The Summer Greens Guide

Guide to fresh leafy greensMinnesotans love their summers, and the excitement over sweet corn, local blueberries, and heirloom tomatoes can sometimes reach a hysteria-state. So it’s no wonder we often overlook the veritable tidal wave of leafy summer greens that hit markets and stores in June and July. But these vitamin-packed vegetables are worth getting to know, both for their nutritional value and their spicy, pungent flavors. They come in a range of textures and tastes, and yet in spite of all their differences, they are often interchangeable. So get to know each one, and then go green this summer!

Greens shown in the image above are listed with the corresponding letter inside a [bracket] after their name. 

Spinach [A]

Flavor: mild

Best served in: salads, curries, omelets

Complement with: butter, nutmeg, Parmesan, cream, sesame, turmeric, bacon

Kale [B]

Flavor: slightly bitter

Best served: wilted in soups, blanched for pesto, raw in salads

Cooking notes: remove tough stems before serving

Complement with: potatoes, chorizo, sweet potatoes, white beans, Parmesan, garlic, tahini

Chard [C]

Flavor: slightly sweet

Best served: baked in gratins, wilted in soups, sautéed

Cooking notes: cook stems and leaves separately, stems need a few minutes head start

Complement with: pine nuts, raisins, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, bell peppers

Mustard [D]

Flavor: spicy

Best served: braised, stir-fried, curries

Cooking notes: flavor mellows the longer they’re cooked

Complement with: capers, lemon, chiles, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, peanuts, cider vinegar

Dandelion [E]

Flavor: very bitter

Best served: in soups, sautéed

Cooking notes: blanche once or twice in fresh water to remove bitterness

Complement with: bacon, goat cheese, eggs, potatoes, avocado, garlic, olive oil, lemon, chilies

Arugula [F]

Flavor: peppery

Best served: simple salads, atop pizza, in pastas

Cooking notes: Holes, tears and yellowing edges mean it’s past its prime

Complement with: olive oil, lemon, garlic, Parmesan, chickpeas, beets, fennel, grapefruit, figs, hazelnuts

Beet, Radish & Turnip Tops [G]

Flavor: earthy, minerally

Best served: sautéed

Cooking notes: rinse in several changes of water before using

Complement with: olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, walnuts, yogurt, carrots, caraway, lemon


Flavor: very sour

Best served: raw, simmered, wilted

Cooking notes: Cook large leaves, small leaves can be used raw in salads or as garnishes

Complement with: asparagus, white beans, cream, butter, goat cheese, carrots, fish

Watercress [H]

Flavor: peppery

Best served: in salads, pureed and added to sauces and soups

Cooking notes: store in the fridge in jar of water, loosely covered in plastic ·

Complement with: cucumbers, mint, red onions, cream cheese, apple, celery root, seafood

Microgreens [I]

Texture: crunchy

Best served: as a garnish for soups, salads, sandwiches

Cooking notes: delicately wash and handle gently


Flavor: slightly bitter

Best served: braised, sautéed, sliced into a slaw

Cooking notes: remove thick stems before cooking

Complement with: ham, pork, apple cider vinegar, chilies, peanuts, avocado, sesame oil, ginger, soy sauce

When purchasing fresh greens, look for ones that are crisp and unwilted. Avoid any slimy leaves. To store, loosely wrap greens in slightly damp paper towels then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to four days. Wash just before using.


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