Cooking Greens

Cooking Greens

Cooking greens = leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses that are usually sautéed or steamed. Some recipes call for them to be boiled, but doing so leaches out a lot of nutrients and can turn the greens mushy through overcooking.


Store uncooked greens in the crisper section of your refrigerator for up to five days. Remove any thick stalks before cooking.

beet greens
beet greens
Like their close relative, Swiss chard, beet greens have lots of flavor and a good, sturdy texture. The best ones are young and tender, and sometimes come with small beets attached.
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bok choy, baak choi, baby bok choy, bai cai, bok choy sum, Canton bok choy
bok choy
Bok choy has crunchy stems and crinkled, spinach-like leaves. It's usually stir-fried with other ingredients, but it can also be steamed or sautéed and served as a side dish. Small heads of bok choy are called baby bok choy (left), and they're more tender than the larger variety. Of the baby bok choys, bok choy sum = Canton bok choy has small yellow flowers (sum is the Chinese word for flower), while Shanghai bok choy is a uniform light green, doesn't have flowers, and isn't as sweet.
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broccoli raab, broccoli de rabe, broccoli de rape, broccolirab
broccoli raab
This slightly bitter cooking green has long been popular in Italy and is now catching on in America. It's best to just eat the florets and leaves; the stems are quite bitter.
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callaloo, bhaji, calalou, callau, callilu, elephant's ear, sag, sagaloo
callaloo
These huge leaves are about a foot and a half long, and they're a popular vegetable among Pacific islanders and some Asians. Many Western cooks steer clear of them, though, since they must be cooked for at least 45 minutes to an hour to rid them of calcium oxalate, a toxin that irritates the throat if swallowed.
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celtuce, asparagus lettuce, celery lettuce, Chinese lettuce, stem lettuce, wosun
celtuce
This is a kind of lettuce that's grown for its stalk, which can be peeled, sliced, and stir-fried. Look for it in Asian markets.
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Chinese broccoli, Chinese kale, gai lan, gai lum, kai lan
Chinese broccoli
Like rapini, Chinese broccoli has small stems and green heads (which actually are flowers) and lots of leaves. But Chinese broccoli is leafier and less bitter than rapini. It's a great vegetable to stir-fry, but you can also steam or boil it, as you would broccoli.
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Chinese spinach, amaranth, een choy, hiyu, hon-toi-moi, hsien tsai
Chinese spinach
This is similar to spinach, only it's prettier, tastier, and more nutritious. Look for it in Asian markets.
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choy sum, cai xin, Chinese flowering cabbage, choi sum
choy sum
This is a general term in Chinese for the tender inner stalks and flowers of green vegetables. White choy sum usually refers to bok choy, while green choy sum refers to yau choy.
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chrysanthemum leaves, chop suey greens, garland chrysanthemum, shungiku
chrysanthemum leaves
This Asian potherb is used to flavor salads, soups, sukiyaki and other dishes. The leaves are usually blanched briefly to soften them and deepen their color, but young leaves can be served raw. Add them to cooked dishes at the last minute, as they become bitter if overcooked. Some people may have an alergic reaction to chrysanthemum leaves.
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collard greens, collards, couve, dark cabbage, raštika
collard greens
This is a favorite of Southern cooks, who often cook them with salt pork or smoked ham hocks. Frozen collards are an acceptable substitute for fresh.
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flowering kale, flowering cabbage, flowering cole, ornamental kale
flowering kale
This is a beautiful cabbage used more often as a garnish than as a vegetable.
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gai choy, Chinese mustard cabbage, Chinese mustard greens, Indian mustard
gai choy
Asian cooks like to pickle this, or else use it in soups or stir-fries. If you find gai choy too pungent to stir-fry, blanch it first in salted water.
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jute leaf, Jew mallow, krin-krin, rau day, saluyot, West Africa sorrel
jute leaf
These are tossed into stews in Africa, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia.
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kale, black cabbage, borecole, cow cabbage, curly kale, dinosaur kale, kail
kale
Kale is a kind of cabbage with dark green, wrinkled leaves. It's prized more for its hardiness than its flavor or delicacy, but it continues to be popular in the South, where it's often cooked as a side dish. Remove and discard the tough center stalks before cooking. Varieties include curly kale, dinosaur kale = black cabbage = lacinato kale, and the popular Red Russian kale = ragged jack kale.
