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Finding Non-Cruciferous Greens

I eat a lot of greens, a lot of them raw, and notice that besides spinach and lettuce, virtually every leafy green at the grocery store is a cruciferous vegetable: cabbage, kale, collards, bok choy, rapini, mustard, kohlrabi, turnip greens, cress, mizuna, tatsoi, even fenugreek and most of the other greens they sell at the Indian store are in the cruciferous family.

I'd like to start eating more non-cruciferous greens, even if it means growing some on my own, and wondered if any of you could contribute to the list I have so far:

◙ Dandelion greens
◙ Escarole
◙ Endive
◙ Amaranth (I think what is often sold as "red spinach" in Chinese and Indian markets might be a red variety of amaranth)
◙ Purslane
◙ Lovage
◙ Lambsquarters
◙ Gongura or Rosselle greens

I'm sure there are non-cruciferous greens I've never heard of eaten in other cultures, and I'd love to know more about them: what they taste like, how they're traditionally prepared, and how they are cultivated.

And if you have any great recipes for lovage, I'd very much appreciate them. (There's a vendor who often has a bunch or two at our farmer's market, but her only suggestion was to add it to salad.)

Thanks for your help,

PS: Is chard a cruciferous vegetable? I had thought not, but I see it listed as such on many websites.

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  1. Chard is not a cruciferous green, it's closely related to beets. (Which, btw - beet greens!) But you're right - it's surprisingly hard to come up with others.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Allstonian

      Thanks, Alistonian. That's what I thought.

      1. re: Allstonian

        Beets are grown for the roots. Chard is grown for the leaves. Basically the same plant bred for different production outcome.

        1. re: Bkeats

          And the beet greens are edible - you can prepare them like chard!

          One of Julie Sahni's Indian cookbooks has a nice recipe for beets smothered with beet greens that's quick and easy.

          1. re: Bkeats

            Beets are actually grown in home gardens for both.

        2. Beets and their cousin Chard are not in the Brassica (cruciferous) family. They are in the Amaranthaceae (Amaranth) family.

          Nor are parsley or celery (lovage's milder cousin - lovage is *very* strong: a little goes a long way (I grow it myself)).


          1 Reply
          1. re: Karl S

            Thanks Kari S. I thought of adding parsley to the list, and I do sometimes put a fistful in a smoothie, but it's hard to eat more than a couple of ounces at a time. Still good to keep in mind, though.

          2. As to lovage, I don't have a recipe but years ago had delicious cream of lovage soup at a restaurant in Scotland. It was similar to cream of watercress, so I would think you could use a recipe for that, substituting lovage.

            1 Reply
            1. re: masha

              Thanks, masha. I'm going to try making that next time I get hold of some lovage.

            2. Swiss Chard
              Pea sprouts
              Beet greens
              Sorrel - a slightly lemony fizzy taste. You usually cannot find it in larger quantities; I like to add it to salads for that bit of something different.

              1. Cilantro, basil and romaine lettuce are also noncruciferous.

                1. Asparagus and green peppers are coming to mind, but I might be the only one that prefers raw asparagus to cooked. .
                  ETA---sorry, I read the original post wrongly. Not true greens (i.e. salad) unless you finely slaw or eat as finger food. Sorry, ninrn

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pinehurst

                    No worries, pinehurst. I always enjoy your posts.

                  2. Do they have to be leafy?

                    Celery root
                    Green beans
                    Chinese water spinach
                    Wheat grass

                    1. Thanks for the responses. I know there are a lot of culinary herbs and non-leafy vegetables that aren't cruciferous, so right now I'm just looking for suggestions of leafy greens, not necessarily just ones that I can eat raw, and things I can eat in a large vegetable portion. Couldn't really do that with most herbs.

                      I put beet greens, chard, and radicchio on the list, and love the idea of sorrel, Chinese water spinach, and pea sprouts. I used to eat a lot of sunflower sprouts but had forgotten about them. So all those go on as well.

                      I read somewhere once that people from Crete eat a lot of wild foraged greens. Does anyone happen to know the names of any of those? Or Native American greens?

                      Thanks again, ninrn

                      5 Replies
                        1. re: ninrn

                          This might help identify the various wild and cultivated greens on Crete:

                          When I visited Crete, I was rarely informed as to which green I was ordering. Most menus merely listed plates of "horta" or pies containing "horta". It was explained to me that whatever was in season would be that day's horta.

                          On a different note, I am a fan of watercress, purslane, chrysanthemum leaves and mustard greens, water spinach, snow pea shoots/leaves, radish greens, carrot greens, amaranth leaves, Chinese chives, garlic chives and pretty much every Asian green available to me.

                          1. re: ninrn

                            Miners' Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is a wild green native to the West Coast of North America: it's been taking over the yard every spring. Orach is another edible plant in the same family as Amaranth: when I can find it at the farmers' market I treat it like spinach.

                            Fenugreek is a legume, BTW, so you can put the leaves back on the list!

                            1. re: tardigrade

                              Yay. I thought fenugreek was a non-cruciferous, too, until I read a couple of articles that listed it that way. It doesn't look anything like a cv, but then again, neither does watercress.

