaine lettuce was beneficial for improving blood lipid levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Additional studies are necessary to prove that factor7.
9. Swiss Chard
The thick stalk and dark green leaves of Swiss chard are easily recognizable. It can be red, yellow, white or green and it is frequently used in Mediterranean dishes. Swiss chard is in the same family as spinach and beets.
Swiss chard has plenty of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains a flavonoid known as syringic acid that may help to lower blood sugar levels.
Two small studies were done on rats with diabetes that included 30 days of oral administration of syringic acid. In doing so, it helped to improve the blood sugar levels in those rats9.
These were only small animal studies, however, and there is not as much support to the claim that it may help with humans.
Some people throw away the stems of Swiss chard but they also contain a high level of nutrition. Try adding them to various dishes, including casserole, soup, and tacos.
Coming from the Brassicaceae family, arugula is known by many names, including colewort, roquette, rocket, rucola, and rucoli. It is known for its peppery taste and can easily be added as a garnish or into salads. It has also been used medicinally for centuries.
Arugula has many nutrients, including vitamins B9 and K and Provitamin A carotenoids. It also contains high levels of dietary nitrates, which become nitric acid in the human body.
The debate over the benefits of nitrates continues but some studies show they can improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure because they widen your blood vessels.
A quick and easy way to get greens in your diet is to try NATURELO’s Raw Greens Whole Food powder that contains blends for immunity, anti-stress, energy, detox/cleansing, anti-aging, probiotics and, digestive enzymes. It can be mixed with water, milk or juice to create a refreshing smoothie.
There was a time when the only greens I ate were lettuce and even then, only iceberg and romaine. Later, I came to like spinach. To me, everything else looked like it was spewed out of a lawn mower. Boy, did that change. Today I eat all kinds of leafy greens; in fact, they happen to be my favorite veggies. Good for me because leafy greens are packed with vitamins A, B, C, E and K, minerals like magnesium, iron and calcium, and a bunch of flavonoids and phytochemicals. Greens benefit our health in so many ways including strengthening our immune system, cancer prevention, lowering cholesterol, and improved blood circulation. Find out about the 5 Health Ailments That Can be Treated by Eating More Greens.
Of course, you’re only going to eat more greens if they taste good. If you Hate Raw Leafy Greens? Here’s How to Learn to Love Them! Take a look at my 10 Creative (and Delicious) Ways to Flavor Raw Leafy Greens and my Tips for Cooking Greens So They Taste Delicious. If you need recipes, check out these 35 Delicious Ways to Eat More Greens but if you’re still not convinced or you think it will be a challenge to get the rest of the family to eat piles of greens, here are 6 Ways to Sneak Greens into Your Meals.
There are so many types of leafy greens that it can get really confusing which is which and what to do with them. In this ultimate guide to leafy greens, you’ll get a few facts about how 21 types look and taste and of course, links to recipes so you can try and enjoy these greens even more.
How to Prep and Store Greens
Greens can be very sandy and gritty, especially when you get them fresh at the farmer’s market or in your CSA box, so they need to be washed well. Don’t wash the greens unless you are going to use them in a day or two, as they will start to wilt. If you do wash them in advance, place them in a storage bag with a clean towel or paper towel to absorb the moisture and keep them refrigerated. Store them in the crisper drawer of the fridge, away from the fruit. Fruits give off ethylene gas which can hasten spoilage.
The easiest way to wash greens is to fill the sink with cool water and give the greens a bath. Separate the leaves and agitate the water a bit with your fingers to loosen the dirt. Shake the leaves dry of excess water and then dry them in a salad spinner or by laying them between two clean towels. Greens can last up to a week in the fridge but they may wilt. You can perk them back up by putting in a bowl of ice for 10 minutes or so.
