Know Your Greens

Know Your Greens

Arugula  Peppery arugula is also known as rugula or rocket. The older and larger the leaves, the more assertive the flavor. The leaves can be very gritty, so rinse them thoroughly. Arugula is served raw in salad mixes and adds a spicy, toasted flavor. Larger leaves may be cooked.

Baby Greens  Available in bags or in bulk at many supermarkets, this combination of very young, tender salad green is an Americanization of the French salad mix known as mesclun.

Beet Greens  Remove from beets as soon as possible to prevent wilting and tear leaves off thick stems. Beet greens taste very much like beets, are fairly tender and cook quickly by steaming, stir-frying or sautéing.

Belgian Endive  A member of the chicory family, Belgian endive is appreciated for its crisp texture and slightly bitter flavor. The leaves should be very white, graduating to pale yellow tips.

Bibb Lettuce  Also called limestone lettuce, it has cup-shaped leaves and is best with mild vinaigrettes.

Bok Choi  Classified as a cabbage, this Asian green looks quite distinct with large, dark green leaves and a white stalk. Bok choi has a unique, rich taste that is not spicy or bitter, and is chewy in texture. A great staple for stir-fries and other Asian dishes, it can be steamed or sautéed.

Boston Lettuce  A loose-leaf lettuce with tender floppy leaves, it is sometimes called butterhead or limestone lettuce.  It is known for its distinctive creamy flavor and crisp, crunchy texture. Great for salads.

Broccoli Rabe  A member of the mustard family, broccoli rabe has large, dark green leaves and a bitter and pungent taste. It may also have small heads that resemble broccoli and edible yellow flowers. Broccoli Rabe is a common vegetable in the cuisines of Southern Italy, Spain and China.

Chicory  It is also known as curly endive. Although chicory is an entire family of mildly bitter greens, Americans use the term to identify a dark green variety with fringed leaves.

Chinese Cabbage  A tightly formed head of white leaves with wide stalks.

Collard Greens  Collards resemble wide, flat cabbage leaves. Look for a deep green hue. Blanching quickly in simmering water prior to cooking in a recipe will help tone down any bitterness. Traditional in African-American cooking.

Dandelion Greens  Tart greens that make a pungetn addition to a salad. Some cooks gather the wild variety in the spring. Often used in Italian cuisine, dandelion greens provide a bitter undertone. The young greens will add a bite to your salad and the older ones can be tossed in with milder greens like kale in most recipes.

Escarole  Sharp-tasting escarole should have curly leaves with firm stems that snap easily.

Frisée  A delicate, pale green variety of chicory with curly, almost spiky leaves.

Iceberg Lettuce  A lettuce that is best appreciated for its refreshing crisp texture rather than for its mild flavor. Cut out the core before rinsing the leaves.

Kale  A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, and related to cabbage, kale may be the oldest known green. It comes in many varieties, all of which are usually not bitter when winter weather sweetens them up.

Komatsuna  A large, glossy, leafy green which is related to the turnip family and resembles bok choi. It can be steamed or sautéed but as it matures, Komatsuna will grow stronger and hotter in flavor.

Mache  Also called lamb's lettuce, this green has a nutty taste and tiny tender leaves. Use within one day as it wilts easily.

Mesclun  From the Provencal word for "mixture," true mesclun is made up of wild baby greens from the hillsides of southern France, and often includes herbs and edible flowers. Here, it is commonly a mix of sweet lettuces and bitter greens such as arugula, dandelion, frisée, mizuna, oak leaf, mache, sorrel and radicchio.

Mizuna  A small feathery, delicately flavored green of Japanese origin. It can be used in salads or added to other greens when sautéed or stir-fried.

Mustard Greens  Peppery, crispy mustard greens, also known as leaf mustards, are one of the most nutritious green leafy vegetables available in the winter months. A tough, spicy cruciferous green often used in Southern cooking but also a terrific flavor-booster when young leaves are added to a salad. Mustard greens come in red or green and the young red leaves can add a nice color to salads.

Napa Cabbage  Very similar to, and interchangeable with, Chinese cabbage, but shorter and rounder. Used in Chinese cooking.

Oak leaf  A variety of Boston lettuce with ruffled leaves. Green oak leaf is uniformly green, whereas red oak leaf has dark red tips.

Radicchio  The most common radicchio is round with white-veined ruby red leaves. Radicchio di Treviso has long, narrow red leaves that form a tapered head.

Radish Sprouts  Innocent-looking sprouts with tiny clover-shaped heads that pack a peppery punch.

Romaine  Its long, crisp, dark green leaves and slightly nutty flavor make romaine the preferred lettuce for Caesar salad.

Sorrel  A wild green with a terrific lemony taste. Young leaves liven up salads and more mature leaves add a lemony flavor when cooked. Since sorrel turns pea green when cooked, it won’t add much bright color. Add parsley to “green” up recipes using sorrel.

Spinach  Whether dark green and crinkled or flat, spinach needs to be washed thoroughly to remove all the grit. Baby spinach has very tender edible stems. Good raw or cooked, it may be substituted for many other greens in recipes, especially where color is important. Spinach cooks more quickly than tougher greens like beet, kale, chard or collards, and therefore, cooking times may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Sweet Potato Greens  They are edible! These greens taste similarly to spinach but with a smoother finish. Great steamed, sautéed or added to soups.

Swiss Chard  Tastes like beet greens, but comes in red and green varieties, with the red variety usually more tender. Separate the leaves and stem, and cook the tougher stems first. Large leaves are great for stuffing. Swiss chard can be used interchangeably with spinach or beet greens in most recipes.

Tat Soi  An Asian green with small, rounded leaves, which grow in a pattern resembling a rose. As such, they make great decorations. Not at all bitter, tat soi can be sautéed whole or with leaves separated, used in salads or added to stir-fries.

Turnip Greens  One of the heartier greens, somewhat spicy with an earthy turnip taste. Remove leaves from the stems and discard stems. Turnip greens can be used interchangeably with Swiss chard, kale or beet greens, depending on the other flavors in the recipe. If especially though, these greens may benefit from blanching before cooking.

Watercress  Watercress adds crisp texture and a mildly spicy flavor to salads. It is very perishable, so use within one or two days of purchase.

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