I was an unusual child in that my favorite foods were vegetables. It probably helped that my parents had a big vegetable garden in the backyard, but even compared to my siblings, I loved veggies. My palate as an adult has expanded even more, and it’s never a chore to eat any type of green, even the bitter ones.
For most people, the journey into leafy greens begins with spinach. Yes, there’s lettuce, and so many varieties available. But, lettuce is still a pretty mild, easy-going green. You can drown it in ranch dressing or choose the watery, nearly flavorless iceberg.
Spinach is the next step up. I love a baby spinach salad with a creamy dressing. Something warm that just wilts the greens is perfect, like a freshly peeled hardboiled egg. Because it’s delicate in structure and flavor compared to other greens, I eat spinach raw or wilted only.
The next step up for many is kale. Kale went through a major renaissance in recent years and became the darling of all superfoods. It happened for good reason. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, B6, and K as well as several minerals. Each cup even has three grams of protein.
Kale is also great for beginner gardeners. It’s easy to grow, and it thrives in the cool weather of early spring and again in fall. The flavor can be a little intense for some, but when cooked, kale is rich and delicious.
Not many people will follow me to this next step. Collards are among the bitterest of the greens, but I adore them. I love the comfort of collards cooked down with onions, mushrooms, and a tasty vegetable broth. A little cream works wonders too. For meat eaters, I hear bacon fat is perfect with collards.
I also like collards for their large, smooth leaves, which make perfect alternatives to bread and tortilla. I love to make a rolled up sandwich or burrito with a collard leaf.
When I joined a CSA, or farm share, a few years ago, I discovered another world of greens. We got chard– gorgeous big leaves with candy-colored stems. We also got a lot of root vegetables with edible greens I had never considered eating.
To get the most out of my share, I started using the tops of turnips, beets, kohlrabi, and radishes. I even learned how to use carrot greens. Carrot tops work well in pesto and to make a vegetable stock.
Greens are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat, but they can be intimidating. They have a strong flavor profile and a lot of fiber. If you struggle to eat greens, keep trying. Sometimes it just takes the right recipe to win you over.