If the greens you are using have thick stems or stalks, you need to remove them. This is true for kale and collard greens. Other greens such as chard and spinach have edible stems though you can certainly remove those as well. Beet, carrot, radish, and turnip greens need to be separated from their roots before storing. The easiest way to remove the stems from large leaves is by “stripping.” Hold the base of the stem in one hand and run your index and middle finger of the other hand along the stem, from base to tip, stripping the leaves off as you go. The leaves can then be chopped.
Choosing Your Greens
Arugula, also known as rocket, is a Mediterranean green. It has long, slender, sword-shaped leaves with notches and a vibrant, green color. The taste is peppery and spicy so it is best paired with other, milder greens in a salad. Try it in this Arugula Basil Salad With Sweet Corn, Red Beans, Lemon and Spices and Arugula Fennel Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing. Arugula can also be cooked by adding it to soups or wilted into pasta like this Rotini with Fresh Arugula and Tomato Sauce and Pumpkin, Arugula and Vegan ‘Goat Cheese’ Gnocchi. It also makes a great pizza topping as in this Whole Wheat Pizza with Caramelized Figs, Onions and Arugula.
2. Beet Greens
The next time you buy beets, don’t throw away the greens. Beet greens can be eaten raw or cooked. See Beet and Carrot Greens: How to Use Them Instead of Tossing Them. However, you have to use them within a day or two because they don’t last long. They have a mild taste and you can use them as you would any other dark, leafy green. Try these Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens, Sauteed Beet Red Greens and Beet Greens with Garlic and Toasted Almonds to see how good they are.
3. Bok Choy
Bok Choy, also known as Chinese white cabbage, pak choy and white mustard cabbage, is indeed a type of cabbage. Bok choy is tender, mild and sweet. It is available in mature and baby versions. Mature bok choy has large stems which can be separated from the leaves and prepared first since they take longer to cook. Baby bok choy can be cooked whole. It can also be eaten raw in salads. Enjoy bok choy in this Spicy Bok Choy With Beet Infused Quinoa and Lentils, Seared Asian Tofu With Chinese Eggplant and Baby Bok Choy, Asian Ginger Tofu and Carrot Rice With Bok Choy, Blackened Bok Choy, Stir-Fried Crunchy Bengali Bok Choy and this Chinatown Sweet and Sour Bok Choy.
4. Broccoli Rabe
Also known as rapini, broccoli rabe looks similar to broccoli, but without the big head. Broccoli rabe is known for its earthy, nutty, bitter taste and is a staple of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The bitterness lessens as it is cooked. Try it in this Garlicky Sauteed Broccoli Rabe, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Red Chili Flakes and Broccoli Rabe Potato Pizza With Carrot Miso Sauce and Hazelnuts.
5. Butterhead Lettuce
Butterhead lettuces include Boston and Bibb lettuce. They have soft, rounded leaves and a sweet, delicate flavor. Their rounded shape makes them perfect for lettuce cups and wraps like these Lentil Taco Lettuce Wraps. Use Butterhead to make salads like this Butter Lettuce Wedges With Sunflower Seed Dressing, Pears and Tempeh Bacon.
6. Cabbage: Green, Savoy, Red, Napa
Cabbage is a staple of cooking all over the world. To learn all about this veggie, see 10 Ways to Cook with Cabbage and Global Ways to Cook with Cabbage. Smooth-leafed firm-headed green cabbages are the most common type and are used for salads and slaws like this Asian Slaw Salad with Miso Ginger Dressing. Savoy cabbage, also known as curly cabbage, has ruffled, lacy, deeply ridged leaves which are loosely layered and more tender. Use Savoy cabbage to make these Tandoori Cauliflower Wraps and Polish Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage). Red cabbage is a pretty purple color. It has a heartier texture. It tastes great raw and when cooked down as in this Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Beer and Red Cabbage and Jicama Spring Rolls With Peanut Dipping Sauce. Napa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage, has long, light green leaves and looks a bit like romaine lettuce. It has a mild, peppery flavor and is often used in stir-fries. It is also used to make kimchi. Learn how to make your own Homemade Kimchi and then put it on these Simple Korean Kimchi BBQ Burgers.
