A Glossary of Winter Greens
Closely related to chard, beet greens have smooth, thin leaves and an earthy flavor.
Broccoli rabe has long, slender, sometimes tough stems with dark green, rippled leaves. The bright yellow flowers are also edible.
A favorite in the American South, collard greens have large, thick, dark green leaves, each branching from a thick central stem. Their flavor is mild, but the tough texture calls for long cooking.
Although unwelcome on most lawns, the pale green, sharply saw-toothed leaves of the dandelion have a pleasantly bitter flavor. The larger and older the leaves, the stronger and tougher they will be. Dandelion cultivated specifically for eating grows longer leaves and is more tender than its wild cousin. (Do not pick greens from lawns that have been treated with chemicals or from busy roadsides.)
Also known as Belgian endive or witloof, this member of the chicory family is widely grown in Belgium, the principal source of the endive sold in North American markets. It relies on a painstaking, nonmechanized cultivation method (the reason for its high price) that calls for forcing chicory roots to sprout in a darkened, humid room. This yields small, white (or sometimes red-tipped), tightly furled, bullet-shaped heads.
A slightly bitter member of the chicory family with broad, ruffled leaves, escarole can be eaten cooked or raw.
A member of the cabbage family, kale has firm, tightly crinkled leaves on long stems. Sturdy kale is dark green in color, with an earthy flavor similar to cabbage; it holds its texture well in cooking.
Light green with hints of yellow, mustard greens come in different varieties that range in size, shape and sharpness. Large-leafed mustards tend to be sweeter than those loosely formed into heads, which have a pungent bite. Small, curled mustards have the hottest, spiciest flavor.
With delicate, triangular leaves, sorrel has a strongly tart flavor similar to that of rhubarb. The paler the leaves, the more delicate the flavor. Sorrel discolors with cooking, but it lends a bright, pleasantly sour flavor when pureed into soups and sauces.
Spinach has dark green leaves and an earthy, faintly bitter flavor. Several varieties are available: Some have thick, crinkled leaves, while others are smooth and flat. Small, immature leaves, marketed as baby spinach, are sold in bulk in many markets and are an excellent salad green.
Also known as chard, this green has large, crinkled leaves on fleshy, ribbed stems. There are two varieties: one with red stems and another with pearly white stems. Red chard, also marketed as rhubarb or ruby chard, has a slightly earthier flavor, while chard with white stems tends to be sweeter.
Among the most assertive of the dark greens, turnip greens are rarely eaten raw. They boast rich flavor when slowly braised and are often mixed with collard and mustard greens.
A member of the mustard family, watercress has small, smooth, deep green leaves and a refreshingly peppery flavor. It grows in cool running water.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)