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A Visual Guide To Leafy Greens: How To Cook And Store Them

by Colleen Rush: You know all about kale, the dark, hearty green making its way onto every menu and “kale yeah” shirt…


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 (and 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) these nutrient-packed leafy greens.

Types of greens



You’ll find this 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. It’s also such a win on flatbreads and pizza. It’sloaded with vitamin K, necessary for strong bones.Trusted Source

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.”

Beet greens

Beet Greens

The next time you’re wondering if you should keep those stems? The answer is YES. 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 Dijon mustard-based vinaigrette.

Or try this beet risotto with goat cheese and beet greens (that uses one pan!).

Bok choy

Bok Choy

Who doesn’t love adding small baby bok choy to a wok for a better-than-restaurant-quality Asian-style stir-fry? Or check it out grilled.

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 chop into smaller pieces, just like you would with chard or kale.


Cabbage, a leafy green vegetable

More than just fodder for questionable diet soups, cabbage is a versatile way to pack some density into dishes. Cabbage has long been a staple of diets around the world for its nutrients, availability in winter, and affordability.

Cabbage rocks magnesium, potassium, folate, lots of vitamins, and even sulforaphane, which may help prevent cancer.Trusted Source

Try cabbage in deconstructed egg rolls, ideal for party munching.

Collard greens

Collard Greens

Similar to Mr. Popular (kale) in heft and nutrition, collards have a more assertive, slightly bitter flavor and a chewier texture. They’ve got vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and lots of vitamin K going for them, too.

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.

Plus, you’ll berolling in fiber — just 2 raw cups delivers 12 percent of your daily recs which is helpful in weight control, wellness, and healthy aging.Trusted Source



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 is a powerhouse for nutrients and low in calories (like all of these greens!). Think fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins C and K.

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.

Mustard greens

Mustard Greens

These greens have a spicy, peppery kick that pairs well with acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice, when cooked. They also have a huge boost of antioxidant power in the form of vitamin A.Trusted Source

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.

Romaine lettuce

Romaine Lettuce

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.) Sturdy romaine leaves pack the alphabet in nutrients.

Think beyond the salad bowl and use hearty romaine 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 green smoothies).

Swiss chard

Swiss Chard

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.

Don’t discount it on the nutrient front, either. Swiss chard is another antioxidant superhero, fighting free radicals by day and diseases by night.Trusted Source

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?

Turnip greens

Turnip Greens

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.


Watercress, a leafy green vegetable

Another peppery, slightly spicy green that needs more love is watercress. The Brits have been pairing this leaf with egg in their famous egg and ‘cress sandwiches for ages. They must be on to something.

Is it healthy? Get ready for this: It was ranked at the top of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables list.

If you’re wanting to get fancy with ‘cress, try a chilled watercress and potato soup or a watermelon salad with goat Cheese, watercress, and mint. We’re ready to serve the red carpet.

Source: Greatist


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