7. Carrot Greens
When you buy carrots, ask them to leave the greens on. Carrot greens can be used in so many ways – smoothies, pesto, broths, stir-fries. See Beet and Carrot Greens: How to Use Them Instead of Tossing Them and Cooking with Vegetables From Root to Stem for lots of ideas and recipes. Use every single part of the carrot to make these Carrot Tacos.
8. Chard: Swiss and Rainbow
Chard has large, thick, dark leaves and stalks that can be white (in Swiss chard) or colored (in Rainbow chard). The leaves taste similar to spinach but much stronger and with a rougher texture. The stalks are edible with a mellow flavor and the yellow, purple, red and orange stems are a colorful addition to any dish. The stalks need to be cooked first since they take longer than the leaves though chard can also be eaten raw. Chard is often used in soups, stir-fries and stews. See 5 Delish Ways to Eat Swiss Chard and then try this No-Noodle Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Lasagna, Frittata With Swiss Chard and Red Pepper, Swiss Chard Quiche with Wild Mushrooms, Gluten-Free Lemon Swiss Chard Pasta or this Cremini Mushroom, Rainbow Chard and Shallot Soup.
Collards are a member of the cabbage family and closely related to kale. They have wide, flat, green leaves and thick stalks which should be removed. Collards have a slightly bitter taste though they can be eaten raw. Learn How to Make Raw Veggie-Stuffed Collard Wraps and use them to make Hummus Collard Wraps and Super Simple Collard Burritos. When cooked, they are often paired with other greens like kale, mustard and spinach. Collards are a staple of Southern cuisine. Check out 5 Flavorful Ways to Cook Collard Greens and make this BBQ Tempeh With Collard Green Hash and Horseradish Cole Slaw and Spicy Collards and White Beans.
10. Dandelion Greens
You know those little yellow flowers in the yard that you loved as a child but your parents knew were weeds? Well, those dandelions have leaves that are not only edible, but also healthy and delicious. They are even known as one of the “best detox greens” so add them to your morning smoothie. See A Dandy, Dandelion Green Smoothie and a Plethora of Nutrients for all the info. The leaves are peppery, similar to arugula, and can be eaten raw, blanched or cooked. Enjoy this beautiful Spring Salad with Edible Flowers and Dandelion Greens and this Creamy Vegan Dandelion Greens Dressing.
11. Endive: Belgian, Curly (Frisee), Broad-Leafed (Escarole), and Red Belgian (Radicchio)
Endive is a tangy, crunchy vegetable but not all endives are the same. Learn more in Heard of Endive? Here’s How to Make This Green Delicious! Belgian endive is a small, cylindrical head of lettuce with pale yellow leaves and curly edges. It can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves are crunchy and slightly bitter though the flavor mellows a bit when it is cooked and even gets a little sweet. Try it in this Braised Belgian Endive. Curly endive, also known as frisee and chicory, has tightly bunched, frizzy leaves and a bitter taste. It is mostly eaten as a salad green as part of a mix such as mesclun.
Broad-leafed endive, familiarly known as escarole, is delicious raw or cooked. Escarole looks like romaine and is part of the chicory family. It has large dark green leaves and a firm texture. The taste is mild and slightly bittersweet. It is used both raw and cooked. Try it in this White Bean and Escarole Soup. Red Belgian endive is known as radicchio. Belgian endive can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. It has a bitter, spicy taste which mellows as it cooks. It can be eaten raw but it is often grilled or roasted as in this Warm Lentil and Brussels Sprout Salad With Roasted Radicchio Wedges.
Kale is one of the most popular greens, in part because it is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is a type of cabbage with dark green leaves. It comes in curly form and as Lacinato, Tuscan or dinosaur kale which is long and smooth. Kale can be slightly bitter when raw but makes for delicious salads. Highly versatile, kale can be steamed as in these Tempeh and Kale Steamed Gyoza, stir-fried as in this Shiitake Tempeh and Kale Stir-Fry, put into smoothies like this Strawberry Kale Smoothie and baked as chips like these Lemony Kale Chips. Indulge in this Chickpea Kale Salad Bathed in Sesame Orange Dressing, Kimchi Kale Salad, Kidney Bean and Kale BBQ Burger, and Kale Avocado Wraps with Miso-Dipped Tempeh. Want more recipes? Check out 20 Ways to Enjoy Kale – The King of Greens for recipes and ideas.
13. Kohlrabi Greens
Kohlrabi is an under-appreciated crisp vegetable related to cabbage. While the bulb can be eaten raw or cooked as in these Baked Kohlrabi Fries, the greens need to be cooked. Use them as you would any other hearty, dark green. Make this Kohlrabi Spaghetti alla Foriana and toss the greens in to wilt at the last minute.
14. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are a staple of Southern cuisine. They have frilled curly edges and are a bright green color. The taste is quite peppery and they are usually cooked with other greens such as kale and collards.
15. Radish Greens
When you buy radishes, don’t throw away the greens. Radish greens are slightly bitter and taste great cooked or raw. They don’t stay fresh for long so separate them from the radishes as soon as you bring them home. Eat them within a day or they will wilt. Use them to make my Radish Leaf Pesto which makes a delicious pasta sauce.
16. Red Leaf Lettuce
Red leaf lettuce can range in color from rust to maroon. It can also have smooth or ruffled edges. Red leaf lettuce is tender with a mellow, grassy flavor. It is most often eaten raw in salads. Read why leaf lettuce is a Healthy Alternative to Iceberg Lettuce and Lettuce Decide: Which is Best?
17. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is well-known with crunchy, thick ribs and long, slender leaves. It has a crunchy texture and a mild flavor. Romaine can be grilled but is probably best known for its use in Caesar salad like this Eccentric Vegan Caesar Salad. It’s also great for wraps like these Spicy Romaine Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce and Harissa Tahini Romaine Wraps and Salad.
Sorrel has delicate leaves with a tart, acidic taste. It looks like spinach and arugula with elongated, sword-like leaves. Sorrel may be difficult to find in supermarkets and is usually seen at farmers’ markets during summer months. Since sorrel has a sour taste, it is best when paired with creamy dressings. Try it with this Creamy Lemon Herb Dressing.
Spinach is a delicate green that can be eaten raw and cooked. Baby spinach tends to be milder and less bitter than mature spinach. Spinach is a versatile green, able to work well in almost any recipe. When you buy spinach, buy a lot because it cooks down significantly. Enjoy this Baked Spinach and Herb Frittata, Potato and Spinach Cheddar Fritters with Horseradish Dipping Sauce, Chickpea Spinach Stew with Lentils and Quinoa, Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Rollups and then read 10 Flavorful Ways to Cook Spinach for more recipe ideas. For even more suggestions with an international spin, read 10 Creative Ideas to Stir-Fry and Saute Spinach.
20. Turnip Greens
When you buy turnips, be sure to get them with the greens still attached. The leaves have a hearty texture and a strong, bitter flavor which mellows when cooked. Turnip greens are a staple of Southern cooking and are often mixed with other greens. Try them in this Tempeh and Turnip Green Soup and these Turnips with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Lentils.
Watercress has small, oval-shaped leaves with a peppery smell. The flavor is also peppery and is similar to horseradish and wasabi. Nutrient-dense watercress is best paired with mild, creamy ingredients that will balance the bitterness. It can be used in soups, pasta, salads and on burgers and sandwiches. Enjoy watercress in this Smoky Chickpea and Watercress Salad with Mango and Avocado.
Now that you have all these information at your fingertips, try a few kinds of leafy greens that are new to you this week. Once you experience all the different ways that greens can be delicious, no one will ever have to remind you to eat your greens again.
