In Season: Greens beyond kale

Soups are perfect this time of year. Try this braised greens and potatoes with lemon and fennel served with crusty bread.
Soups are perfect this time of year. Try this braised greens and potatoes with lemon and fennel served with crusty bread. Los Angeles Times

Move over, kale. It’s time for other healthy greens to take the mealtime spotlight.

From kale chips to kale smoothies, that now-ubiquitous leafy vegetable may have oversaturated the marketplace. In 2015, look for other greens to be on the rise in restaurants as well as home kitchens.

That’s the prediction of food experts who keep an eye on our appetite for trendy foods. According to Zagat’s 2015 national dining trends survey, 30 percent of 10,000 avid diners surveyed said they were “over” kale and 73 percent held either neutral or negative views of this leafy green. That compares to 45 percent who said they “love” seeing more Brussels sprouts on their plate (who knew?) and 38 percent who “love” beets.

“Everybody wants to know, what’s the next hot thing?” said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for the Nunes Co., which sells its organic vegetables under the Foxy Produce label. “People keep asking, is this the next kale?”

Seeley sees several possible candidates for that “next kale” label including some veggies unknown to most consumers. For example, have you tried Broccoleaf juice?

“Kale is still a very, very strong product,” he noted, “... but we’re seeing a big trend in bunching greens: chard, mustard, dandelion greens, beet greens, leeks. Those are all gaining in popularity.”

Like kale, those vegetables are usually sold in bunches at the supermarket and displayed in wet racks, where their green tops can be misted to retain freshness.

Chard and its sister, beet greens, seem to be leading the pack of rising greens. Both veggies are subspecies of Beta vulgaris, the common garden beet. While chard cultivars are grown specifically for their large, lush leaves, beet greens are simply the leaves of Beta varieties grown for their roots. Often, these greens are a bonus to buying beets; they come still attached. When sold separately, beet greens likely were harvested while the roots were still in the ground.

Chefs love chard because it cooks quickly and looks pretty on the plate. Braised or roasted, chard develops a meltingly rich texture. Its mild flavor is closer to spinach than sometimes bitter Brassica family greens such as kale and collards. Typically with a reddish hue, beet greens taste a lot like chard, but tend to add their color to the final product. (That last attribute can be a plus or minus, depending on the dish.)

What greens will we see on Sacramento menus this spring?

Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento grows about 45 different greens for Produce Express, which supplies most of Sacramento’s restaurant needs, as well as for its community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes for home customers. “Minor” greens generating a lot of interest include three plants that most Sacramento gardeners identify as weeds: nettles, miner’s lettuce and shepherd’s purse (a mustard cousin). There’s also buzz around such novelties as scorzonera greens, the leaves of the root vegetable black salsify.

“Chefs are requesting red frisee mustard, chard and cress,” said Suzanne Ashworth of Del Rio Botanical. Cress, which gets its name from the old German word for “sharp and spicy,” is a close relative to mustard and watercress and a kale cousin. Cress shares their tangy flavor and adds its own distinctive peppery note to dishes.

Jessica Nadel, author of the new “Greens 24/7” (The Experiment Publishing, 176 pages, $19.95), features more than 40 varieties of greens from arugula to watercress. A longtime kale fan, Nadel is best known for her blog, Cupcakes and Kale.

“Kale has earned a bit of a cult following over the past few years,” Nadel said. “Now it seems that when I snoop in other people’s shopping baskets, everyone’s packing greens.”

Kale, spinach and chard are recipe workhorses, Nadel noted, but there’s many other shades of greens. Among those featured in her cookbook: bok choy, mizuna, tatsoi, dandelion, radish greens, rapini, turnip greens, spirulina and sunflower sprouts.

All these greens offer a lot of nutrition with relatively few calories, but which is actually best for you?

In a study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 “powerhouse” fruit and vegetables were analyzed for nutrient density based on 17 important nutrients for a healthy diet: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K.

“Conducted by Jennifer Di Noia of William Paterson University in New Jersey, the study scored each food based on its percentage of FDA recommended dietary allowances of these nutrients in a 100-calorie serving.

Topping the list of powerhouse foods based on nutrient density: watercress. It scored a perfect 100. Rounding out the top five were leafy Chinese cabbage (91.99), chard (89.27), beet greens (87.08) and spinach (86.43). Scoring 49.07, kale ranked 15th.

Trying to squeeze more nutrition out of greens – literally – is what led to a new green on the market.

This winter, Salinas-based Nunes Co. and Foxy Produce introduced “Broccoleaf,” a trademarked green that’s just now making its way into California supermarkets. As the name implies, this veggie comes from the young leaves of broccoli plants, harvested while the crowns form. Its potential was discovered almost by accident.

“Last year about this time, we had embarked on a juicing campaign to promote the benefits of juicing (greens),” Seeley explained. “We’re a fairly large grower of greens, and we’re always looking for ways to increase consumption.

“One of our growers said we were doing it all wrong (juicing) with kale; what we needed were broccoli leaves and gave me a big bunch. ‘These things are loaded with juice,’ he said.

“I rolled my eyes but took the samples to our lab for (nutritional) analysis,” he added. “It turns out these leaves are fantastic for juicing. They’re great raw or cooked, too. And this leaf is a nutritional all-star.”

Another new green hitting markets this winter: kalette. Its a British cross of Brussels sprouts and kale that’s just being introduced in the United States. Looking like itty-bitty ruffled cabbages, this new green has been test marketed stateside under the names “Lollipop kale sprouts” and “BrusselKale.”

Which brings us back to Brussels sprouts, “absolutely another booming category,” Seeley said.

“People are looking at chefs and the various ways they use them. For many people, Brussels sprouts were an acquired taste, but now people can’t get enough. Who could have predicted that?”

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

Greens 101

Nutrition: Calories and nutrients vary according to variety, but all greens are very low in calories while packing a lot of vitamins and antioxidants. For example, chard has 7 calories per 1-cup serving (raw). Chard is a very good source of vitamins A, C, E, K and B6 plus riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper. These leaves also are a good source of thiamin, folate and zinc.

Other calorie counts for 1-cup serving of common greens (chopped raw, unless noted): Spinach, 7; collards, 11; cress, 16; mustard greens (cooked), 21; turnip greens, 32; kale, 33; and beet greens (cooked), 39.

Selection: Look for upright leaves with bright color and crisp texture. Avoid wilted or yellowed leaves.

Storage: Most greens are extremely perishable. Keep refrigerator storage time to a minimum. Store unwashed leaves in plastic bags in the crisper for two to three days. Keep beet greens, turnip greens and other root vegetable leaves attached to their roots until ready to use.

Creamy pasta and greens

Serves 6

Adapted from


One 1-pound bag washed and ready collard greens


Ground black pepper

6 to 8 slices bacon, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups heavy cream

One 5-ounce package shredded Parmesan, divided

12 ounces angel-hair pasta, cooked and drained


Cook greens in water for 10 to 15 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain greens; set aside.

Cook bacon in a large skillet or saucepan until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels. Reserve 2 tablespoons of drippings in the skillet.

Sauté red bell pepper, onion and garlic in drippings until tender. Add greens, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until greens reach desired tenderness.

In a small saucepan, warm cream over medium heat. Add all but 2 tablespoons of Parmesan; stir until melted. Toss the cream mixture with the cooked pasta. Transfer to a platter or larger, flat bowl; top with greens. Crumble bacon over the top; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 613 calories (59 percent calories from fat); 41 g fat (25g sat.); 131 mg cholesterol; 22 g protein; 42 g carbohydrate; 7 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 738 mg sodium; 467 mg calcium; 424mg potassium.

Braised greens and potatoes with lemon and fennel

Serves 4

Adapted from “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts,” by Aglaia Kremezi, who recommends serving this with ricotta or feta cheese and crusty bread. Find preserved lemon in the international section of the supermarket or at Mediterranean specialty food stores (or make your own – see video at


1/2 cup. olive oil, plus good, fruity olive oil for drizzling, divided

2 onions, halved and thinly sliced

2 carrots, quartered and cut in 1-inch lengths

4 green onions, white and most of green parts, thinly sliced

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and coarsely chopped, fronds and tender stalks reserved

4 to 6 fingerling potatoes, cut in bite-sized pieces

1 teaspoon. fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle or finely ground

2 pounds mixed greens, spinach, sorrel, Swiss chard, outer leaves of romaine lettuce or any combination of sweet leafy greens, large leaves coarsely chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup water

1/4 preserved lemon, flesh discarded, rinsed and chopped (see note)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, divided

A good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste


In a wide, deep soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, green onions, fennel bulb, potatoes and fennel seeds, stir to coat with the oil and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Add the greens in batches, starting with the larger leaves and gradually adding the smaller, more tender ones. Stir a few times to help the leaves wilt and reduce in size, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute; add the water, the preserved lemon and salt to taste.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the greens and potatoes are tender and most of the juices have been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. If there is still too much liquid, raise the heat to high and continue to cook until the liquid is reduced, up to an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, half the dill, the fennel fronds and stalks and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes; toss, taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Cook an additional 2 minutes to marry the flavors, then sprinkle with remaining dill.

Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with the good, fruity olive oil.

