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What Are Green Vegetables?
Green vegetables are a subgroup of the vegetable food group—one of the five main food groups established by the USDA to promote healthy eating. Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into five subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Greens can be further separated into two categories:
20 Common Greens and How to Cook Them
- Kale: Kale is packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, and calcium, just to name a few—making it one of the world’s healthiest foods. Kale plants (related to the cabbage family) have hearty green or purple leaves and are grown for food, although some varieties are used for ornamental purposes. Kale leaves can be sliced into ribbons and enjoyed raw in a salad, cooked with pastas, and baked into healthy chips in the oven. Learn more about kale here.
- Collard Greens: Collards are members of the cabbage family and a staple side dish in Southern cooking. They feature dark green leaves and tough stems that need to be removed before eating. While collard greens have traditionally been used for heartier Southern dishes, these nutritious greens have made their way into health food diets: shredded raw in salads, steamed, and even used as gluten-free wraps. Learn more about collard greens here.
- Chicory: Chicories are a family of hardy and bitter-flavored leafy vegetables that are closely related to lettuce and come into season in the late fall. Looking more like flower petals than your average salad greens, they range from firm, pale yellow endive petals to magenta-speckled radicchio leaves and wildly frizzy frisée. In salads, they pair well with rich cheeses, nuts, and fruits—but their hardiness also lends themselves to sautéed and roasted applications. Chicory is a rich source of inulin, a type of water-soluble fiber that has been linked to increased weight loss and improved gut health. Learn more about chicory here.
- Swiss Chard: One of the most eye-catching greens in the farmers' market are the colorful stems of rainbow chard. You can spot Swiss chard in the bunch by looking for white or ruby red stems. It can be prepared many ways—the leaves can be cut into ribbons and dressed raw in a salad, sautéed along with the stems, or braised in a stew. Swiss chard is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidants. Learn more about chard here.
- Romaine Lettuce: Romaine lettuce is a type of head lettuce that is typically green with elongated leaves. Known for its mild flavor and crisp texture, it has sturdy leaves that make it more tolerant to heat than other lettuce varieties. It is most commonly used as a salad green, although it can also be grilled and sautéed. Romaine is a heart-healthy green leaf with vitamin C and beta-carotene working together to prevent cholesterol build-up. Learn more about romaine lettuce here.
- Butter Lettuce: Butter lettuce is a type of lettuce that includes Bibb lettuce and Boston lettuce. It's known for loose, round-shaped heads of tender, sweet leaves and a mild flavor. The sweet, tender leaves of butter lettuce make for simple everyday salad greens, but can also be transformed into an edible vessel for low-carb meals—think tacos or Korean grilled beef lettuce wraps. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and iron, which help fortify bones and fight off inflammatory diseases. Learn more about butter lettuce here.
- Arugula: Arugula, also known as rocket, roquette, or rucola, is an edible plant in the brassica family along with cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collard greens. Peppery arugula—also known as rocket—has a bold flavor despite its delicate leafy green appearance. It has a distinctive flavor that makes everything delicious: as a nutritious base for salad, piled onto a freshly baked pizza, or made into pesto. Arugula is low in sugar, calories, carbohydrates, and fat, and rich in nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and folate. Learn more about arugula here.
- Iceberg Lettuce: Iceberg lettuce, also called crisphead lettuce is pale green and ball-shaped in appearance. It gives a refreshing crunch to salads, tucks perfectly into juicy burgers, and makes deliciously crisp lettuce wraps. Iceberg is widely used in restaurants and grocery stores because of its long shelf life. Each serving of lettuce is only 12.5 calories and provides small amounts of dietary fiber, protein, and other vitamins and minerals, including B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K, as well as minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
- Spinach: Spinach is a green, leafy vegetable commonly eaten around the world. Spinach leaves are an impressively healthy leafy green, packed with vitamins and protein. At just seven calories a cup, eating spinach is a great way to get essential nutrients in your diet without any guilt. This versatile leafy green that it can be served alone, raw or cooked, or it can be incorporated into nearly any dish to add a punch of nutrition. Try Wolfgang Puck’s Creamed Spinach recipe here.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is an edible bright green or purple plant with a flowering head, sturdy stalk, and nutrient-dense leaves. Broccoli can be eaten in its entirety and prepared in a myriad of ways: raw, roasted, steamed, sautéed, and even battered and fried. According to the USDA, the health benefits of broccoli—like vitamin K—can be found in every edible part of the raw plant, even in the stems. Broccoli boasts a wealth of nutrients which are credited with improving overall health proactively or combatively. Learn more about broccoli here.
- Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family, grown for its edible buds. The vegetables are typically 1- to 1 ½-inch in diameter and look like tiny cabbages. Roasted, shaved, grilled, sautéed—there are endless ways to cook with brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin K as well as dietary fiber, potassium, and many other nutrients.
- Bok Choy: Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that has dark-green leaves and a thick stem that make a great addition to Asian stir-fries, soups, and stews. Bok choy contains selenium, which plays an important role in cognitive function, immunity, and cancer prevention.