Lead image source: Chickpea Kale Salad Bathed in Sesame Orange Dressing
There’s nothing quite like a green smoothie. Filled with phytonutrients, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, green smoothies make us bright eyed and invigorated.
We all know it’s important to incorporate a wide variety of colors into your diet to ensure adequate nutrition, but what if we’re talking about that one simple, beautiful color: Green?
It’s important to eat a wide variety of greens to promote a healthy thyroid and keep your body functioning optimally.
Make amazing green smoothies at home. Pre-portioned ingredients (yes, including greens) and superfoods delivered right to your door. Learn more >>
10 Best Leafy Greens
Get into the Green Routine
If you haven’t already jumped on the kale bandwagon, you probably should. Kale supplies your body with beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and fiber (that’s the short list). It’s also full of phytonutrients and antioxidants. The benefits of kale are more readily reaped when kale is blended. It’s true, we should all eat (and drink) more kale. Cleansing, heart and lung-protecting, immunity boosting, kale is the superstar of the super greens, and makes some pretty tasty smoothies if we do say so ourselves.
Earthy, green, fresh, fibrous, kale has a strong, semi-bitter flavor many people learn to love. Aspiring kale lovers may want to start with mellower baby kale for a more mild experience, then make their way up to lacinato kale and curly kale. Master these basic stepping stones of kale, and you’ll be an avid lover of the good stuff in no time.
Best Blended With
To offset the bitterness of kale, it is best blended with sweet fruits, like mangoes and bananas.
Blend up some kale in the Almond Joy Smoothie or the Orange Sunrise.
Coming in a beautiful array of colors, swiss chard boasts an impressive nutritional profile. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, K, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and iron. This leaf will do wonders for bone, lung, and heart health. The phytonutrient content in swiss chard is quite unique, and is especially good at stabilizing blood sugar levels. Check out our Banana Nectarine Chard Smoothie and discover how versatile and delicious swiss chard can be!
Most folks find this tender green much more palatable than more fibrous ones like kale. With a pleasant and mild flavor, swiss chard can be compared to the likes of spinach. However, it does have a slight bitter, earthy, ever so salty flavor.
Since swiss chard has delicate leaves, it can be seamlessly blended into any smoothie. Swiss chard can be deliciously paired with flavorful fruits like banana, pineapple, and citrus.
You work chard to stay healthy: Try the Camu Camu Berry Berry or the Green Tea Nectarine next.
Did you know that one leaf of spinach has more than twenty different nutrients? Spinach is a miracle green that gives your skin a healthy glow, lowers blood pressure, fights cancer, improves vision and heart health, boosts immunity and energy, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Rich in potassium, protein, calcium, iron, niacin and vitamins A, C, B, C and B-12, spinach should definitely be making its way to your blender. No wonder spinach is one of the most popular smoothie greens!
Most people find spinach quite mild. Baby spinach is especially easy on the tastebuds, making it a go-to green smoothie addition.
Once again, the soft leaves of spinach make this superfood prime for blending. Our favorite fruits to blend with smoothies are strawberries, blueberries, apples and pears. Since these fruits are low in sugar, the spinach acts as a nice neutral green.
Try the Funky Monkey or the Pumpkin Seed and Cantaloupe Smoothie.
Beets, a powerful root vegetable in their own right, bring a whole new level of nutrition to the table when you utilize those deep green leaves growing out of them. That’s right, optimize your consumption and cut down on waste; you can eat those greens! Beet greens are rich in vitamin A and C, and K and support healthy skin, blood, and bones. They also promote heart and eye health. Beets greens also contain the essential minerals calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese. Feeling adventurous? Try this smoothie!
Beets greens are very similar to swiss chard and spinach. Soft, mellow, and easily blendable. They are not as bitter as kale and dandelion, and they are easily hidden by just about any sweet fruit. Beet greens have a texture similar to Swiss chard, but with a milder flavor.
