If any vegetable has benefited from the resurgence of interest in vegetable gardening, it is the group known as "cooking greens". While these vegetables are not necessarily related botanically, they all share some similar qualities in the kitchen.
Most are very easy to grow and many offer a long season of cut-and-come-again harvests, like freshly eaten salad greens. But cooking greens have more substance than their lettuce-like neighbors. Many can be stored or frozen for winter eating and... most can be succession planted, to extend the harvest even further.
01 of 07
Many of the Chinese and Asian greens are versatile and can be grown for either fresh eating or as cooking greens. Probably the one we are most familiar with is bok choy or pak choi, 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 the usual cabbage pests. I like to grow the faster maturing dwarf varieties of bok choy and re-seed them directly in the garden... every 2-3 weeks, for a steady supply.
02 of 07
Cabbage can be a tough vegetable to grow. As with so 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 them 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 may re-sprout 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
Kale and chard are finally having their day in the sun and I would bet collards are going to move from being a Southern dish, to being the next big thing in cooking greens. Every bit as easy to grow as the others, these are billowy plants with plenty of re-growth to keep you cooking. Don't feel you have to boil them into submission. Their sweet, mustardy flavor is best when they are just fork tender.
04 of 07
Kale is packed with nutrients, few calories and tons of flavor. It is quick to grow and to cook and there is much more variety than just the curly (albeit tasty) types in the produce aisle. Kale is an excellent choice for cut-and-come-again 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.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
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, imparting a very distinct, mysterious flavor to dishes.
06 of 07
Swiss chad 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, and get an even earlier start on the season. Like beets, chard seed comes in clusters, so expect to have to thin the young plants. Thankfully, the tiny leaves are edible, too.
07 of 07
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, then let them grow on and mature. Three favorites to try: