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Leafy Greens 101: Your Guide to Leafy Green Vegetables

Add all kinds of vitamins and minerals to your diet with leafy green vegetables. Just toss in a handful when you're reheating leftovers, or combine a few varieties to create a hearty salad.

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Yulia von Eisenstein/Shutterstock


Kale is one of the better-known greens, both for its hefty nutritional profile and its wide variety of uses. It can taste bitter, but cooking kale mellows it out and brings out slightly sweet undertones.

If you’re using it raw, look for baby or curly kale with tender leaves and give them a quick massage before tossing with dressing. For grilled salads, we like using the lacinato (dino) varieties.

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Collard Greens on a BackgroundBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Collard Greens

The broad, flat leaves of collard greens are dense and bitter, so most recipes call for long cooking times. They taste great the way Grandma prepared them—a low-and-slow braise with ham or bacon—but they’re also a great wrap substitute in cabbage roll recipes.

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Fresh spinach leaves in bowl on rustic wooden table.nesavinov/Shutterstock


You’ll find two types of spinach in the grocery store: light- and rich-flavored baby spinach and mature, summer spinach with dense leaves and a slightly iron-forward flavor. Both types are juicy and textured. They make a great addition to salads, pizza, sandwiches, soups, smoothies and more! Browse our collection of spinach recipes to get inspired.

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Organic rainbow chardcorners74/Shutterstock

Swiss Chard

Rainbow chard is my favorite way to add a burst of color to any dish. This cool-weather green has a sweet flavor and a crisp texture; if you haven’t cooked with it before, it may become your new favorite green! Resist the urge to toss those colorful stems into the trash. Instead, chop them up into small pieces and sauté them alongside onions and garlic.

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Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are recognizable by their wide, fluffy leaves that curl in at the edges. Of all the leafy green vegetables, these are the spiciest. The easiest way to cook them is with a quick sauté, and I love adding bold flavors like chili flakes and garlic to accentuate their natural spiciness.

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Fresh Watercress on bowl above wooden chopping boardVicky25/Shutterstock


Unlike the other greens on this list, watercress is best served raw. It has a juicy flavor with a slightly spicy bite. Combine it with other greens to create flavorful salads, or use the leaves to make a unique pesto topping that tastes incredible on seafood dishes.

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Fresh arugula leaves, rucolaSea Wave/Shutterstock


Arugula has a peppery bite that fades as it sits in the refrigerator, so opt for freshly harvested arugula from a local farm whenever possible. Because it’s so flavorful on its own, we like serving it simply in a salad with lemon juice and shaved Parmesan.

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Fresh witloof on the wooden tablepilipphoto/Shutterstock


This bitter green is one of my favorite fall chicories. You can peel away the leaves and use them as lettuce cups, chop the greens and serve them raw in salads or cut them in half and grill them. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about this green in our beginner’s guide to endive.

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Raw Green Organic Broccoli Rabe Ready to CookBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Broccoli Rabe

Rabe isn’t actually a broccoli at all—it’s a flowering leafy green with bitter, spicy and nutty flavors. It’s best to blanch or steam the rabe before sautéing it to mellow out the unpleasant bitterness. This side dish with bread crumbs is our favorite way to celebrate this spring green!

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Overhead shot of Chinese cabbage, Bok Choy, on rustic woodtab62/Shutterstock

Bok Choy

This brassica vegetable can be enjoyed raw in salads or slaws, and it cooks up to a tasty side dish in 10 minutes. It’s also 100 percent edible: the stems are thick and juicy while the leaves are soft and tender. Learn how to cook bok choy, along with the difference between baby bok choy and the mature varieties.

Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.