There are many types of greens, most grown and gathered for centuries, and all with distinctive tastes and textures. Broccoli, collard, dandelion, mustard, and turnip greens continue to gain popularity, along with arugula and microgreens, for an ever-widening array of uses from appetizers, cocktails, and soups to garnishes, sandwiches, and salads.
Types & Varieties
Arugula (also called rocket or roquette) is an aromatic leafy green with a tangy, peppery flavor in ‘common’ and Italian ‘wild’ varieties. The latter has a more pungent flavor; immature or baby arugula has a milder taste and smaller leaves.
Broccoli and turnip greens are popular in slaws and salads, while collard, dandelion, and mustard greens are boiled, steamed, or sauteed, then tossed in vinaigrettes as ‘mixed greens’ side dishes.
Kale (also called leaf cabbage), deemed a superfood in recent years, is distinguished by leaf type and color, as well as stem length. Like collard greens, it was traditionally cooked, but is now a popular addition to salads, soups, and smoothies.
Microgreens (sometimes called ‘vegetable confetti’) are tiny, flavorful greens selected for color and texture. Generally smaller than most ‘baby’ or immature versions of greens or herbs, they are often confused with sprouts (germinated seeds). Amaranth, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, kohlrabi, lemon grass, onions, parsley, radish, and sunflower are among the many types of microgreens.
Microgreens grow quickly and are harvested (generally with scissors) as the first leaves appear, from less than 1 to 3 inches in height. They should be washed and cooled immediately after harvest, are highly perishable, and do not store or ship well.
Pests & Disease
Leafy greens are susceptible to aphids, ants, caterpillars, crickets, beetles, leafminers, loopers, moths, nematodes, and thrips.
Common diseases include black rot, downy mildew, and leaf spot; affected leaves should be removed promptly to prevent spreading. As a cool season crop, hot weather is often more problematic than pests or diseases and can cause bolting.
Storage & Packaging
Greens produce ethylene at low levels, but are sensitive to the gas. They are also sensitive to freezing injury for prolonged periods at temperatures below 32°F. Most varieties last from 7 to 12 days under optimal conditions.
References: University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, University of Minnesota Extension, USDA.