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Cool (Season) Leafy Greens to Grow + Recipe

April 17, 2015

Growing leafy greens from seed is easy. In fact, you’re probably already growing many of them without knowing it. Some of our favorite leafy greens come attached to delicious root vegetables. And, all of them are simple to sow, grow and cook. In this post, we’ll focus on some of the more delicate greens like spinach and lettuce as well as leafy greens from plants you might not think of as leafy forage.

Mixed leafy salad greens

Mixed leafy salad greens like speckled & butter lettuces, mizuna and spinach are just a few of the many leafy greens to grow & eat in the cool season.

The basics for growing each of our favs is:

  1. Pick a variety known to perform well in your area. (Check our shopping list below for ideas!)
  2. Pick a sunny spot (in the cool season) that has nutrient-rich, well drained, weed-free soil.
  3. Sow seeds thickly – meaning put a lot of them into your garden row to start. Plant them to the depth recommended on the seed packet.
  4. Cover the bed with a cold frame, cloche, hoop house or horticultural fleece.
  5. Water seeds gently everyday until they germinate and then continue to water those babies.
  6. Begin thinning seedlings as soon as the rows emerge, using the “thinning” leafy greens to augment salads and other dishes. (Thinning isn’t a one-time thing; you’ll be doing it very few days or every week. “Thinning” means pulling out every other – or so – plant to give remaining plants room to grow.
  7.  As the plants get bigger each week, your harvest will get larger too. Eventually, you will pick the entire, mature plant.

Here are a few of our favorite leafy greens to try in your spring garden now. Plus a recipe & shopping!

Spinach seedlings

Spinach is one of our favorite cool season greens to grow. Bloomsdale is one of our favorite varieties that grows great in the soil or containers. Pull an entire plant to thin & harvest.

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(Full disclosure: some of the plants shown here may have been grown from seed supplied to us for free for trial by seed or plant growers or distributors. We have received no compensation to mention them here.)

Beet Leafy Greens

Did you know cool-season chard & beets are close cousins?
Beet tops are a bonus edible to go with those sweet roots!

spinach, radish & lettuce leafy greens

While lettuce & spinach are generous leafy greens, radish greens are abundant & tasty too!

Radish leafy greens

Radishes grow fast! It’s important to thin (and eat) the leafy green tops so the remaining plants have plenty of room to produce big, sweet, crunchy roots.

Mikado turnip leafy greens

Turnips also produce sweet leafy greens to eat. These Mikado turnips are some of our favorites. They’re not your granny’s tough ole turnip!

Radish leafy greens in kitchen

After you snap the roots off radishes, beets & turnips, make the following leafy greens recipe.

Radish Leafy Green SautePrint Print

Radish leafy greens side dish

Quick, simple radish leafy greens saute side dish.

In the south, many of my aunties had greens on just about every dinner table. This is my version of a less “cooked to death” version that stays bright green and doesn’t take all day in a pressure cooker. Try it with a nice slice of ham! (Mikado turnip, beet, weedy nettles, and other leafy greens can be substituted for radish greens in this recipe. Tough collards and kale may need more cooking time.

1.5 lbs young radish greens (or tops of about 15-25 radishes), well washed and roughly chopped
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin slivers
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 dried chili peppers (or 1/4 t chili pepper flakes)
1-2 T. apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste

Warm a large saute pan or wok over medium heat. Add oil and butter. Stir until melted.

Add slivered onions and saute gently over medium-low heat until nearly clear, about 8 minutes. Add garlic slivers, toss a few times. Add dried chili peppers. Cook until garlic loses its sharp odor and onions become completely limp.

Begin adding the greens to the pan in batches, starting with the root-end stems first. These take the longest to soften. Toss several times. Then add more greens by the fistful, tossing well before adding more. If you add everything at once, it can be hard to get all of the leaves evenly wilted.

As soon as all of the leaves are tossed and limp, sprinkle 1 T. cider vinegar over the greens and toss. Don’t inhale the steam or you may cough! Add another tablespoon if you like extra vinegar. Heck! Serve some on the side too.

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