In association with our friends from Willo
Green leafy vegetables are dietary powerhouses. They can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They can also taste amazing in or on top of delicately dressed salads, simmered stews, casseroles, quick stir fries; the possibilities continue. To help you decide what to cook when you’re looking at a green grocery store wall, farmer’s market table, or CSA box: a pocket guide to our seven most loved veggies, with tips on working with them and recipes to Try now.
A WORD ABOUT SUPPLY
When it comes to vegetables, as with all foods, stocking is important. Before washing, preparing and cooking, do some informed shopping. While you can find most of the veggies on our list in grocery stores, it’s fun to browse the specialty varieties at farmers markets or through the CSA boxes.
If you are looking for a greens experience that is truly exceptional, WilloA sustainable minded vertical farming service is for you. The company was founded with the right goals to help end hunger, make agriculture more sustainable, and provide nutrient-rich products to support people’s overall health. Its vertical farming technology enables high efficiency: crops grown without soil and with little water, illuminated by LED lights, with the potential to provide more than 200 times more food per acre than traditional agriculture. It also provides full customization. You can manage your own field within Willo’s vertical farm, choose your crops, and monitor their growth through an app on your phone. Once harvested, they are delivered to you weekly or biweekly so you can have the freshest, most nutritious, and delicious veggies as often as you like.
There are some options you already know and love, like spinach and kale; some less common types, such as mizuna and poplar turnip greens; and some options that Willo himself has cultivated. Willo Genovese basil is based on a variety that has been nearly impossible to grow outside of Northern Italy (and was too brittle to import). Willo was able to recreate the growing climate that this incredibly special herb needs in order to be able to grow and enjoy it all year round. Willo’s next farm will launch later this fall, and it recently opened its membership to include most of the major metropolitan areas.
We all remember the great kale boom of the 2010s. Kale is now widely known and several varieties are available in most stores. (The ones we use the most are kale, lacinato, and red kale.) Like most hearty vegetables, kale can take a lot of cooking. And while its flavor is strong and skews slightly bitter, it pairs well with other ingredients, especially bold and spicy like garlic, chili peppers, and vinegar. You can cook it fast and hot, simmer it and simmer it, add it to stews, or grill or grill it to make it crisp and charred.
Kale can taste great when used raw, and that tough texture makes it a salad that can last for hours, if not days, after dressing. It just takes a little preparation so it doesn’t taste like fiber. Simply massage the kale with a little olive oil and let it sit for ten minutes to soften a bit before assembling and dressing the rest of the salad. If you don’t have time for that, cut it into thin slices, almost like cheesecloth, so it really soaks up the dressing and is more pleasant to chew on.
One way to avoid preparing for using raw kale in salads: Opt for baby kale. It is the same plant, freshly harvested before, so the younger leaves are smaller and the texture is much more tender. Use it as you would arugula or spring mix.
Spinach is one of the most popular vegetables in the world. It has a mild flavor, is easy to prepare, and can go with just about anything. Ripe spinach leaves are larger and heavier, with a slightly earthier flavor, and usually come with attached stems. These can be blanched, steamed, sautéed, or simmered in soups and stews. Just make sure you wash them well and remove all the dirt. Baby spinach is usually better for salads because it comes without sand and with smaller, more tender leaves. Because baby spinach has a mild flavor, it is almost imperceptible in smoothies.
If you’ve never had chard before, it’s somewhere between kale and spinach. It is not as stringy as kale, but certainly tougher than spinach. Which makes it perfect for applications that could be in the middle, when you need something delicate and tough at the same time. However, unlike kale, its stems are tasty and nutritious and can be added along with the leaves to whatever you are cooking. Or cut them up and pickle them for later. If you can find tender chard, it is delicious in salads. We prefer to cook chard fully grown, even very gently. Try it sauteed, sauteed, or steamed.
It may be common in grocery stores, but when you take a minute to think about it, arugula is pretty impressive. It has a delicate texture and a robust, tangy flavor – a satisfying juxtaposition. Arugula in salad mixes is a favorite, in part because it complements other types of vegetables. That spicy flavor makes it a natural topping with plenty of cooked items like pumpkin or grains, or when added to pasta and pizzas at the last minute to gently wilt. It’s also a credible basil substitute for pesto.
When we think of collard greens, we generally think of them as a southern American staple, with a culinary tradition that originated with enslaved people from Africa. This method generally involves cooking the collard greens over low, low heat, with aromatics, such as onion and garlic, and cured meat, such as bacon or ham hocks. That long cooking time not only tenderizes the veggies, but brings out a subtle minerality along with that earthiness. It’s worth the wait. There are also many other ways you can use collard greens. The texture is smoother than kale, but many of the same cooking instructions apply. We have also had success using cabbage leaves as wraps and fermenting them.
Bok choy is one of the easiest vegetables to love. And if you are new to Chinese cooking, this is a wonderful ingredient to start with. It is crisp, refreshing, and slightly sweet with a clean finish. It’s just as delicious raw in a salad as it is stir-fried, grilled, or roasted. Baby bok choy is a smaller variety that is widely available, but other varieties are also gaining popularity in Western grocery stores. Sizes vary, along with the stem-to-leaf ratio, but they are all tasty and fun to play with.
If you like arugula, you will probably like mizuna. It is a little less spicy with bright citrus notes. The texture is somewhat similar to the frisée, with bushy tips and long, tender stems. Mizuna is great for salads and is often used cooked or fermented in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Cook it quick and hot in a wok or add a handful to the soup just before serving.