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Cabbage cousins, broccoli brothers, kale kinfolk...the overlooked greens.

Cabbage cousins, broccoli brothers, kale kinfolk . . . the overlooked greens

Often overshadowed by more familiar seasonal vegetables, the leafy greens shown and described on these five pages merit a closer look--and taste.

Where can you find them?

Your supermarket may carry greens you've never tried before. Collard, kale, red Swiss chard, mustard, bok choy, savoy cabbage, napa cabbage, turnip, or beet tops--how many have you tasted? Markets with large produce sections have the best selection. If you don't see what you want, the produce manager may be able to order it for you.

To explore further, check ethnic markets. Asians are particularly fond of greens and grow a huge variety; you may find ones not pictured here. Some may be a close relative, a new hybrid, or at a different stage of maturity. Try them anyway. Their low price is a small investment for a taste discovery.

Stores that feature specialty produce often carry some of the varieties.

Storage: make it short

Leafy greens are best used as soon as possible after you bring them home; they toughen and get stringy as they age. If you need to keep them longer, rinse greens well, drain, wrap in paper towels, and store in a closed plastic bag; chill up to 2 days. Leaves wilt and turn yellow as they deteriorate.

Before cooking, wash greens well, swishing them in a large quantity of water to remove dirt, then drain well.

Recipes and techniques

For cooking instructions and recipes using these greens, see pages 157 to 160.

Cabbages

Salad savoy

Looks: Basically ornamental kale. Resembles a head of flowering cabbage in variegated colors of white, green, red. Frilly leaves have the heavier texture of kale.

Flavor: Slightly bitter stems and sweet leaves. Red sometimes has stronger flavor.

Preparation and cooking: Leave head whole or cut off base to free leaves. Use leaves whole, or tear or cut into bite-size pieces. Use raw leaves in salads. Steam or boil whole head; cut leaves off stems to serve. Boil whole or cut leaves. Or stir-fry cut leaves as directed for leafy greens.

Savoy cabbage

Looks: Much like regular head cabbage but leaves are ruffly and crinkly.

Flavor: Mild, slightly sweet.

Preparation and cooking: Cut through the core into 2-inch wedges or thin shreds; or cut out core and carefully peel off leaves to use whole. Use thin shreds raw in salads. Boil shreds, whole leaves, and wedges just until wilted. Use boiled leaves as wrappers. Wedges can also be steamed. Stir-fry shreds as directed for leafy greens.

Napa cabbage

(celery cabbage, siew choy, wong nga bok;

Peking, Shantung, or Tientsin cabbage; chou de Chine, pe-tsai)

Looks: Compact barrel-shaped head has pale green crinkled leaves with broad, thick white ribs.

Flavor: Mild, sweet, juicy, crisp.

Preparation and cooking: Cut lengthwise through core into 2-inch wedges. Or cut leaves crosswise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips. Boil or steam wedges. Boil or stir-fry cut pieces as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Long napa cabbage

(michili, celery cabbage, ching siew choy)

Looks: Much like napa cabbage but longer (18 to 24 in.) and more slender. Leaves are slightly thinner. Succulent when cooked.

Flavor: Sweet and mild like napa, but flavor is more intense, less watery, zestier.

Preparation and cooking: Cut about 1 inch off base to free leaves, then cut crosswise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips. Use raw, boil, or stir-fry as directed for leafy greens.

Kale

Looks: Frilly, heavy leaves on sturdy green stems. Usually green, but sometimes stem and center of leaves are flushed with red.

Flavor: Cabbage-like, slightly sweet and bitter.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off and discard tough stem end. Use leaves whole or cut stems and leaves crosswise in 1/2- to 2-inch strips. Boil leaves whole or cut. Stir-fry cut vegetable as directed for leafy greens.

Broccoli

Chinese broccoli

(Chinese kale, gai laan)

Looks: Smooth green stalks, 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter, have several green leaves and white flowers. A white haze covers leaves.

Flavor: Leaves are coarse and a little peppery; stems are sweet. Pungent, slightly bitter aftertaste.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off stalks' tough ends. Peel stalks to remove fibrous skin. Leave whole or cut stems diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Cut leaves into 2-to 3-inch lengths. Boil or steam whole stalks. Stir-fry cut pieces as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Flowering white cabbage

(yu choy, yellow flowering cabbage, choy sum, bok choy sum, bok kwat bok choy sum)

Looks: Long, smooth, light green shoots have long, large green leaves. Often harvested as small yellow flowers begin to appear. Several similar varieties are most popular when young and tender. Mature forms, often with open yellow flowers, develop thick stems with fibrous skins.

Flavor: Mild, sweet.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off tough stem ends. Cut tender stems and leaves into about 2-inch lengths, or leave small shoots (6 to 8 in.) whole. With mature varieties, peel off all fibrous skin. Steam or boil small whole shoots. Boil cut greens, or stri-fry as directed for leafy greens. For thick, mature stalks, follow thick-stemmed green recipe.

Collard

Looks: Large, heavy green leaves on sturdy green stems.

Flavor: Lightly bitter, full-bodied.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off and discard tough stem ends. Cut stems and leaves into 1/2- to 2-inch lengths. Boil cut pieces, or stir-fry cut greens as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Broccoli rabe

Looks: Several green, ragged-edged leaves on green stems, with small green buds and yellow flowers.

Flavor: Intense broccoli flavor, slightly hot.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off and discard tough stem ends. Use whole or cut stems into 2- to 3-inch lengths. Steam or boil whole or cut stalks. Stir-fry cut greens as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Chards and choys

Bok choy

(Chinese chard cabbage, Chinese white cabbage)

Looks: Thick ivory stalks. Dark green leaves have white veins. Heads vary in size depending on season and maturity.

Flavor: Raw leaves have a hint of spicy hotness; stalks are slightly watery and crunchy. Cooked leaves have a mild Swiss chard flavor; cooked stalks are succulent.

Preparation and cooking: Separate the stalks and wash well. For best results, separate leaves from stalk, then cut stalk diagonally into 1/2-inch slices, leaves into about 1/2-inch strips. Boil or stir-fry as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Bok choy hearts

(bok choy sum)

Looks: Center stalk has several small white to pale green stems with green leaves branching from the stems. Sold in various stages of maturity; those with open yellow flowers are usually older.

Flavor: Raw leaves sometimes have astringent, peppery traces. Crunchy, watery stalks are mild, turn sweet when cooked. Flowers are sweet.

Preparation and cooking: If hearts are small (6 to 8 in.), leave whole. Trim off tough end of stalk. For larger hearts, pull off ribs from main stem and separate leaves; cut stems diagonally into 1/2-inch slices, leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Boil or steam small whole hearts. Boil cut pieces, or stirfry as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Baby bok choy

(Shanghai bok choy, green bok choy, ts'ing kang bok choy)

Looks: Small heads have pale green stems with green leaves.

Flavor: Raw leaves are mild with a slight bite; stems are crisp, crunchy, slightly watery. Cooked, they taste mild, sweet.

Preparation and cooking: Leave whole, or cut in half lengthwise if thicker than 3 inches. For stir-frying, cut stems and leaves diagonally into 1/2-inch strips. Boil or steam small whole or half heads. Stir-fry cut greens as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Red Swiss chard

Looks: Large, dark green leaves with red veins grow on flat, ridged red stems.

Flavor: Earthy, hearty taste. Stems stringy and sometimes tough.

Preparation and cooking: Use leaves whole, if desired, or cut stems and leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Boil whole leaves. Boil cut greens, or stir-fry as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Beet tops

Looks: Usually dark green leaves with red veined-leaves on red stems; golden beets have yellow stems. Tops most commonly sold with beets attached.

Flavor: Earthy, grassy. Younger leaves more tender and mild.

Preparation and cooking: Trim off beets, if any, and reserve for another use. Use small, tender leaves raw in salads. To cook, cut leaves and tender part of the stem crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Boil cut greens, or stir-fry as directed for thick-stemmed greens.

Mustards

Chinese broad-leaf mustard

(dai sum gai choy, gai choy, ogarashi, Swatow mustard cabbage)

Looks: Preferred in mature stage, as hearts with leaves trimmed and broad green midribs curled around the main stalk. The wide ribs are the part most commonly used. Thin stalks with curly leaves may be stunted or immature.

Flavor: Has a mild mustard bite, but boiling tempers the pungency.

Preparation and cooking: Trim off leaves and cut into thin strips for soup. Separate the broad stems and cut into 1-inch squares or cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Boil or stir-fry as directed for thick-stemmed greens. Mustard stems are often pickled or salted.

Chinese leaf mustard

(bamboo mustard cabbage, Indian mustard, gai choy)

Looks: Grooved green leaf stalk has rounded leaf blade extending almost to base. Leaf edges may be notched on sides.

Flavor: Pungent and zesty, but boiling tempers its bite.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off and discard tough ends of stems. Cut leaves and stems crosswise in 1/2- to 2-inch strips. Boil or stir-fry as directed for leafy greens.

Mustard greens

(Southern curly varieties)

Looks: Green stems have frilly leaves that extend down most of the stem.

Flavor: Strong bite goes to your nose. Cooking slightly tempers heat.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off and discard tough stem ends. Cut remaining stems and leaves crosswise in 1/2- to 2-inch strips. Boil or stir-fry as directed for leafy greens.

Chrysanthemum greens

(garland chrysanthemum, tong ho, shungiku)

Looks: Several fingery leaves branch off one stem.

Flavor: Flowery, perfumy, slightly sweet and salty; leaves are tender like spinach.

Preparation and cooking: Cut leaves off stems; discard stems. Use small leaves whole. If desired, cut larger leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Use raw in salads, or boil or stir-fry as directed for leafy greens.

Turnip tops

Looks: Long oval green leaves on long stems are usually sold with turnips attached. Younger vegetables are more tender.

Flavor: Mild mustard flavor intensifies as vegetable matures.

Preparation and cooking: Cut off turnips and reserve for another use. Trim off and discard tough ends of stems. Use small leaves whole, or cut leaves and tender part of stems crosswise into 1/2- to 2-inch lengths. Boil or stir-fry leaves as directed for leafy greens.

Matrimony vine

(gow yee, melanga, box thorn)

Looks: Straight woody stems (sometimes with thorns) are closely covered with small pointed leaves.

Flavor: Astringent, bitter, dry leaves; an acquired taste.

Preparation and cooking: Check branch for thorns. If none, grasp tip of stalk and run hand down its length to remove leaves. If there are thorns, pluck leaves off by hand. Discard stem. Use leaves whole and sparingly. Boil as directed on page 158; best in soups.

Photo: Look for unusual greens in Asian stores. Supermarkets also carry some, like the bok choy this clerk holds, as well as more common but often overlooked kinds Now, during the winter lull for most vegetables, is a good time to try these greens. They flourish in cool, moist weather, so they are prime quality. Prices and selection are also good, especially compared to imported hot-weather vegetables.

Photo: Elegant salad: pour ginger vinaigrette over steamed baby bok choy (recipe on page 158) We'll lead you to new discoveries: some you might have just overlooked, others offer fresh tastes to explore. Some of these greens can be used raw in salads, but most of them are best cooked.

Photo: Cabbages and kales--curly, crinkly, sweet, bitter

Pretty, variegated salad savoys--and curly green and red kales--have both sweet and bitter overtones. Crinkly, round savoy is milder than regular cabbage. The Far Eastern members--napa and long napa--are somewhat sweeter with a slight zestiness and moist crispness; they are good raw or cooked, and their mild flavor makes them easy to combine with many foods Although there are many varieties, most are brassicas, members of the mustard family (exceptions are chard and beet greens). They all have underlying flavors similar to common vegetables you already know--broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, and mustard. To group these vegetables, we set up loose categories based on their basic flavors. Our listings, starting on page 101, describe them in detail.

Photo: Stir-fried shrimp rest on a bed of collard greens; they offer a contrast in flavor (recipe on page 160) On pages 157 to 160, we give basic cooking directions for serving them plain as well as in other dishes. Or substitute them for a similar familiar green in your own favorite recipes. Their flavor can add special taste to a traditional dish.

Photo: Broccoli--bold character

Taste the flavor of broccoli in these greens; the intensity varies with different varieties. Collard is tinged with bitterness. Broccoli rabe has a very intense flavor and crisp texture. The flowering white cabbage with yellow blossoms, whether closed or fully open, is sweet and mild. For a stronger flavor, try Chinese broccoli; its frosty-looking leaves and skin are pungent with an interesting, slightly bitter taste, but inner stalks are sweet and crunchy

Photo: Chard and choys-- mild-mannered

Red Swiss chard and Asian choys combine in this group. The redveined chard and beet greens have a hearty, slightly earthy flavor. Baby bok choy is mild with a slight bite; its small size makes it easy to steam or boil whole. Ivory-stalked bok choy comes in various stages of maturity; you can purchase small/short to large/tall heads, and sometimes just the tender hearts. The leaves have a slight pepperiness, but the stalks are rather mild; they get sweeter and succulent when cooked. Yellow flowers on bok choy heart indicate it is from a rather mature plant; flowers taste sweet

Photo: Mustards-- hot accents

The leaves and stalks of these vegetables are distinguished by their intense flavor, often hot, sometimes bitter. Use them when you want to add a little zest, or mix them with other greens. All are especially good in soups; boiling tempers their heat. The thick stems of the broad-leaf mustard are often salted or pickled. The curly and flat-leafed mustards are hot. Chrysanthemum greens are more flowery and fragrant. Turnip tops are nippy; use tender shoots sparingly in salads. Bitter matrimony vine should also be used sparingly; it's best in soups

Photo: Sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan, this light minestrone gets color and flavor from mild and hot greens (recipe on page 160)
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1986
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