There are dozens of varieties of leafy green vegetables from all around the world that can be grown without fuss. Many germinate quickly, and are sturdy plants that require little special treatment. There are varieties that love cool or hot weather, and some that can grow in both — a few even improve by exposure to one or more frosts. Some take up very little space and can be tucked into small, spare areas for a quick crop sprinkled throughout the garden. Some of these can be grown in pots instead of a garden bed, making it possible for anyone to try his hand at raising some fresh. And yet others take up a lot of space, stretching out and making a bold statement by their very size.
Besides their taste and health-giving qualities, many types of leafy greens are so beautiful that they can be enjoyed for their form and color, and can even be planted as part of an edible landscape. Keep in mind that leafy “green” vegetables can be a bit of a misnomer, as there are many varieties of “greens” that are not only green, or that aren’t green at all. There are reds and purples that are deep and saturated, adding color anywhere they are planted.
Around the World on a Carpet of Greens
Just about every part of the world has contributed wonderful green, leafy plants to the world of gardening. Cuisines that emphasize fresh vegetables, such as those of the far East, offer the widest variety of tastes, forms, textures and colors. Europe has had fabulously delicious greens for a variety of climates, from hot to cold. Yet others come from cool areas like Russia, or hot ones like India. Adding a few of these to your growing schedule will bring something exotic — yet easy to grow — to your kitchen.
The choices are legion, and it’s good to experiment with an assortment of them over time. It’s important that each gardener finds the ones that he not only likes to eat and grow, but that do well in his garden’s microclimate. Some outstanding choices to try include:
- Choy Sum
- DaTaglio Chard
- Red Russian Kale
- Wild Arugula
- Broccoli Raab
- Red Mustard
- Cabbage Collards
- Bok Choy
- Tuscan Black Kale
- Red Amaranth
- Salad Mache
- French Sorrel
Raw or Cooked?
All of these may be eaten raw or cooked. However, raw enthusiasts will appreciate harvesting the individual leaves when they are on the small side. Add them to lettuce for a salad mix, or skip the lettuce and enjoy a plate of exotic greens with your favorite dressing.
If eating greens cooked, be quick about it; they benefit most from only the briefest of cooking. They will turn brighter and deeper in color, and will often lose any red or purple coloring. Do note that many of the greens that taste spicy when raw will loose much of their twang when exposed to even a small amount of cooking.
With seed available from so many luscious types of leafy greens, it’s a shame to miss these plants that are delightful t
o both grow and eat. Below are links that include a virtual world-tour through the eyes of a gardener of greens, as well as information about the nutritional value of green leafy vegetables.
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