It's a jungle out there ― or at least it can seem that way in the cooking-greens section of the produce department. We all know that greens are nutritional giants, loaded with vitamins A and C, folic acid, and calcium. But some look way too unruly to bring home to dinner.
Taming the wild things, however, is more fun than it used to be. New, strikingly colorful or rambunctiously shaped varieties such as rainbow-colored Swiss chard, purple kale, and Lacinato kale, once available only in farmers' markets, perch in supermarket bins. (See our guide to some of the most interesting ones.) And produce companies are domesticating many leafy greens by selling them stemmed, washed, and bagged. Spinach has long been available this way; now Swiss chard, kale, and collard, mustard, and turnip greens are following suit.
Though cooking greens are available year-round, they're sweetest during cool weather, before summer heat brings out their stronger flavors. So grab a bag or a bunch. With a hot pan and a little olive oil and garlic, the wild tangle becomes a manageable couple of cups, delicious on its own or as a base for other dishes.
A gallery of greens
Supermarkets carry most of these greens. At farmers' markets, you'll find an even wider selection. We've divided the greens according to sturdiness; in the recipes here, use the lower range of cooking times for tender greens, the middle of the range for medium ones, and the top of the range for firm.
Spinach. Sweet but slightly astringent.
Beet greens. Earthy.
Braising mix. Mild to full-flavored, depending on the makeup of the mix; may contain bok choy, kale, escarole, beet greens, and multiple colors of Swiss chard.
Collard greens. Robust, slightly bittersweet.
Mustard greens. Pungent bite mellows with cooking.
Ornamental kale. Nutty, with cabbagelike heads.
Swiss chard. Mild and slightly smoky (green variety) to earthy (red). May be green, red, or rainbow-colored (red, pink, orange, yellow, and green).
Turnip greens. Mellow and slightly sweet.
Kale. Robust and herbaceous.
Lacinato kale (also called dinosaur kale or Tuscan cabbage). Robust, grassy.
Purple kale. Very robust and slightly bitter.