The mild and dainty leaves of beets can be blended smoothly into almost any smoothie. The flavor of the greens will not overpower the flavor of your fruit of choice. Be adventurous. Try beet greens with grapes, peaches, apples, even figs!
Did someone say chocolate? Beet greens go great in the German Chocolate Cake.
Crisp, mild, and highly nutritious, romaine lettuce is the perfect leafy green for green smoothie newbies. Romain lettuce provides an impressive amount of calcium, vitamin A, iron, B-vitamins, vitamin K, and the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Afraid of green smoothies? Maybe not with this green!
Romaine lettuce is crisp and refreshing. The flavor is so mild, you can go undetected in smoothies. Try it out on some of the pickiest eaters you know! They’ll be green smoothie converts in no time.
Honestly, the light and mellow flavor of romaine makes it ideal for any smoothie. You won’t be able to taste all the nutrients your giving your body with every sip.
Try the Ginger Wheatgrass Pear or the Green Coconut Cream Pie.
Arugula is one fierce leafy green. It is rich in cancer fighting antioxidant, chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, K, and B vitamins. Arugula gives your immune system and brain functions that boost it needs to stay strong. Arugula is also a great source of calcium. So blend up and strengthen your bones!
Arugula is bitter and peppery tasting. Bold in flavor, bold in health benefits! Right?!
The strong flavor of arugula goes well with other strong tasting smoothie ingredients. We love being innovative with this powerful green by adding it to beets, and citrus. Using dried fruit, such as cherries, raisins, or dates also compliments the bitterness in the best possible way!
Turn things up with the a Beet with a Kick.
The tops of carrots are edible and extremely nutritious! They are rich in chlorophyll and magnesium, making them super important for healthy blood pressure as well as blood purity. Rich in calcium, vitamin K, and potassium, carrot tops support healthy bones and muscles.
Carrot greens are bitter and astringent, but there is just a hint of sweetness in them as well. They are coarse and grainy when raw, but make great smoothie additions!
Since carrot tops are bitter, they blend well with sweet fruit. We think ginger compliments the flavor of carrot tops perfectly! Try it for yourself.
A member of the brassica family, like cabbage, kale, and broccoli, bok choy is a wonderful alternative green when you’re stuck in a green smoothie rut. This powerful leafy vegetable has loads of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and calcium. Enhance immunity, bone strength, and heart health by incorporating bok choy into your diet.
Bok choy has a distinctive, bitter flavor. It tastes somewhat like spinach, only stronger. However, the leaves are tender, and much less bitter than kale.
In green smoothies, the bitterness and earthiness of bok choy is easily masked by just about any fruit. We love it with papaya, pears, strawberries, and citrus. Here’s a winning combo if you’re feeling thirsty.
Collard greens are a cruciferous vegetable related to cabbage, kale and broccoli. They have cleansing benefits and are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These thick leaves are full of vitamins A, C, and K. They also provide your body with a healthy dose of fiber.
Collard greens are excellent green for smoothies. They are slightly more bitter than spinach, but less bitter than kale. The leaves of collard greens are sturdy, so blending these up with a high power blender is ideal to ensure smooth sipping.
To offset any bitterness collard greens may add to your smoothie, we recommend blending them with flavorful fruits such as mango, pineapple, peaches, banana, or cherries. Collard on your mind? Here’s a recipe we love.
Dandelion greens are not well known, but get ready world, this powerhouse leafy green is one impressive veggie. One of the best sources of calcium and iron, dandelion greens are high in vitamin A and vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the iron they provide! Cleansing to the liver, these super greens are also a complete protein. Consuming dandelion greens may lower your risk of cancer and stroke. They also act as an anti-inflammatory and promote eye, heart, and lung health.
Dandelion greens are quite bitter, even more bitter than kale. However, their nutritional profile helps sweeten up this leafy green, figuratively speaking.