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kohlrabi, cabbage turnip, German turnip, stem cabbage, turnip cabbage
kohlrabi
A kohlrabi resembles a turnip, only it's sweeter and more delicately flavored. It's light green and sometimes sold with its edible greens attached. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Choose small ones, and peel before using.
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kohlrabi greens
kohlrabi greens
These can be cooked just like Swiss chard. Remove the stems first if they're too thick.
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kontomire, African spinach
kontomire
This African green is very hard to find fresh in the United States, and the canned version is terrible.
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Malabar spinach, alogbati, Basella alba, Ceylon spinach, mong toi, saan choy
Malabar spinach
This is cooked much like spinach, but it's a bit slimy like okra. It occasionally shows up in Asian markets
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mustard greens, curled mustard
mustard greens
These are more popular in the South than in the rest of the country. There are red and green varieties, and both have a peppery bite. If the greens are too pungent for your taste, you can tame them by blanching them in salted water.
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nettles, nettle leaves
nettles
Nettles have long been used in Europe as a substitute for spinach or kale, but they're tricky to use. The tips contain formic acid, a nasty irritant that can give you a serious rash on the outside and cause even more damage on the inside. You can remove the formic acid by cooking and/or soaking the nettles, but don't try this unless you know what you're doing. If you're harvesting your own nettle leaves, select young ones.
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purslane, duckweed, little hogweed, verdolaga
purslane
Hispanic cooks especially like these crunchy, mild tasting greens. You can use them raw in salads, or cook them as a side dish. Look for them in Hispanic markets.
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radish greens
radish greens
These have a peppery flavor, and they're great raw in salads and sandwiches, or you can cook them as you would other leafy greens. The leaves are fairly pungent, though, so a little goes a long way. The greens from young plants are best.
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sorrel, common sorrel, dock, garden sorrel, rosella, sour dock, sour grass
sorrel
This sour herb is quite popular in France. They like to cook it briefly and make a purée out of it, which they ladle over eggs, fish, meat, and other dishes. It can also be served raw in salads.
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spinach, curly leaf spinach, flat leaf spinach, salad spinach
spinach
Spinach is packed with nutrients, and it's quite versatile. You can toss it raw into salads, or cook it briefly to make a side dish or soup. Of the two main varieties, smooth leaf spinach = flat leaf spinach = salad spinach is more delicate and better suited to salads than curly leaf spinach. Look for spinach with small, narrow stems--they're younger and more tender. And always use fresh spinach if you can; it's much more palatable than frozen or canned spinach.
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Swiss chard, chard, green chard, leaf beet, perpetual spinach, Red chard
Swiss chard
Swiss chard is used much like spinach, except that it has an appealing beet-like flavor and a heavier texture, which requires longer cooking. Many cooks simply sauté it in olive oil and serve it as a side dish. Red chard = rhubarb chard = ruby chard, with green leaves and red stalks, is slightly more tender and flavorful than white chard = green chard, with white stalks and green leaves, but the two are interchangeable in most recipes.
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turnip greens, Hanover greens, turnip salad, turnip tops
turnip greens
A staple of Southern cuisine, turnips greens are traditionally served with salt pork or ham hocks. The leaves are pungent and slightly bitter, especially older ones, but they become milder when cooked. Don't prepare them with aluminum cookware, as it will affect their flavor and appearance.
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water spinach, Chinese spinach, kangkong, long green, ong choy, swamp spinach
water spinach
This cooking green is very common in the Philippines. Some varieties have purple stems.
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yau choy, edible rape, flowering edible rape, green choy sum, yao choy
yau choy
Yau choy is more tender and delicately flavored than other Asian cabbages.
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