Lots o’ Leafy Greens

Lots o’ Leafy Greens

We grow a lot of different greens at our farm, and many of them can be used interchangeably. This resource is your guide to understanding the subtle differences between the dark leafy greens we grow on our farm and to help you learn to prepare them in ways you love. 

This resource provides information on (and tips for cooking with) kale, chard, collards, brussellini, spinach and turnip greens, or what we consider our staple greens. 

We do have another resource on greens called Amazing Asian Greens which provides information (and cooking tips for) Napa cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi, komatsuna, and Tokyo bekana. For more information on cooking with beet greens and carrots tops, check out the Bountiful Beets and Colorful Carrots veggie guides.

What we grow 

The staple greens crops we grow at our farm are:

  • Green kale: the standard curly green kale many people are familiar with.
  • Lacinato kale: a variety of kale with a rounder, flatter leaf that is dark green (almost blue) in color. It is also known as Tuscan, dinosaur, or black kale. 
  • Red and White Russian kales: a hardy, tender leaf variety of kale with purple veins and blue-green leaves.
  • Swiss chard: a beautiful leafy green available throughout summer with white or colorful stalks and veins. It is related to beets and spinach with a similar flavor to spinach or beet greens. Many people think red chard is rhubarb! It can be used in quiche but not in a sweet pie! 
  • Collards: a dark leafy green in the brassica family (aka related to kale, cabbage, and broccoli). It has a broad, round leaf with an almost waxy texture, and tastes quite sweet raw. Very popular in the American South and my kids favorite green for making baked chips. 
  • Brussellini: brusselini is what we call the top leaves of Brussels sprouts, which are customarily removed in early fall to help the Brussels sprouts grow larger. Some years we save them to eat and share with our customers. They can be used just like collards or kale which are in the same family of greens and have a very similar texture and flavor.
  • Spinach: we grow a lot of amazing spinach on our farm and it is very plentiful in the spring and fall. 
  • Turnip greens: we often give the dark leafy green tops of salad turnips along with the roots. They are a nutritional powerhouse and best eaten cooked rather than raw (although sliced into ribbons they are great in a slaw). We only grow smooth leafed turnips so the leaves tend to be small and mild. 

Seasonality

Farmers market customers and CSA members should expect regular delivery of staple greens especially in the early and later seasons. 

Kale and Swiss chard will be at market for many weeks throughout the growing season. We have kale varieties that begin in May and continue to produce as late as December. Chard has a slightly shorter but similar season whereas Collards and brusselini are fall only vegetables. Kale is included monthly in summer CSA shares, and more regularly in spring and fall; members can expect to receive chard, collards and brusselini 2-3 times each a season.

Spinach will be at market during the cooler months (from late March to early June in spring, and September to New Year in the fall). We try to include it in the main season CSA boxes a couple times, and it will be plentiful in the spring and fall CSA shares. 

Turnip greens (and radish greens) are common spring, early summer and fall. CSA members can expect to receive them a couple times each season. 

Storage tips

Kale, collards, chard, and brusselini can all be stored the same way. Store them unwashed and banded or unbanded in a loose plastic bag. 

Spinach should also be stored loosely in a plastic bag. Use the one it came in and save it for other greens you receive throughout the season. You can add a damp piece of paper towel to the bag if you like. It should easily last a week this way. Don’t wash until you’re ready to use.

Turnip greens need to be removed from the turnip roots first to store. Remove them with a knife, unband them, and then store in a loose plastic bag much like the other greens. These are a great green to use first because they are thin and tend to get limp more easily. 

A note on limp greens: Unless your greens are very yellow or slimy, they are still good! Wilting is part of their normal physiology. It is best to use greens when they are newer but if you find yourself with a wilty bunch of greens, our suggestion is to rinse, chop and saute. You can add these greens to eggs, soups, pasta, stir fry, or really any other cooked dish.

Longer-term storage 

When you get behind on using greens, there are two simple ways to deal with them fast (that will also keep you happy with greens to use much later in the season). 