Per serving: 390 calories; 28 g fat (4 f sat.); 666 mg sodium; 28 g carb.; 7 g protein; 0 chol.; 9 g fiber

Beans and greens gratin

Serves 6

The economical casserole dish features your choice of hearty greens.


11/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

4 cups packed, coarsely chopped chard, kale, mustard greens or collard leaves, or a mix

2 cups cooked pinto, white beans, kidney beans, black beans or chickpeas

1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped canned tomatoes


Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the pepper flakes, and a bit of salt. Set aside.

In a large ovenproof skillet over medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the greens in batches and cook until they are wilted.

Mash 1/2 cup of the beans with a potato masher or fork and add the mashed beans along with the whole beans, broth, cheese, tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the mixture and bake on the oven's middle shelf until the top is lightly browned and the beans are bubbling, 25 to 35 minutes.

Per serving: 280 calories; 110 calories from fat (39 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 14 g protein; 950 mg sodium.

Crispy chard chips

Serves 4

Similar to kale chips, these are a healthy alternative to potato chips. The chard is a little thicker than kale and takes a little more time in the oven. Smaller leaves are more tender and bake faster. Young and tender beet greens may be substituted for chard.


1 bunch chard, washed

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Parchment paper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Wash chard and blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Trim out the center rib of each leaf, then cut the leaves into 2-inch wide strips.

Transfer cut leaves to a large bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. In a single layer, arrange cut leaves on parchment paper; try to keep leaves from touching each other. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake 15 minutes, then flip the leaves over and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until crisp.

Let cool before serving.

Baked salmon and kale in Moroccan-spiced tomato sauce

Serves 4

Make ahead: The components can be assembled and refrigerated, tightly covered with aluminum foil, up to 1 day in advance. To bake straight from the refrigerator, add 5 to 10 minutes to the oven time. From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.


1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

One141/2-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with their juices

One 15-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale, tough center stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped (about 8 cups)

Four 6-ounce center-cut skinless salmon fillets


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking dish at hand.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the garlic; cook for about a minute, until it has softened, then add the diced tomatoes with their juices, the tomato sauce, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, the ginger, coriander, cinnamon and crushed red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to form a slightly thickened sauce.

Arrange the kale evenly in the baking dish.

Season the fish fillets with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and place on top of the kale. Pour the sauce over the salmon, and the kale that is not covered by the fish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil; bake for about 12 minutes, until the fish is nearly cooked through and the kale has wilted. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes.

Place a fillet on each plate; spoon about 1 cup of sauce and about one-quarter of the kale alongside. Serve right away.

Per serving: 400 calories, 42 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 580 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar

Sweet potato, collard and black-eyed pea soup

Serves 8 to 12 (10 to 12 cups)

This soup starts with a brilliant base: a vegetable broth made from sweet potatoes, which get puréed to give it a lovely color and a body previously found only in meat stocks.

The recipe makes 10 cups of sweet potato broth, but you’ll need just 4 to 5 cups for the soup, so refrigerate or freeze the rest for another use.

Adapted from “Soul Food Love,” by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams (Clarkson Potter, $30, 224 pages).


For the sweet potato broth:

1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

3 ribs celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, scrubbed, trimmed and chopped

1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into large chunks

6 cups water

5 whole cloves (may substitute 2 or 3 star anise)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

For the soup:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 large carrot, well scrubbed, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch coins

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed

One 141/2-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, and their juices

2 bunches collard greens, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups; may substitute kale or mustard greens)

30 ounces canned, no-salt-added black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed


For the sweet potato broth: Pour the oil into a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, celery and carrot to coat; cover and cook until the onion has softened, 8 minutes. Add the sweet potato, water, cloves, salt and black pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, so the liquid is barely bubbling. Cook, uncovered, until the sweet potato is very soft, about 30 minutes. Find and discard the cloves.

Use an immersion (stick) blender to purée until smooth. (Alternatively, transfer in batches to a blender or food processor, removing the center knob of the blender lid so steam can escape and holding a towel over the opening; puree until smooth.) Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

For the soup: Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, celery and carrot to coat; cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables just begin to soften, 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, fresh and dried thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes, then pour in 4 cups of the sweet potato broth, along with the tomatoes and their juices. Increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture comes to a boil, stir in the collard greens. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges. Cover and cook until the greens are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

Add the black-eyed peas; cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, so the flavors meld. If the soup seems too thick, add up to another cup of broth or water to reach your desired consistency. Season with the salt; taste, and adjust with more salt or crushed red pepper flakes as needed. Serve hot.

Per serving (based on 12, using 4 cups of sweet potato broth): 90 calories, 5 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar