Types of Greens
Beet greens: Beet greens can be used in many recipes, though they tend to have a stronger flavour than many other greens and their red colour can alter the look of some dishes (which can be good or bad depending on the dish and your preference).
Bok choi and Oriental greens: Bok choi has a great texture and is wonderful for stir-fries and braised greens. Many oriental greens are now available with flavours ranging from hot and peppery to mustard-like to mild.
Cabbage: Savoy cabbage can be readily substituted for other leafy greens. It is similar to bok choi, with thick stems and tender leaves. Regular head cabbage takes longer to cook and the texture and flavour can overwhelm some dishes. However, cabbage is good braised or stewed.
Chard: Swiss, Rhubarb, Rainbow and other varieties of chard vary in the stem colour and thickness but taste similar. In many French recipes, only the stems are used and the leaves are discarded.
Kale: Tiny kale leaves can be used raw in salads; older kale can be used in all sorts of recipes.
Rapini (broccoli rabe): Rapini is an ancestor of broccoli, with a distinct flavour, slightly bitter and peppery.
Spinach: Spinach is a versatile green. Freshly picked, young spinach is nice in salads, whereas older spinach can be used in soups, stews, stir-fries, baked dishes, frittatas and more.
Mixtures: A mix of tender young salad greens is known as mesclun. Braising or stir-fry mixes are tougher and often more flavourful. These mixes can be cooked quickly and can often be substituted for spinach.
Wild greens: Many wild greens are edible, such as dandelions, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, plantain and stinging nettles. For most of these (but not nettles!), you can use small tender leaves in salad, and more mature leaves as cooking greens to replace spinach or Swiss chard. Note that stinging nettles lose their sting after cooking or drying.
If the stems are either thick or tough (e.g., chard and kale), give the stems a headstart with cooking. I usually put the stems in the steamer or boiling water for a few minutes before adding the leaves.
Greens can be steamed. Steaming retains the nutrients, but some cooks prefer to quickly dunk the greens into a pot of boiling water. For tender greens, such as spinach, I like to sauté garlic and other additions (e.g., nuts, currants) and then add just washed (but not dried) spinach. I cover the pan and let it cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat, and serve immediately.