  1. Freeze them 

Freezing greens is one of the absolute easiest things you can do. If they have stalks, remove those, and then cut or tear the greens into bite size pieces. Stuff them into freezer bags or freezer safe containers and pop them into the freezer. Done. This is how we freeze greens in a pinch for adding to soups, stews, smoothies, and pasta dishes all winter long. 

If we have more time (or feel short on freezer space), we’ll blanch the leaves for 2 minutes, rinse in cold water (to stop the cooking process), drain of excess water, and pack into ice cube trays, freezer containers or bags. 

  1. Make a pesto

Yes, pesto is a great way to use up extra herbs (especially basil), but it is also a great way to use up extra greens. Kale, chard, collards, spinach, and turnip greens all make a great pesto- which can be used as sauce for pizza or pasta, spread onto sandwiches, used to roast veggies, or even thinned into a salad dressing. It even works for wilty or tired greens you don’t want to discard but aren’t quite sure what to do with. 

We love the recipe below by Gather and Dine because it also uses a ton of garlic scapes (which we know can be intimidating to people). If you don’t have garlic scapes, substitute 6-8 peeled garlic cloves.

Photo by: Gather & Dine

Garlic Scape Kale Pesto

Recipe by Gather & Dine

Yields: 2 cups pesto
Time: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup chopped garlic scapes

2 cups lightly packed chopped kale leaves

½ cup walnuts

½ cup parmesan

2 cloves garlic, sliced

juice of 1 lemon

¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

PREPARATION:
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic scapes, kale, walnuts, parmesan, garlic cloves, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until garlic scapes and kale are finely chopped, about 10-15 pulses.
  2. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, scraping down the sides when necessary. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  3. To serve, toss with warm pasta. Sprinkle with extra grated parmesan and some crushed red pepper flakes.

Photo by: Heartbeet Kitchen

What to do with those chard stems

In most dishes, you can just use the stem because it is tender enough. However, if a recipe explicitly tells you to leave the chard stem out (or you are freezing a bunch and don’t want the thickest parts of the stem), it seems a pity to just toss them. They’re incredibly beautiful after all. We love to snack on them raw with a dip (a creamy tahini dip is great!) or pickle them (this pickled chard stem recipe is a little sweet and this one is a little spicy).

Cooking with staple greens

Staple greens are voluminous which can intimidate people (a bunch of kale or chard looks like a lot of food to try to work through), but the thing about staple greens is that they cook or wilt down really easily. 

We can easily work through a bunch every couple of days in the following ways:

  • Cut up a couple leaves every morning to add to your scrambled eggs. Or fold even more into a baked egg dish or quiche (see below).
  • Wilt them down in a hot skillet with a little oil, a bunch of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. You can add a little toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds, and/or seaweed after cooking the greens down for a very simple flavorful side to pretty much any dish with Asian flavor or flair.
  • Eat them raw in a salad, or if the greens feel too tough for that, massage them a bit before adding other salad ingredients.
  • Add them raw or wilted to wraps and sandwiches.
  • Eat them creamed.
  • Remove the stems and add them to smoothies.
  • Make a simple slaw out of them, or add them to cabbage sales to add color, texture, and interest.
  • For the biggest, sturdiest greens (collards and brusselini work well), steam or boil them and use in place of wraps.
  • Throw them in the oven: both kale chips and roasted greens are great options
  • Chop them up and add them to pretty much any cooked dish you have in your plans. We aren’t ones to hide vegetables since we enjoy them so much, but you can absolutely hide a half bunch of chopped greens in pretty much any creamy Midwest casserole.
  • Or, instead of hiding them, make greens the main event in your creamy casserole dish. This gratin and this gratin both use a lovely amount of greens.
  • Never forget the ease that comes with simply chopping them up and adding them to soups, stews, pasta, and noodle dishes.

If you need further inspiration, we’ve included a few of our favorite recipes. 

