Kale has become so trendy that a backlash has set in, making it the butt of many jokes. Foodie Underground even listed 25 pick-up lines for kale lovers. But you can’t beat it for nutrients and versatility. Eat baby kale leaves in salad, stir-fry mature leaves, add it to soups and stews, tuck a leaf into a sandwich. The spine running through the middle of the leaves can be tough, so reserve that part for a slow-cooked stew or your compost pile.
4 Dandelion Greens
The dandelion trend is a blessing for people who hate yard work. Now, when your neighbors complain about your disheveled yard you can look down your nose and say, “This is a reserve for nutritious greens. Don’t you know anything about fine cuisine?” Still, dandelions haven’t caught on as much as they should have, considering their high nutrition profile. The USDA ranked them as the fourth most nutritious green vegetable. Perhaps it’s hard to stomach eating a leaf that grows everywhere dogs lift their legs. The Dallas Frugal Foodie blog suggests boiling dandelions for a minute to cut their slight bitterness.
Pronounced “mosh,” this cool-weather crop is also known as corn salad and lamb’s lettuce. Its nutty flavor combines well with spinach and other greens in mixed salads. This green originally comes from Europe, where it’s sold in bunches like watercress. The French began cultivating mache in the 17th century. In the U.S., cultivation got underway much more recently in California. The lettuce’s leaves grow close to the ground, making it a pain to harvest. The expense of hand-harvesting drives up the crop’s cost, but this sweet, gentle-tasting baby lettuce is catching on. Todd Koons, CEO of Epic Roots and the person most responsible for popularizing high-quality bagged salad mixes, is a leading pro-mache crusader.
Renowned chef Frank Bonnano named his Denver fine dining restaurant Mizuna. This tangy, saw-toothed Japanese mustard green plays well with others, making for delicious mixed salads. Mizuna’s shape and peppery flavor bring arugula to mind. In Japan, mizuna comes in at least 16 varieties. In the U.S., it’s still confined mostly to farmers markets and Asian groceries. Try this dark green leaf for a beta-carotene boost. You can also stir-fry mizuna, throw some in soup or use it as a pizza topping.
1 Mesclun Mix
Ever since Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters started bringing mesclun mix seeds back from France in 1971, specialty lettuces have stormed the nation. At first Waters planted and harvested the mesclun in her yard, but soon growers grasped the commercial value. This mixture of tender young leaves originated in Southern France and traditionally includes wild-harvested varieties. Of course, now that it’s pre-washed, packed and available in grocery stores, mesclun has been domesticated. Its Italian cousin, “misticanza,” includes savory chicory leaves. To dress mesclun, Food and Wine Magazine recommends a simple mixture of oil, balsamic vinegar, basil leaves, shallots, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.