- Watercress: Watercress is a small plant with delicate leaves grown in natural spring water. Part of the same family as kale and broccoli, watercress is rich in vitamins A, C, B6, as well as fiber, potassium, and calcium. The taste of watercress is potent, with a peppery spiciness that makes a great addition to salads.
- Ramps: Ramps, or wild leeks, are a member of the allium species, along spring onions and scallions. Ramps have long green leaves, small white bulbs, and a uniquely garlicky flavor. Whether sautéed with mushrooms in olive oil, scrambled with eggs, or charred on the grill, they impart a subtle onion flavor that elevates any dish. Ramps also contain a large amount of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and selenium. Learn how to pickle and grill with ramps here.
- Cabbage: Cabbage heads are made of thick, tightly packed leaves that come in green, white, and purple colors. It belongs to the same family as brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli. Use it in salads and slaws, stir-fry it, or slow cook it to bring out its sweet flavors. Cabbage is rich in vitamin K, C, B6, and an excellent source of dietary fiber. Find our cabbage sauerkraut recipe here.
- Asparagus: Asparagus, the green vegetable known for its slender spears, is often one of the early signs of spring. The vegetable’s bright, earthy flavor is only one reason to love it. It’s also prized for its health benefits and diuretic properties. Asparagus can be served hot, cold, raw, or cooked. It makes a great addition into soups, salads, casseroles, and stir-fries, but it can be enjoyed simply on its own. Try Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for sautéed asparagus here.
- Artichokes: The globe artichoke, also known as green artichoke, is a variety of the thistle species cultivated as a food. The budding artichoke flower head is a cluster of many budding small flowers and leaves on an edible base. One of the most popular ways to eat artichoke is steamed with the leaves dipped in melted butter. They can also be shaved and eaten raw (using baby artichokes), grilled, stuffed, and braised. Artichokes are low in fat while rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Learn more about artichokes here.
- Beet Greens: When you’re trimming the green leafy tops off a bunch of beets—don’t toss them away. Beet greens and stems are edible and make a great substitute for spinach and chard. They can be enjoyed steam, sautéed, braised, and raw. Just one cup of beet greens contains 220 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 37 percent of the daily value for potassium, and 17 percent of the daily value for fiber.
- Mustard Greens: Mustard greens are a member of the cabbage family and look similar to kale, but pack a peppery punch. They are a staple in Southern and Chinese cuisine and often served pickled, wilted, braised, and sautéed. Mustard greens boast high levels of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as folate and manganese.
- Turnip Greens: Turnip greens are the leaves of the turnip plant, which is similar to beetroot. These leafy greens pack more nutrients than the turnip itself, including calcium, manganese, folate, and vitamins A, C and K. They have a spicy flavor and are often enjoyed cooked rather than raw. Turnip greens can be used as a substitute for kale or spinach in most recipes.
How Important Are Greens to a Healthy Diet?
Green vegetables are a rich source of vitamins (such as vitamins A, C, and K and folate) and minerals (such as iron, manganese, and calcium). They’re also great sources of fiber. Research studies show that the nutrients found in green vegetables may help prevent certain types of cancers and promote a healthy heart. The current USDA Food Pyramid recommends that adults should aim to eat 3 cups of dark green vegetables per week, but nutritional experts recommend at least 5 to 9 servings a day.
Chef Thomas Keller's Braised Greens Recipe
- 1000 grams Swiss chard
- 1000 grams collard greens
- 100 grams canola oil
- 500 grams yellow onion, ½-inch dice
- 10 grams kosher salt
- 40 grams garlic, minced
- 300 grams bacon lardons, ½-inch dice
- 200 apple cider vinegar
- 100 sugar
- 500 grams chicken stock, plus more as needed
- 300 grams cherry tomatoes, halved
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Salad spinner
- Rondeau or large pot with lid
- Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
- Serving vessel or airtight container (for storage)
- Trim the stems of the Swiss chard and collard greens and cut the leaves into 1 ½-inch pieces. Wash the greens well and then dry in a salad spinner.
- Heat a rondeau or large pot over medium heat and add the canola oil. Once the canola oil starts to shimmer, add the bacon lardons, onions, and kosher salt and sweat until the onions are soft and translucent and the bacon has rendered. You do not want to brown the onions. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and apple cider vinegar, stir to incorporate, and continue to reduce until a syrupy consistency is achieved. Add 500 grams of chicken stock and the greens. You will have to add the greens gradually as they wilt down. Once all the greens are in the rondeau, cover and continue to simmer over low heat, checking every 15 minutes to add chicken stock as needed.
- The cooking process should take about 2 hours or until greens are very tender. Add chicken stock as needed to continue to braise. Once greens are very tender, remove from heat, and season with kosher salt and apple cider vinegar to taste. Fold in the halved cherry tomatoes and serve.
Become a better home cook with culinary tips and tricks from Chef Thomas Keller’s MasterClass.