The bitter nature of dandelion greens make them ideal additions to smoothies containing very sweet and flavorful fruit. Try adding this nutritional punch to your kiwi, citrus, strawberry, or banana smoothies! Coconut water is also a great way to add some natural sweetness to more astringent greens, we know from experience.
Sips of Satisfaction
Getting in those greens doesn’t have to be a struggle! When you feel like ditching the fork, pick up a straw and drink them instead. With a plethora of options out there, each meal or snack represents an opportunity to practice self-love, creativity, and move you along on your health journey.
Get your daily dose of greens with GreenBlender. Pre-portioned ingredients and superfoods delivered right to your door. Learn more >>
Which Leafy Green Is More Nutritious: Spinach or Kale?
And better yet, which one should I put in my smoothie?
By Tessa Yannone· 6/6/2019, 2:34 p.m.
Photos via Getty Images/Arx0nt/Denira777
You know when you walk into Sweetgreen, and after waiting in an excessively long line, you’re asked which salad base you would prefer—spinach or kale—which one do you choose? Besides being a decision based solely on personal preference, registered dietitian Chloe Schweinshaut, founder of Riverside Nutrition based in Cambridge, says there are some differentiators between these leafy greens.
When you look at their nutritional makeup, kale has more calcium, vitamin K, and twice as much vitamin C as spinach, she explains. Spinach, however, has more iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate, and vitamins A and E. “Both are highly nutritious choices overall though,” she tells me. “As they are a great source of antioxidants, which are substances that can protect your cells from free radicals causing diseases like cancer.”
So when it comes down to which one you should incorporate into a salad, or throw in your smoothie, there are some factors that could sway your decision. “Raw kale has a more bitter taste as compared with spinach and it tends to take center stage in anything you put it in.” And prep-wise, kale can take a bit more time to prepare due to having to de-stem it and massage the leaves.
She says spinach is best in smoothies because it can be easily disguised with other ingredients like fruit, yogurt, and milk. “I prefer to use spinach in the recipes I really want to get the benefits of eating the green but don’t want to overpower the flavor of the dish.”
Kale, on the other hand, Schweinshaut says is great to incorporate into soups or let marinate in salad dressing a little longer. “Baked kale chips are also a go-to in my house as they are a great way to get some greens in, and my kids love them.”
But at the end of the day the best leafy green is the one that you are actually going to eat and enjoy. With that being said, there might be a few things you don’t know about these disease-fighting veggies, and which one might benefit certain populations more than others.
Generally speaking, Schweinshaut explains that women looking to conceive might want to load up their diets with a little more spinach due to its high content of iron and folate, two nutrients essential for fertility. And for vegans, or those who don’t get a lot of calcium from dairy sources, kale is a better option because of its higher content of calcium and vitamin K for bone health.
“Those who have issues with kidney stones may be told to limit spinach as it’s high in dietary oxalates,” Schweinshaut tells me. “Which are compounds that bind to calcium and prevent absorption, leading to kidney stone formation.” And if you are on a blood thinner medication, it’s important to keep your intake of leafy greens consistent because the medication will work against the vitamin K contained in them making your blood clot more slowly.
If you’re completely burnt out on kale and spinach though (don’t blame you), Schweinshaut offers other leafy greens like microgreens, collard greens, and beet greens. She explains that microgreens are the seeds of veggies and herbs and although they’re only a couple inches tall they pack more nutrients than their mature equivalents. Collards, are much like kale and beet greens shouldn’t be wasted when you’re cooking with, or eating, beets.
“Unlike most things in your diet you really can’t get enough vegetables,” Schweinshaut says. “It’s important to eat a mix of colors and varieties to ensure that you’re getting a diverse blend of vitamins and minerals.” All of this goes without saying that it’s really just important to eat the rainbow. And no, I don’t mean Skittles or the tiny little rainbow marshmallows in Lucky Charms.