Photo by: Love & Lemons

Kale Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing

Recipe by Love & Lemons

This is an amazing template of a kale salad. You can make the recipe as is, or it also works great with any chopped veggies or grated veggies in place of radiator beets! You can also prepare it with collards, chard, brusselini, or spinach instead of kale.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

Carrot Ginger Dressing

½ cup chopped roasted carrots, from 3/4 cup raw carrots

1/3 to ½ cup water

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons minced ginger

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Salad

1 batch Roasted Chickpeas

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed, leaves torn

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small carrot, grated

1 small red beet, grated*

½ watermelon radish, very thinly sliced

1 avocado, cubed

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

¼ cup pepitas, toasted

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Sea salt & Freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION:

  1. Make the dressing and roast the chickpeas: Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with pinches of salt and pepper. Place the carrot pieces for the dressing in their own corner on the baking sheet to roast alongside the chickpeas. Roast for 25 to minutes, or until the chickpeas are browned and crisp and the carrots are soft. Set the roasted chickpeas aside. Transfer the carrots to a blender and add the water, olive oil, rice vinegar, ginger, and salt. Blend the dressing until smooth and chill in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Place the kale leaves into a large bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Use your hands to massage the leaves until they become soft and wilted and reduce in the bowl by about half.
  3. Add the carrot, beet, watermelon radish, half of the cubed avocado, cranberries, pepitas, a few more good pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and toss. Drizzle generously with the carrot ginger dressing. Top with the remaining avocado, more dressing, the roasted chickpeas and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Season to taste and serve.

Photo by: NYTimes Cooking

Bruschetta With Smashed Beans, Sage and Kale

Recipe by NYTimes Cooking

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch black or curly kale, stemmed, leaves washed thoroughly in 2 rinses of water

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus additional oil to taste for drizzling

2 large garlic cloves, 1 minced, 1 cut in half for rubbing the bruschetta

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

 Freshly ground pepper

2 cups simmered pintos, with about 1 cup of broth from the beans

2 teaspoons slivered sage leaves

8 thick slices whole wheat country bread

1 ½ ounces Parmesan, grated (1/3 cup)

PREPARATION:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add kale. Blanch until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop medium-fine or cut in thin strips.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet and add minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and add thyme and chopped kale. Cook, stirring, until kale is nicely seasoned with garlic and oil, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Keep warm.
  3. Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat in the same skillet and add beans and broth. Stir and mash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon until the mixture is slightly thick but not dry. Be careful not to overcook as the beans can dry out quickly. 10 minutes should suffice. Add pepper to taste, stir in sage and remove from the heat.
  4. Lightly toast bread and as soon as you remove it from the toaster rub each slice with the cut clove of garlic and slather on a generous spoonful of beans. Top beans with kale, drizzle on more olive oil if desired, sprinkle with Parmesan and serve, or heat through for a couple of minutes in a medium oven and serve.

Recipe by: Dishing Up the Dirt

Lentils & Carrots with Swiss Chard & Yogurt

Recipe by Dishing Up the Dirt

Wilted greens can easily become the base for a delicious salad or meal. This works great with chard, but would be just as tasty with spinach, turnip greens, or kale.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

3/4 cup puy lentils + 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

4 medium sized carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

4 tablespoons melted ghee (or butter) divided

salt and pepper

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 bunch of swiss chard, leaves thinly sliced (stems saved for another use)

4-6 Tablespoons water

1/2 cup full fat plain yogurt

juice of half a lemon

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for serving

Extra virgin olive oil for serving

PREPARATION:

  1. Place the lentils in a pot and cover with 2 cups of water and 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Leave at room temperature for 8 hours (see note). Drain the lentils and rinse them under cold water.
  2. Bring a medium saucepan filled 3/4 of the way with water to a boil. Once boiling, add the lentils, decrease the heat to medium, and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft but still hold a bit of a bite. Drain and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the carrots with the melted ghee, salt and pepper and place them on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until lightly browned and tender. About 30 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ghee to a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onion, caraway, cumin, and a fat pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown and fragrant. Add the chard, cooked carrots, lentils and water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the chard leaves wilt down a bit and become bright green.
  5. Remove from the heat, and top with the yogurt, lemon juice, cilantro, salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Photo by: The Leek & The Carrot

Mushroom & “Lots of Greens” Sheet Pan Quiche

Recipe by The Leek & The Carrot

This recipe calls for arugula (which we don’t grow). Essentially you just need nine cups of any greens. You can substitute any of our staple greens for any of the greens listed in this recipe. 