                              Thanks for the information about Miner's Lettuce and Orach.

                          2. Chinese chives
                            Welsh onions

                            In fact, all three go great together, diced and tossed with a bit of EVOO, rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, white pepper and a touch of horseradish.

                            1. Ipomea aquatica (water spinach, water morning glory, hollow stem spinach, etc.)

                              Can be eaten cooked (steamed, sauteed with garlic) or raw as a salad dressed with a dressing of vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, thinly sliced onion. A knife like this will cut the stems lengthwise into long curly slivers.

                                1. Rau Mong Toi (Basella alba, red vine spinach, climbing spinach) - not related to Amaranth

                                  It makes a nice soup.

                                  1. I think chayote squash leaves would count - they're the leaf of a type of melon. They're one of my favourites; the leaves stay fairly firm after cooking rather than shrinking down, and the flavour is nice.

                                      1. The thing about the cruciferous vegetables you listed is that they are Winter hardy and therefore readily found in markets. I believe the following leafy vegetables meet your criteria:

                                        Chicory (curly endive)
                                        Fiddle head ferns

                                        1. My new favorite, discovered at our local farmers' market are Creasy Greens, or winter cress. They work well in salad, and also lightly wilted with some olive oil and garlic. Here's some info: http://davesgarden.com/guides/article...

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ksbee

                                            Thanks. These sound really good, but they are also in the cruciferous plant family. I might try to grow some next year anyway, since I love watercress but it takes too much water to grow it here in the high desert.

                                            1. re: ninrn

                                              Unless you don't like their flavor(s), may I ask WHY you want to avoid the cruciferous vegetables? They are very healthy. For some people they may be a flatulence problem but there's Beano for that, and the more regularly we eat beans and other such foods, the better (and less fragrantly) we process them. Patients on anticoagulants may be dismayed when their primary care professional advises them to limit intake of dark greens, but your anti-coag manager (usually a nurse) can help you work with them. Mine explained that the issue is not THAT you eat dark greens, but how consistently. They'll thicken your blood, but your coumadin dose can be adjusted to compensate for that. The more your weekly diet changes, the more you risk not hitting your target INR.
                                              I cook a lot and have a large repertoire. Between that and buying produce in season, my dosage needs frequent monitoring. But I've gotten pretty good at balancing things out. If the stalks of Brussels sprouts are in at Trader Joe's, I'll have a glass of wine, or cherry or grape juice, on days when I gorge on the sprouts. The anti-coag nurses stress that they aren't going to tell their patients WHAT to eat and drink, but patients DO need to be forthcoming about what changes in their food choices.

                                          2. Molokhia
                                            Drumstick leaves
                                            Karela leaves
                                            Pepper leaves
                                            Sweet potato leaves
                                            Chayote shoots
                                            Malabar spinach
                                            Stinging nettles

                                            1. Do you make taboulé? If you don't eat any gluten, you could substitute quinoa for bulghur. Real taboulé has more parsley or other greens than grain or pseudograin.

                                              1. Is there a reason that you are leaving various types of lettuce off of your list?

                                                romaine (green or red)
                                                oak leaf lettuce - red or green
                                                red or green leaf lettuce (loose leaf lettuce)
                                                red or green tango
                                                butter, bibb or boston lettuce
                                                lolla rosa
                                                red or green batavia (leaf)
                                                apollo lettuce/crisp lettuce
                                                curly endive or frisee
                                                mache/lambs lettuce/corn salad
                                                orache/saltbush (some varieties were eaten by Native Americans)

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Springhaze2

                                                  The OP included lettuce and spinach in the first line of the post.

                                                2. The only one I know of which hasn't been mentioned is cardoon. They grow easily for me and keep producing leaves until frost. Takes a little prep though.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    Thanks, meatn3. I wondered about these -- are the leaves edible, or just the stems?

                                                    1. re: ninrn

                                                      To my knowledge it is just the stem portion. My bad - I just purchased a few new cardoons and I love the leaf structure and color. The leaves are the aspect of the plant I think of so didn't consider that you are just eating the stalk...

                                                  2. Meatn3's mention of cardoon jogged my memory and it occurred to me that broccoli and cauliflower leaves are edible and delicious especially the younger leaves. Also, daikon leaves are very nice in a stir-fry along with the leaves of other radishes, and other root vegetables as already mentioned..

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      Hi Gio -- Broccoli and cauliflower are cruciferous plants though, as are daikon and other radishes. This is what I mean about it being very hard to find non-cruciferous greens in the grocery stores.

                                                      1. re: ninrn

                                                        OH Gosh! I know that, LOL. The funny thing is, we spent most of this past Winter cooking from a cookbook that was focused on recipes from the root cellar, and now that Spring is here I haven't even looked at many cruciferous vegetables so I'm more or less thinking along the same theme as you are. I'll really be very happy when our local Farmers' Market returns in mid-May.

                                                    2. you didn't mention if you were vegtrn, but here is a lovage beef recipe, and others:


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                        Wow. Several nice lovage recipes on that link. Thank you!