By Bonnie L. Grant
It’s not often that we eat plant leaves, but in the case of greens, they provide a wide range of flavor and a nutrient punch. What are greens? Leafy garden greens are more than lettuce. The types of garden greens range from the tops of edible roots, like turnips and beets, to ornamental plants, like kale and chard. Growing greens is easy and increases the diversity in your diet.
What are Greens?
Greens are cool season crops suitable for spring or fall. They are the foliage and leaves of edible plants. Greens are an important part of your salad, but some of the more rustic varieties make excellent cooked vegetables too.
Greens have an important place in the history of the American diet. They have often been discarded or considered less valuable where a root crop was involved, so farm laborers developed innovative methods of cooking these cast off leaves and created delicious and nutritious dishes.
Types of Garden Greens
There is a wide array of garden greens. Some examples of those eaten fresh and raw are:
Leafy garden greens that are better when cooked include:
There are also greens which are good raw but can also be cooked, such as arugula and Swiss chard. In addition to more common greens, there are wild greens in cultivation as part of salad blends and Asian greens that provide unique and fun additions to your culinary roster.
Learn what to do with greens in the garden and add gourmet leafy garden greens to your vegetable crisper.
Plant your green seeds in well-drained soil during early spring or late summer. Fall crops are sown three months before the first expected frost.
Choose a location in full but indirect sun. Cover seeds with ¼ to ½ inch of well-worked soil. Leafy garden greens require even moisture and consistent weed removal.
Some greens may be harvested when small or cut back for a “cut and come again” second harvest. Escarole and endive are blanched by covering the row for three days. Other greens are best harvested at mature size. All greens are best when they are harvested before hot, dry weather arrives.
What to Do With Greens in the Garden
How you use your greens depends on the variety. Heavy, thick leaves are more palatable when you remove the ribs. All greens should be washed and drained well before use.
The types of garden greens that are cooked can be cut and stir-fried, poached or cooked down slowly in a savory broth known as “Pot Licker.”
Small leaved greens mixed together add punch to salads, and peppery arugula is amazing as a pesto.
As with most vegetables, the quicker you cook leafy garden greens, the more nutrients they retain.