A generic name given to several types of leafy vegetables such as spinach, mustard greens, escarole, dandelion, and turnip greens that are often used in salads. Each type has a unique flavor and can be eaten alone or mixed with other types for a blend of flavors. The different tastes and textures of various greens adds diversity to a salad. They have a higher nutritional content than lettuce and most often the darker the leaves are, the higher the nutritional content. Also referred to as "salad greens".
How to use: The various types of salad greens can be eaten alone or mixed together to create a blend of flavors. They are added to lettuce salads and other salads to add color, enhance the flavor and add nutritional value. Some can be cooked by stir-frying or sautéing and then served as a side dish or they can be added to pasta and vegetable dishes. They can be added to soups at the end of the cooking time or used on sandwiches in place of lettuce.
At their best: There is generally a nice variety of greens readily available throughout the year because they are grown in so many different areas of the world. Their seasons peak at different times of year, depending on the area.
How to buy: Look for greens that are crisp and fresh. Avoid any that have wilted leaves, discolored edges, blemishes, or slimy spots. They should have a sweet, fresh smell. If they have a sour smell, do not purchase. Head type greens should be firm and free of blemishes or damaged areas.
Storage: When the greens are first brought home, any rubber banding or ties should be removed to avoid damage. The damaged, discolored or wilted greens should be thrown away. The greens can be stored washed or unwashed, but they must be dried properly before storing. Once the greens have been dried properly, wrap small batches in dry paper towels and place in a resealable plastic bag. Do not overpack the greens so they will have room to spread out. Then gently press the air out of the bag and seal it. The paper towel will help to absorb moisture that may still be on the greens. Exposure to excess moisture and air will cause the greens to deteriorate quicker. After the air is removed and the bag is sealed, place it in the refrigerator crisper. The greens can be stored anywhere from 3 days to a week, depending on the type of green. Some of the delicate greens, such as mache, can only be stored for a day or two. It is best to buy the more delicate greens just before you are going to use them to ensure freshness. Greens sold with the roots still attached should be searched for insects and then the roots should be wrapped in damp paper towel. Place the bunch with wrapped roots in to a plastic bag or place the wrapped roots in a glass and cover with a plastic bag. Do not store greens next to ethylene gas producing fruits, such as apples and bananas. The ethylene gas they produce will cause premature ripening and the leaves will become spotted and they will begin to decay. It is best to store all greens for the shortest time possible to ensure freshness.