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Green Vegetables or “Greens” is a term that is bandied about the kitchen to mean various green colored vegetables or green parts of green vegetables; but what does “Greens” actually mean?

According to one dictionary Greens are “any of various leafy plants, or their leaves and stems, eaten as vegetables.” Another dictionary defines “Greens” as “edible seeds or roots or stems or leaves or bulbs or tubers or non-sweet fruits of numerous herbaceous plants.” Still other definitions just shoehorn a bunch of green colored vegetables (like Kale, Collard Greens, Spinach, Green Cabbage, Mustard Greens, etc.) into the category and hope for the best.  

So at the more precise end, we can think of “greens” as leaves and at the broader end we can think of them as all green-colored, non-sweet vegetative matter. Since the dictionaries are not overly helpful, we suggest considering both the broad definition and the precise definition when discussing or working with Greens. What does the context suggest is being discussed or called for? If you are unsure ask for clarification.

At Smart Kitchen we remain aware of the broader definitions but tend to think of “Greens” as leafy plants, or leafy plant parts, like stems, eaten as vegetables.

Pre-historic humans began the practice of eating leaves as food. Different types of leaves, depending on the place and the season, have always been a part of our diet. Traces of edible leaves have been found in ancient Egyptian archeological sites, in ancient Greece and in ancient Rome.

With crop husbandry and evolution, many of those historical Greens have become more pleasant, better looking and more tender. How do we know? Some of the historical Leafy Vegetables are still out there thriving in the wild and the comparison is easy. In fact, many cultures blend both the farm-raised Greens and the wild Leafy Greens in their diets.

For example, in the Italian region of Liguria, a spring gathering of edible leaves from the fields and woods is a tradition. They make Preboggion (a stuffing for Pasta) from their foraged bounty. In Greece, they eat a mix of foraged Leafy Greens as a dish called Horta.


Within the definition of “Greens” there are also some sub-sets of Greens such as: Chop-Suey Greens, Beet Greens, Mustard Greens, Asian Greens, Salad Greens, Boiled Greens, Dandelion Greens, Turnip Greens, Spring Greens, Collard Greens, Vegetable Greens, Baby Greens, Micro Greens and Leafy Greens.


Jill Nussinow, the author of The Veggie Queen and a culinary educator claims that “Greens are the number one food you can eat regularly to help improve your health. The reason is that Greens are “brimming with fiber along with vitamins, minerals, and plant-based substances that may help protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and perhaps even cancer.”

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