Note from the recipe developer: Because this is a sheet pan quiche, it’s a little trickier to use store bought pie crust. I promise you that following the techniques below, you can make pie crust from scratch, but if you really don’t want to or don’t have the time, you could do this quiche in two store-bought frozen 9″ pie crusts. Trader Joe’s has a really stellar frozen pie crust! You can also go crustless entirely and just make a delicious egg bake in a well-greased pan.

Yield: 12 servings
Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes if making crust from scratch

INGREDIENTS

Pie Crust:

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup water

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Filling:

2 tablespoons butter

2 green garlics (3-4 garlic cloves will work if you don’t have green garlic), white and pale green parts only, minced

12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 cups arugula, roughly chopped

3 cups spinach, roughly chopped

3 cups other spring greens (turnip greens, beet greens, chard, kale, etc), roughly chopped

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2/3 cups whole milk

6 large eggs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

PREPARATION:

  1. Begin preparing your crust (if you plan to make it; if you don’t skip to step #8). Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer until ready to use. Fill measuring cup with 1 cup cold water and place in the freezer.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. If you have a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt in there. This is my favorite way to make pie crust and it whips up in a snap!
  3. Add butter to bowl and use your fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour (or add it to the food processor and pulse until the butter is mostly broken up). You will pinch the butter cubes into smaller pieces until they are about the size of peas and uniformly incorporated. Some pieces of butter will be small and some will be larger; that’s absolutely fine!
  4. Remove the water from the freezer and pour in half. Use a rubber spatula to press the dough together. If it’s still dry (it likely will be) continue to add water until the dough comes together. You may need to knead with your hands a little bit. (Here is where a food processor comes in great, turn the food processor on as you pour in about 3/4 cup of water and just leave it running until the dough begins to come together. It should take about 30 seconds, add a little more water if it seems to not be coming together).
  5. Wrap pie dough in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 20 minutes or in the fridge overnight.
  6. Remove dough from the freezer and roll out to an approximately 12×16-inch rectangle. Carefully, fold it in half and then in half again. Move the dough to a 10×14-inch baking sheet and unfold. Press gently into pan. Remove any excess dough from the edges. Prick the crust with a fork and place pan in the freezer.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and while you wait for it to preheat, begin slicing your mushrooms and chopping your greens!
  8. Once the oven is preheated, line your pie crust with foil and fill with pie weights (or dried beans or rice you don’t plan to cook). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake 5 minutes longer. If using store-bought crust, follow package directions for pre-baking.
  9. While the crust bakes, melt the butter for the filling in a large, deep saute pan (the larger the better, you’re going to be throwing a lot of greens in here– if you don’t have a large saute pan use a soup kettle) over medium low heat. Add the green garlic and cook for a couple minutes until fragrant. Add mushrooms and saute until soft, about 10 minutes more. Add all the greens, water, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to your pan. Saute until the greens are well wilted.
  10. In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs, two at a time, again whisking until smooth after each addition. Stir in sauteed mushrooms and greens along with the cheeses.
  11. Pour filling into the prepared, prebaked crust and bake until filling is set, about 30 minutes.

Photo by: Skinny Taste

Collard Greens with Bacon

Recipe by Dinner at the Zoo

This one works best for collards, brusselini, and turnip greens but would work with any of our staple greens.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

6 slices bacon coarsely chopped

1/2 cup onion chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pound collard greens cleaned, stems removed, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

PREPARATION:

  1. Place the bacon in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until crisp. Remove half the bacon from the pan and reserve for later use.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, then cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the greens to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes or until wilted. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, then cover the pot and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until greens are tender. Uncover and stir in the hot sauce and vinegar. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with reserved bacon, then serve immediately.

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