Try Growing These Great Leafy Greens – 5 Types!

Try Growing These Great Leafy Greens – 5 Types!

Let’s take a look at some common and not-so-common leafy greens:

Staple Greens

Edible leaves from common veggies

Leafy, edible “weeds”

International greens

Leafy green herbs

Leafy greens
Gathering up leafy greens in a basket gives you a chance to appreciate the variety of green shades as well as leaf shapes! Loosely clockwise from the left are: narrow leaf plantain, fennel, pigweed, kale, borage, and lemon balm, plus a radish with edible leaves.

Staple greens are greens that are easy to grow and produce over a long season, perhaps even 2 or 3 seasons, yielding many meals from one planting. 

Staple greens are time- and cost-effective, making them a good value for your investment of space, labor, and water. 

Staple greens are versatile. Their flavors make them popular for everyday use in a wide range of recipes.

For specific growing instructions, read the seed packet. You will find all the important info in regards to best time to plant, how long you can expect to wait until harvest, whether the plants are winter hardy, and more!

Staple leafy greens to consider besides lettuce

  • Swiss chard, a short-lived perennial (meaning you might get 2 or even 3 seasons of harvests)
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage

Swiss chard, spinach, and kale invite repeated harvests from individual plants. Simply cut a few leaves and leave the topmost point of the plant to grow and produce more leaves for you.

Cabbage is a one-time harvest but is a substantial ingredient. A single head of cabbage can be made into an entire quart of sauerkraut or used over the course of multiple meals. Cabbage also stores well in the fridge, wrapped in a paper towel and placed in a plastic bag, as do all staple greens, but cabbage has the longest “shelf life” in the fridge.

Most people eat the radish and toss the tops. Radish leaves are edible and delicious sautéed on their own or with other greens. The prickly hairs dissolve when cooked!

Try edible leaves from common veggies

Expand your definition of edible greens. Some of the plants you already grow in your garden offer edible leaves. Some, like radish leaves, are best cooked to neutralize their tiny prickles. All should be picked while young and tender and their color a light, vibrant green.

  • Radish and beet leaves
  • Kohlrabi and broccoli leaves
  • Young carrot tops
  • Nasturtium leaves
  • Pea shoots

leafy greens: narrowleaf plantain
This narrow leaf plantain pops up unannounced, but that is fine with me! It is edible as well as being a useful home remedy. For eating, look for leaves the are in good condition, a light, vibrant green in color, and still shiny. Older plantain leaves will be deeper green and will have lost their shine. Older plantain leaves are fibrous and less sweet.

Instead of “weeding,” try eating!

Have you stopped to consider that some (not all) of the “weeds” you labor to pull from your garden might actually be edible? Not only edible, but delicious and nutritious! The wild greens listed below are common in many places. It is important to correctly identify any wild plant before eating it.

  • Purslane (crisp, succulent texture with bright, lemony taste)
  • Dandelion (pick leaves young when mildly bitter)
  • Pigweed (neutral taste)
  • Plantain (very mild)
Leafy greens: red dragon cabbage
This Red Dragon Chinese cabbage is a masterpiece of color that looks majestic in a salad bowl. Its mild texture is good raw or cooked. Find seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

Experience international flavors

Seed companies and seed exchanges offer edible leafy greens from around the world. A virtual cornucopia awaits you with a vast array of leaf shapes, colors, and flavors to jazz up your meals.

  • Asian cabbages and bok choy (very mild cabbage flavor)
  • Mustard (zesty)
  • Tong Ho, edible chrysanthemum (both leaves and flowers are edible with a savory flavor)

Leafy green herbs add interest and flavor

If you have a variety of culinary herbs in your yard, garden, or in pots, you are ahead of the curve.

  • Borage (cool-tasting leaves plus star-shaped flowers that taste like cucumber)
  • Lemon balm (lemony)
  • Mints (so many flavors to choose from!)
  • Italian parsley (refreshing)
  • Fennel (ferny leaves with mild anise flavor)
lemon balm
Lush lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, is easy to grow in full or part-sun and average soil. It spreads readily in some places, so you may prefer to grow it in in a pot. The lemony leaves are most pleasant in the spring, before the heat of summer toughens the leaves, but if you missed the spring harvest window, more mature leaves may be rolled up into a cigar and cut into ribbons to make them more tender.
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