7 More Greens You Should Try

In School Nutrition’s March 2015 issue, author Brent Frei provided an overview of 10 different leafy green varieties in “Lettuce Rejoice!” Read on to discover several other types that may add new flavor to menu items you make for your family—and your student customers!

Bok Choy. Bok choy is a mild, versatile vegetable with crunchy white stalks and tender, dark-green leaves. Choose bunches with firm, white stalks topped with crisp, green leaves. Boy choy is available year-round and should be stored airtight in the walk-in or cooler. It can be used raw in salads, in a stir-fry or as a cooked vegetable. Bok choy is related to, but is not the same as, Chinese cabbage.

Endive. Closely related to and often confused with its cousin, chicory, both are part of the same botanical family, Cichorium. There are three main varieties. Belgian endive is about 6 inches long, with a cigar-shaped head of cream-colored, tightly packed, slightly bitter leaves. It’s grown in complete darkness to prevent it from turning green (using a labor-intensive growing technique known as “blanching”) and becoming bitter when exposed to light. Belgian endive can be served cold as part of a salad or cooked by braising, grilling or baking. Individual leaves (cooked or uncooked) are often used as scoops for appetizers.

Curly endive, particularly mistaken for chicory in the United States, grows in loose heads of lacy, green-rimmed outer leaves that curl at the tips. The off-white center leaves form a compact heart. The leaves of the curly endive have a prickly texture and slightly bitter taste. Escarole, meanwhile, has broad, slightly curved, pale-green leaves with a milder flavor than either Belgian or curly endive. Both curly endive and escarole are available year-round. They should be selected for their fresh, crisp texture. Be sure to avoid heads with discoloration or insect damage. Both are used mainly in salads (particularly when leaves are younger), but can also be briefly cooked (wilted) and eaten as a vegetable side dish or in soups and stews.

Frisée. An official member of the chicory family, frisée has delicately slender, curly leaves that range in color from yellow-white to yellow-green. This feathery vegetable has a mildly bitter flavor and is often used in salad mixes. You may see it on menus or as part of a mesclun salad mix. When purchasing fresh, choose frisée with crisp leaves that show no signs of wilting.

Mâche. Native to Europe, mâche is also known as field salad, field lettuce, lamb’s lettuce and corn salad. It grows in a rosette shape. The narrow, dark-green leaves of this plant are tender and have a tangy, nutlike flavor. In addition to being used as a salad green, mâche also can be steamed and served as a vegetable. Though it’s often found growing wild in American cornfields, mâche is considered a gourmet green, and thus is pricey and often difficult to find. Mâche doesn’t keep well, and should be used within a day or two of receiving.

Mizuna. Hailing from Japan, this feathery, delicate salad green can be found in farmer’s markets and specialty produce markets from spring through summer. Like frisée, it’s often found in mesclun. Choose mizuna (also called siu cai or Japanese mustard greens) by its crisp, green leaves, avoiding any wilted or browning specimens.

Swiss Chard. Also known simply as chard, this cruciferous member of the beet family (!) features crinkly green leaves and silvery, celery-like stalks. The variety with dark-green leaves and reddish stalks (sometimes referred to as rhubarb chard) has a stronger flavor than varieties with lighter leaves and stalks. Chard is available year-round, but is best during the summer. Choose chard for its tender greens and crisp stalks. The greens can be prepared like spinach, while the stalks can be an alternative to asparagus.

Watercress. This member of the mustard family can often be found in the wild in and around streams and brooks in North America and Europe, although it is easily cultivated with the right irrigation. Much cultivated “watercress” is actually garden cress, which has less bite and crunch than true watercress. Watercress has small, crisp, dark-green leaves. Its pungent flavor is slightly bitter and has a peppery snap. Watercress is available year-round and is customarily sold in small bouquets. Choose crisp leaves with deep, vibrant color. There should be no sign of yellowing or wilting. Watercress may be used in salads, sandwiches, soups and a variety of cooked dishes. It’s also a popular garnish.

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