Go Green: 30 Vegetables to Eat this Winter

Don’t be blue this winter, get green instead! Sammy and Bella outline 30 vegetables to include in your diet for their health and disease fighting benefits - and give you tips and ideas on how to cook them.

This month we explore the plethora of greens that are in season in winter. We take out the mystery with a full pictorial guide on every day veggies like broccoli, to foraged weeds like dandelion, to interesting international greens like tatsoi and how to cook them.

Winter can be a bit miserable. Cold. Rainy. Blue. Gone are the lush tomatoes and fresh berries of summer that gave us so much inspiration in the kitchen. But fear not! Winter is the time to explore the best of greens, which are in season and ready to be chopped, blanched, pureed and fried into a world of different flavours for you to discover.

Benefits

Although many greens are available all year round, many are at their very best in winter both in flavour and nutritive value. Most are part of a family of plant species called brassica (sometimes called cruciferous), which are well known for its health and disease fighting benefits. They contain glucosinolates, sulphorapphane, and phytochemicals which have been shown to play a big role in reducing the risk of cancer. On top of this, they are a rich source of Vitamin C, folate, calcium and iron.

The cancer fighting and overall health benefits of winter greens are best preserved when they are eaten raw, or at least when steamed or quickly stir fried. Many of these veggies, such as spinach, are available in baby form so they can be eaten raw.

How-To

There are two troubles with greens though. Firstly, some people don’t like them. Not to worry, we have included some amazing recipe suggestions for you below. Plus you can look into the psychology of getting kids to eat their greens in last months article here

Secondly, they all look the same! On top of this, so many greens are incorrectly labelled. So this article is really all about working out what’s what, and how to use them.

Make sure you don’t forget some of the other non-green winter veggies that are in season right now. Cooking and eating in season is healthier, tastier and cheaper! Try turnip, beetroot, pumpkin, squash, potato, sweet potato, sweed, radish, parsnip, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, horseradish, radicchio, celeriac, cauliflower, cardoons, and carrots.

Try incorporating the following greens into your diet:

1. Arugula

Scientific name: Eruca Sativa

Other names: Rucola, Salad Rocket, Garden Rocket, Broad Leaf Rocket

Where to buy: Italian green grocers, farmers markets in the herbs section

Description: A peppery, wide lobed leafy green with a milder flavour than its cousin, wild rocket. Commonly used in Italian cuisine. Medium sized leaves, approx. 15-20cm.

Grows: Low to the ground in a similar fashion to lettuce.

How to choose and prepare: Buy firm, bright green leaves. Best eaten raw.

Recipe idea: A simple and delicious salad of arugula, pear, parmesan and balsamic glaze is the perfect weekday side dish to BBQ pork chops.

2. Broccoli

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea var. italica

Where to buy: All supermarkets

Description: Medium green, tight head

How to choose and prepare: Choose broccoli with no yellowing, that is firm and a nice bright green. The florettes are great for soaking up sauces, but the best flavour comes from the inner stem – super sweet!

Recipe idea: Fantastic in Thai yellow chicken curry, mild and delicate, great for kids!

3. Broccolini

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea Italica Group x Alboglabra Group

Where to buy: All supermarkets and green grocers

Description: Similar to broccoli, but with smaller florettes and long fully edible stems. It’s a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan (aka chinese broccoli) originally developed in Japan.

How to choose and prepare: Firm stems, bright green colour with no yellowing.

Recipe idea: Blanch and toss in a sauce of brown (burnt) butter, toasted almonds, a dash of hot chilli sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

4. Brussels Sprouts

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea Gemmifera

Where to buy: All supermarkets and green grocers

Description: Look like mini cabbages, about an inch in diameter. Very bitter. Mortal enemy of many children.

Grows: in cooler climates

How to choose and prepare: Can be smelly/sulfury if you overcook, so either blanch, roast or fry very quickly on a high temperature. Can be eaten raw.

Recipe idea: Try them raw, shaved very thinly in a salad with pecorino, lardons (pan fried slices of pancetta) and a good aged balsamic.

5. Buk Choy

Scientific name: Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis

Other names: Chinese cabbage, white vegetable, chinese chard

Where to buy: Asian supermarkets and green grocers

Description: Juicy, tender and very mild flavoured. Long-ish white edible stems with tender green leaves, 25cm tall. Baby buk choy is a dwarf variety, not a younger version and is sometimes called 'canton buk choy'. Slightly different to Pak Choi (see below).

How to choose and prepare: Choose firm stems, watch out for yellowing leaves which are a sign of it not being fresh. Best steamed or blanched, cook stems first as they take a little longer.

Recipe idea: Blanch and add to a simple ginger infused chicken broth, add some poached chicken for protein and you have a healthy weeknight dinner.

6. Cavelo Nero

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea Lacinato

Other names: Black Kale, Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, Lacinato Kale, Dinosaur Kale

Where to buy: Some supermarkets sell it, but your best bet is a good green grocer or farmers market

Description: Very dark green leaves 30cm long. Less bitter than kale, lovely earthy flavour. Turns almost black when cooked, visually stunning on the plate.

How to choose and prepare: Discard thick stems. Can be blanched or pan fried. Baby leaves are harvested for use in raw salads.

Recipe idea: Try the traditional Tuscan soup Ribollita made with Cavelo Nero and cannellini beans.

7. Chard

Scientific name: Beta vulgaris, variety cicla

Other names: swiss chard, silverbeet, rainbow chard, perpetual spinach, spinach

Where to buy: All supermarkets and green grocers, very common

Description: Thick long stems, usually white in the common cultivar 'fordhook giant', and large green leaves. Usually 50-70cm tall. Some varietals have yellow or red stems, a mixed bunch is called rainbow chard.

How to choose and prepare: Discard thickest part of stems. Cook thinner parts of stems first.

Recipe idea: Fantastic for making cannelloni, pan fry the chard in butter then mix with ricotta, grated pecorino and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg for best results.

8. Choy Sum

Scientific name: Brassica rapa subsp. parachinensis

Other names: Chinese flowering cabbage, vegetable heart, chinese oil vegetable, yao choy

Where to buy: Asian green grocers

Description: Slightly mustardy flavour, long stems with fleshy green leaves, 15-20cm tall.

How to choose and prepare: Firm bright green leaves, edible yellow flowers are lovely for decoration. Stir fry or blanch, or both.

Recipe idea: Blanch, then stir fry in roasted peanut oil with lots of minced garlic and sesame seeds. Finish with a dash of soy sauce and some corn flour loosened with cold water, and a final dash of ground white pepper.

9. Dandelion

Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale

Other names: Lions Tooth

Where to buy: Farmers markets

Description: Leaves with sharp edged 'teeth'

Grows: Common weed, can be foraged (wash well)

How to choose and prepare: Young leaves eaten raw in salads. Flowers are edible. Older leaves need to be blanched before eating.

Recipe idea: Blanch dandelion leaves, then pan fry in some butter and garlic. Use to fill a French style omelette, and decorate with the edible flowers.

10. English Spinach

Scientific name: Spinacia oleracea

Other names: Spinach, Baby Spinach

Where to buy: All supermarkets

Description: Velvety texture when cooked. Bright green leaves. Actually native to south west Asia. Young varieties are picked and sold as 'Baby Spinach'

How to choose and prepare: Choose vibrant leaves with out any limpness. Baby spinach can be eaten raw, or blanched for no more than 15 seconds. Fully grown leaves should be cooked and de-stemmed.

Recipe idea: An old school favourite side dish for Sunday roast: creamed spinach with plenty of nutmeg is perfect for this variety due to its silky texture.

11. Escarole

Scientific name: Cichorium endivia var latifolia

Other names: Batavian, broad leaf endive

Where to buy: Specialty green grocers and farmers markets

Description: Bitter cousin of the curly frisee, with larger broader green leaves

How to choose and prepare: Can be eaten raw, torn into salads. Also good braised.

Recipe idea: Try putting it into leblebi, a Tunisian breakfast stew made with chickpeas. Top with a poached egg and enjoy for weekend brunch!

12. Fennel

Scientific name: Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum

Other names: Anise, Florence fennel, finnochio

Where to buy: All supermarkets and green grocers

Description: A round white bulb at the base of the vegetable, with delicate aniseed flavour

How to choose and prepare: Firm, unblemished bulb. Shave the bulb and eat fresh, or it can be roasted, grilled, blanched, pureed and prepared in any number of ways. The fine tips 'fronds' make a lovely edible garnish or addition to a salad. Thick green stems are inedible.

Recipe idea: Braise chopped fennel bulb with some onion, white wine and stock. Puree and serve with roast pork or crispy skin fish, and garnish with the fronds.

13. Frisee

Scientific name: Cichorium endivia var crispum

Other names: curly endive, endive, true endive

Where to buy: Specialty green grocers, farmers markets

Description: Curly, spindly salad leaves. Can be sold picked (in salad mixes) or in heads

How to choose and prepare: Choose smaller younger heads, with a larger proportion of pale white and yellow leaves as these are less bitter. Tender young leaves should be eaten raw, outer green leaves can be sautéed.

Recipe idea: Try a delicious fresh salad with roasted hazelnuts and Spanish white anchovies.

14. Gai Choy

Scientific name: Brassica juncea

Other names: Chinese mustard, mustard greens, indian mustard, leaf mustard, sarson, takana

Where to buy: Asian green grocers

Description: Broad green leafy vegetable. Sharp, pungent mustardy flavour, similar to wasabi when raw. Flavour mellows when cooked.

How to choose and prepare: Choose firm bunches with bright green leaves. Cook leaves either very quickly, or very slowly. Good for pickling.

Recipe idea: This veg is a great substitute for collard greens, so for your next soul food, deep south inspired dinner slowly braise Gai Choy with a smoked ham hock and some bacon fat. Mmmm!

15. Gai Lan

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra

Other names: Chinese broccoli, Kai lan, chinese kale

Where to buy: Most supermarkets, and Asian grocers

Description: Slightly bitter leafy green. Flowers grow into green florettes that resemble broccolini.

How to choose and prepare: Firm leaves, discard the base of stems as they can be tough and bitter if an older plant. You can eat the stems of younger more tender plants. The older the plant, the more bitter. Blanch, or blanch and stir fry after. Stems are thicker and require longer cooking.

Recipe idea: Classically blanched and served with oyster sauce, which is slightly sweet and balances the bitterness.

16. Kale

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea L. (Acephala group)

Other names: Wild cabbage, curly kale, borecole, purple kale, red Russian

Where to buy: All supermarkets and green grocers

Description: Bitter, tough curly green leaves, usually 30 – 40 cm tall

How to choose and prepare: Once blanched, it freezes well. Generally needs to be cooked, but can be eaten raw as per recipe below (note: can be indigestible for some). Stems are inedible and tough. Can be pan fried, blanched, braised, or even roasted into kale chips.

Recipe idea: Slice kale very finely, sprinkle with lemon juice and 'massage', then add to any salads you want.

17. Leek

Scientific name: Allium ampeloprasum L. (Porrum group)

Where to buy: All supermarkets and green grocers

Description: Thick white base, with green tips. Delicate onion like flavour

How to choose and prepare: Only the whites are edible, and need to be washed thoroughly of dirt which tends to hide inside. Green tips can be used for flavouring stock but are inedible.

Recipe idea: Make a classic French quiche aux poireaux!

18. Mizuna

Scientific name: Brassica rapa nipposinica or Brassica juncea var. japonica

Other names: Shui cai, kyona, Japanese mustard, potherb mustard, Japanese greens, California peppergrass, spider mustard

Where to buy: Japanese green grocers

Description: Similar shape and flavour to rocket, but less piquant

How to choose and prepare: Young tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads (except in Japan where it’s not eaten raw), otherwise it’s excellent blanched, sautéed, in soups or pickled.

Recipe idea: A key ingredient in a Japanese hot pot, just place in the broth and let it wilt ever so gently.

19. Nettle

Scientific name: Urtica dioica

Other names: Stinging nettle, common nettle

Where to buy: Farmers markets

Description: Pretty green leaves, many varieties which flourish and are eaten in northern European cuisines. When cooked, the flavour is in between spinach and cucumber. Pick before it goes to flower in spring.

Grows: Easily in your garden too!

How to choose and prepare: Wear gloves when handling stinging nettle (not all varieties sting). Immersing in water or cooking removes stinging chemical. Best to blanch, then refresh in ice bath before eating.

Recipe idea: A classic stinging nettle risotto is the perfect way to use this veg!

20. Pak Choy

Scientific name: Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis

Other names: Shanghai bok choy, green bok choi, spoon cabbage, soup spoon bok choy

Where to buy: Most supermarkets, and all Asian grocers

Description: Shorter pale green stems with rounded leaf at the end

How to choose and prepare: Firm vegetables with no discolouring. Can be steamed or blanched or stir fried.

Recipe idea: My favourite way to eat it is steamed. It’s wonderful with a simple piece of steamed fish, seasoned with fresh ginger, soy, and a splash of shaoxing wine.

21. Rapini

Scientific name: Brassica rapa subspecies rapa

Other names: broccoli raab, broccoli rabe, cimi di rapa, rapi, broccoletti, grelos

Where to buy: Farmers markets, or frozen from Italian delis

Description: A nutty, bitter and pungent green popular in the Mediterranean

How to choose and prepare: Young leaves and florettes can be blanched

Recipe idea: Fantastic with Italian pork sausage, either on pizza or stirred through your favourite pasta.

22. Rocket, wild

Scientific name: Diplotaxis tenuifolia

Other names: Wild rocket, roquette, arugula

Where to buy: Supermarkets, green grocers

Description: The most common variety in Australia, this is a very peppery leaf. Darker green, pointy edged small leaves, approx. 6cm

Grows: on shrubs up to 1m tall

How to choose and prepare: The fresher, the more peppery. If limp, try refreshing in iced water. Can be eaten raw or wilted very quickly

Recipe idea: Cavatiéddi, or toss through pasta

23. Savoy Cabbage

Scientific name: Brassica oleracea var. sabauda

Where to buy: Good green grocers

Description: A delicately flavoured green cabbage commonly used in northern European cooking, with a bumpy surface.

How to choose and prepare: Pick a cabbage that feels heavy for its size and is unblemished. Discard tough outer leaves. Paler green inner leaves can be eaten raw in slaws, pickled, blanched, braised or pan fried.

Recipe idea: I love it’s delicate flavour pan fried with lardons, alongside good quality German style pork sausages and mash.

24. Tatsoi

Scientific name: Brassica narinosa

Other names: Spinach mustard, spoon mustard, rosette bok choy

Where to buy: Japanese grocers, selected Asian grocers, farmers markets

Description: Richly coloured round leaves which curl over at the edge. It has a delicate mustard flavour.

How to choose and prepare: Baby leaves are grown for salad mixes and are delicious raw. Fully grown tatsoi can be quickly blanched and added to soup. It’s also used for Japanese tempura.

Recipe idea: Blanch tatsoi and serve with a classic Japanese “roasted sesame dressing” made with freshly roasted and ground sesame seeds, mayo and rice vinegar.

25. Veggy Tops

Description: Various vegetables have edible tops/leaves which are a shame to throw away! Try beetroot tops, turnip tops, daikon greens, cauliflower greens, carrot tops, radish tops, celery leaves, kohlrabi leaves.

How to choose and prepare: Choose young, fresh looking leaves

Recipe idea: Blanch, chop finely and mix with parsley and dill for a classic Greek spanakopita with filo pastry.

26. Watercress

Scientific name: Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum

Where to buy: Supermarkets and specialty green grocers

Description: Small leaves and edible stems, fresh and mild peppery flavour

Grows: In ponds

How to choose and prepare: Choose bunches with no yellowing or limpness. Can be picked and eaten raw in salads, or very lightly blanched and pureed

Recipe idea: A classic British watercress soup is the perfect way to use this veg.

27. Witlof

Scientific name: C. intybus var. foliosum

Other names: Witlof, Belgian endive, chicory, endive, chicon

Where to buy: Specialty green grocers

Description: A mildly bitter, creamy chicory prized for its delicate taste. White, with pale yellow tips. Can come in a red variety, which is actually a forced radicchio. Commonly used in northern European cuisine.

Grows: 'Forced' to grow underground or inside with no sun, to prevent leaves turning green and opening up

How to choose and prepare: Choose firm witlof with tightly packed leaves. Can be eaten raw, or sliced in half and grilled.

Recipe idea: Try Bella's mum’s recipe, simply dressed with a mix of sour cream, a touch of mustard and some honey.

28. Wild Leaf Chicory

Scientific name: Cichorium intybus

Other names: Blue sailors, common chicory, succory, coffeeweed

Where to buy: Specialist Italian green grocers, farmers markets

Description: Very, very bitter, common in Italian, Spanish, Greek and Turkish cuisine. Not to be confused with varietals of root chicory, which are used for making coffee substitute.

Grows: Grows wild on roadsides in Europe, and is commonly foraged. It is also cultivated.

How to choose and prepare: Needs to be blanched first to remove some of the bitterness. Finish by pan frying with olive oil and garlic, or ad to soups and stews.

Recipe idea: A fantastic dish from Puglia, pureed white beans and wilted chicory make a delicious starter called Fave e Cicorie Selvatiche

29. Wombok

Scientific name: Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis

Other names: Chinese cabbage, napa cabbage, siu choi

Where to buy: Some supermakets, and all Chinese grocers

Description: A white and pale green cabbage, less pungent than European varieties. Has a long shelf life in the fridge.

How to choose and prepare: Can be finely sliced and eaten raw, or blanched for soups, stir fried (especially with pork), or minced for filling dumplings.

Recipe idea: Fantastic for fermentation, either make European style sauerkraut or Korean Kim Chi

30. Kalettes

Where to buy: Available exclusively in Coles or on coles.com.au nationally

Description: Kalettes are a cross between kale and brussel sprouts with a sweet and nutty flavour

How to choose and prepare: Kalettes are easy to prepare and can be sautéed, steamed, blanched, roasted or grilled or eaten raw in salads making them perfect for any autumn and winter dish.

Recipe idea: Try substituting iceberg or rocket lettuce with Kalettes in your standard green salad, or even try blitzing them up in a green smoothie. 

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