The Best Cooking Greens to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden

Savoy cabbage growing in vegetable garden
PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

Cooking greens are simply leafy green vegetables that are commonly served cooked, rather than raw. While vegetables in the cooking greens category aren't always related to one another botanically, they all share some similar qualities. Most are easy to grow, and many offer a long season of cut-and-come-again harvesting, meaning you can take what you need for cooking and leave the rest of the plant to continue producing. Many cooking greens can be frozen for winter eating, and most can be succession planted—i.e., staggering when crops are planted to extend the harvest season.

Here are some of the best vegetables for the home garden that make great cooking greens.

  • 01 of 07

    Asian Greens (Brassica rapa var.)

    Bok choy growing in garden

    Ross Durant Photography / Getty Images

    Many of the Asian varieties within the Brassica rapa species are versatile and can be grown either for fresh eating or as cooking greens. Bok choy is an option that's familiar to many people. But tatsoi, napa cabbage, and several others also make great side dishes. Bok choy and napa cabbage require a longer growing season than the loose-leaf greens, along with protection from common cabbage pests, such as cabbage worms. You can grow the faster-maturing dwarf varieties of bok choy and reseed them directly in the garden every two to three weeks for a steady supply.

  • 02 of 07

    Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var.)

    cabbage growing

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Cabbage can be a tough vegetable to grow. As with many of the vegetables in the Brassica genus, there are multiple pests ready to devour your crop before it's ready for the table. Growing cabbage under row covers isn't the prettiest look for a garden, but it does foil cabbage moths looking for a spot to lay their eggs. Cabbage might resprout and grow a couple of smaller heads after the initial harvest, but it is best to stagger your planting if you want a continual supply.

  • 03 of 07

    Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea var.)

    collard greens

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Kale and chard are finally having their day in the sun, and collards may well be the next big thing in cooking greens. Every bit as easy to grow as the others, these are billowy plants with plenty of regrowth for cut-and-come-again harvesting. Don't feel like you have to boil collards into submission. Their sweet, mustardy flavor is best when they are just fork-tender.

  • 04 of 07

    Kale (Brassica oleracea var.)

    kale in the garden

    The Spruce / Debbie Wolfe

    Kale is packed with nutrients and tons of flavor. It is quick to grow and to cook, and there is much more variety than just the curly types in the produce aisle. Kale is an excellent choice for cut-and-come-again harvesting and also for a mid- to late-season planting. The plants can handle early fall frosts and actually get a little sweeter from the experience.

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  • 05 of 07

    Sorrel (Rumex spp.)

    sorrel

    The Spruce / Marie Iannotti

    Sorrel is a perennial plant that is grown for its lemon-flavored leaves. You can use young, tender sorrel leaves fresh in salads and on sandwiches, but it is a real treat when cooked. The leaves can almost liquify when cooked, imparting a very distinct flavor to dishes. 

  • 06 of 07

    Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris)

    swiss chard

    The Spruce / Heidi Kolsky

    Swiss chard is a vigorous grower that will continue sending up new tender leaves all season. You can start plants indoors a few weeks before your last frost date to get an even earlier start on the season. Like beets, chard seed comes in clusters, so expect to have to thin the young plants. But don't throw away the trimmings, as the tiny leaves are edible.

  • 07 of 07

    Additional Greens

    pea shoots

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    There are several plants in the vegetable garden that are grown for their roots or fruits that also have deliciously edible greens. You can have the best of both worlds if you harvest just a few leaves from each plant while they are still young and then let them continuing growing to maturity. Three favorites to try include: