7 New Weird And Wonderfully Delicious Greens You Should Be Growing This Year

Looking for inspiration for tasty things to plant this year? This new book has the answers.

March 29, 2017
weird herbs
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The cookbook I’m most excited for this spring is The Book Of Greens, an encyclopedic reference to all things herbaceous, leafy, and edible from the celebrated Portland, Oregon chef Jenn Louis.

The Book of Greens, by Jenn Louis and Kathleen Squires, offers lots of inspiration for cooks and gardeners alike.
Image courtesy of Ten Speed Press

The book, co-authored with award-winning food and nutrition journalist Kathleen Squires, is chockablock with recipes that range far beyond the usual suspects (goodbye kale salad, sayonara, slaws!), focusing instead on unusual greens and their delicious uses: tender young pea greens (featured atop a savory oat porridge with parmesan and a soft-boiled egg), aromatic herbs from the Mediterranean and Asia (featured in dishes like spicy clams with shiso butter), and the foliage of plants not typically thought of as edible, but perfectly safe to eat (tomato leaf, for one!).

You might have a hard time finding some of those ingredients in the supermarket, but do you know where you will find them? In your garden.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

This enticing, appetite-whetting cookbook doubles as a helpful prompt for gardeners who are itching to grow their herb garden beyond basil and thyme. The moment I started flipping through my copy, The Book of Greens sent me into a reverie of listmaking as I jotted down new ingredients I wanted to try in my garden this year.

That’s no accident, says Louis. “I was raised in Southern California where we always grew our own food. My parents instilled in my siblings and me an importance surrounding vegetables, knowing where our food came from, and eating what was available.”

Related: 4 Indoor Herb Combinations From Around The World

The Book of Greens is a reminder of how wide the world of delicious plants can be—and gives us some easy, delicious ways to try them. “I understand that learning to buy, grow and cook new vegetables can be intimidating, so I hope that my book can serve as an accessible guide to put hesitant minds at ease and open people up to the possibilities,” Louis says. “I would encourage home gardeners now to think outside of the box. There are so many amazing ingredients out there that make cooking dynamic and exciting—and they're accessible and easy to grow.”

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Interested in adding some new flavors to your garden? Here are some herbs and vegetables to try.

Excerpts reprinted with permission from The Book of Greens, by Jenn Lous, copyright © 2017, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

agretti
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Agretti

A staple in Roman peasant food, agretti (Salsola soda) is a succulent-like grass. Its name means “little sour one” in Italian, and it is also known as opposite-leaved saltwort and roscana. Its appearance resembles wide, grassier chives, its raw texture is lightly crunchy, and its flavor is best described as mineral, acidic, tart, and slightly salty. Because it originates in Lazio, it is prepared simply, like other vegetables native to the region; it is often served raw, boiled, or sautéed with olive oil. Agretti is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K and of iron, fiber, and calcium. Use it raw in salads or cook by boiling, steaming, sautéing, or stir-frying. Mix into pasta and risotto or use as a topping for crostini, bruschetta, or pizza.

Agretti seeds are available from Seeds from Italy.

vietnamese coriander
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Vietnamese Coriander

"This is a popular herb in Southeast Asian cooking and brings a potent flavor reminiscent of tarragon and chives," Louis says. "I fell in love with it during my travels in Vietnam, where they use it in soups, salads, sandwiches, and as a garnish or accompaniment to fried and grilled meats. I love to chop it up for deviled egg filling or use it in fried rice." 

Look for Vietnamese coriander (pesicaria odorata) seeds from The Grower's Exchange.

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amaranth
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Amaranth

Also known as African spinach, bush greens, Chinese spinach, Indian spinach, Joseph’s coat, and yin choy, amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)  can range in color from bright green to green with red or purple, depending on variety. The flavor is akin to spinach; the texture is sturdier, holding up well to stewing. The greens are rich in protein; in vitamins A, C, and folate; and in calcium, iron, manganese, and dietary fiber. Try them raw in salads or cook by stir-frying, sautéing, braising, boiling, steaming, simmering, or stewing. 

You can order amaranth seeds from Baker Creek

shiso
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Shiso

"This is one of my favorite herbs to cook with and grow," Louis says. "It's common in Japanese cooking and many might already be familiar with its common applications and flavors from Japanese restuarants— as a garnish on a sushi platter, or even battered and deep fried on a tempura plate. These are delicious uses, but I like to take it a step further and use shiso like a wrap—folding the bigger leaves like a tortilla, filled with chicken or skirt steak, rice, and yuzu kosho, or making shiso butter to add to a broth or sauce. Shiso butter brings a beautiful counterpoint to clams, fish and seafood."

Shiso (also known as beefsteak plant and perilla) can be ordered from Kitazawa Seed company.

lovage
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Lovage

Though the flavor of lovage (Levisticum officinale) is often compared to celery—it is also called “false celery”—it is not quite as mild. Its similarity, however, makes it a natural as a soup flavoring. "Like celery, it is also a great way to jazz up a potato or chicken salad," Louis says. "The feathery leaves are high in vitamin C and quercetin, a plant pigment used as an immunity booster. Scotch lovage is a different genus (Ligusticum scoticum) but still something I love and sometimes use with mint to make a panna cotta."

Order lovage seeds from Baker Creek.

 
 
nasturtium
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Nasturtium

These spicy and peppery leaves are in the same family as watercress. A rich source of vitamin C and iron, the leaves are amazing in salads, or cooked down to temper some of the spicy bite. "They bring a perfect lush flavor to my Braised Flank Steak with olives. I sauté the leaves with prosciutto, onion, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and red pepper flakes and paprika as a delicious and aromatic stuffing for the butterflied, slow-cooked steak," Louis says. (Eat even more of your flowers with these 9 flowers you didn’t know you could eat)

You can order nasturtium seeds from Johnny's Seeds.

spigarello
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Spigarello

A leafy variety of broccoli (Brassica olevacea var. italic)—the English name for it is, after all, “leaf broccoli”—Italians have always prized these greens, especially for tossing in pasta, simmering in soup and stews, baking, roasting, braising, steaming, and sautéing. Though some refer to it as the “parent of broccoli rabe,” the gentle, grassy flavor of spigarello could not be more different. The leaves contain vitamins A, C, and folate and iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.

Spigariello can be ordered from Seeds from Italy.