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Cooking Greens

African spinach

alogbati  See Malabar spinach.

amaranth  (There is also a grain called amaranth.)


beet greens   Notes:   Like their close relative, Swiss chard, beet greens have lots of flavor and a good, sturdy texture.  The best ones are young and tender, and sometimes come with small beets attached.   Substitutes:  Swiss chard (a very close substitute) OR turnip greens OR spinach (cooks more quickly)

borecole Pronunciation:  BORE-cole  See kale

broccoli de rabe

broccoli de rape

broccoli raab = broccolirab = broccoli de rape = broccoli de rabe = brocoletti di rape = brocoletto = rappi = rape = raab = rapini = cima di rapa = cima di rabe = choy sum = Chinese flowering cabbage  Notes:   This slightly bitter cooking green has long been popular in Italy and is now catching on in America.  It's best to just eat the florets and leaves; the stems are quite bitter.   Substitutes:  Chinese broccoli (similar, but not as bitter) OR dandelion greens OR Swiss chard OR mustard greens OR turnip greens OR kale OR broccoli (milder, takes longer to cook) OR cauliflower OR watercress




callaloo = callilu = calalou = callau = taro leaf = bhaji = elephant's ear = sag = sagaloo    Notes:  These huge leaves are about a foot and a half long, and they're a popular vegetable among Pacific islanders and some Asians.  Many Western cooks steer clear of them, though, since they must be cooked for at least 45 minutes to an hour to rid them of calcium oxalate, a toxin that irritates the throat if swallowed.    Substitutes:  Chinese spinach (very close substitute)  OR Swiss chard OR sorrel OR spinach OR mustard greens OR turnip greens (Discard the stems first. This may take longer to cook than callaloo.) OR collard greens OR meloukhia




celtuce = asparagus lettuce = stem lettuce  Notes:  This is a kind of lettuce that's grown for its stalk, which can be peeled, sliced, and stir-fried.  Look for it in Asian markets.  Substitutes: celery

Ceylon spinach  See Malabar spinach


chaya  Substitutes: spinach


Chinese broccoli = Chinese kale = gai lan = gai lum = kai lan    Notes:   Like rapini, Chinese broccoli has small stems and green heads (which actually are flowers) and lots of leaves.  But Chinese broccoli is leafier and less bitter than rapini.  It's a great vegetable to stir-fry, but you can also steam or boil it, as you would broccoli. Substitutes:  rapini OR broccoli OR bok choy  

Chinese flowering cabbage

Chinese kale

Chinese mustard cabbage

Chinese mustard greens


Chinese spinach = hiyu = hon-toi-moi = yin choy = een choy = amaranth = hsien tsai    Notes:   This is similar to spinach, only it's prettier, tastier, and more nutritious.  Look for it in Asian markets.  Substitutes: spinach (This isn't as delicate as Chinese spinach) OR callaloo 

chop suey greens

choy sum


chrysanthemum leaves = chop suey greens = tong ho = tung ho = garland chrysanthemum = shungiku    Notes:  This Asian potherb is used to flavor salads, soups, sukiyaki and other dishes.  The leaves are usually blanched briefly to soften them and deepen their color, but young leaves can be served raw.  Add them to cooked dishes at the last minute, as they become bitter if overcooked.    Substitutes:  spinach

cima di rabe

cima di rapa


collard greens = collards  Notes:  This is a favorite of Southern cooks, who often cook them with salt pork or smoked ham hocks.  Frozen collards are an acceptable substitute for fresh.   Substitutes:  kale (crinkled leaves) OR kohlrabi leaves OR bok choy (milder flavor) OR turnip greens OR mustard greens (spicier flavor) 

cow cabbage  See kale.  

curled mustard


een choy


gai choy = kai choy = Chinese mustard cabbage = Chinese mustard greens = Indian mustard = leaf mustard  Notes:   Asian cooks like to pickle this, or else use it in soups or stir-fries.  If you find gai choy too pungent to stir-fry, blanch it first in salted water.   Substitutes:  mustard greens (more pungent) OR broccoli raab

gai lan

gai lum

garland chrysanthemum




jam leaf

jute leaf = West Africa sorrel = krin-krin = saluyot = rau day = Jew mallow   Notes:  These are tossed into stews in Africa, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia.  Substitutes:   spinach

kai choy

kail  See kale.


kale = borecole = cow cabbage = kail   Pronunciation:   KAYL   Notes:  Kale is a kind of cabbage with dark green, wrinkled leaves.  It's prized more for its hardiness than its flavor or delicacy, but it continues to be popular in the South, where it's often cooked as a side dish.  Remove and discard the tough center stalks before cooking.  Varieties include curly kale, dinosaur kale = black cabbage = lacinato kale, and the popular Red Russian kale = ragged jack kaleSubstitutes:  collard greens (smooth leaves) OR rapini OR Swiss chard (This cooks more quickly than kale.) OR flowering kale OR cabbage OR napa cabbage OR kohlrabi leaves OR mustard greens OR spinach (in casseroles and souffles)   



kohlrabi greens  Notes:   These can be cooked just like Swiss chard.  Remove the stems first if they're too thick.   Substitutes:  Swiss chard OR collard greens OR kale

kontomire = African spinach  Shopping hints: This African green is very hard to find fresh in the United States, and the canned version is terrible.   Substitutes: Swiss chard OR spinach

leaf beet

long green


Malabar spinach = Ceylon spinach = saan choy = slippery vegetable = alogbati = mong toi = Vietnamese spinach   Notes:  This is cooked much like spinach, but it's a bit slimy like okra.  It occasionally shows up in Asian markets.   Substitutes:  spinach OR okra

mustard greens = curled mustard  Notes:  These are more popular in the South than in the rest of the country.  There are red and green varieties, and both have a peppery bite.  If the greens are too pungent for your taste, you can tame them by blanching them in salted water.   Substitutes: gai choy (less pungent) OR escarole (less pungent) OR kale (less pungent) OR Swiss chard (less pungent) OR spinach (less pungent; cooks more quickly) OR radish greens  

nettles = nettle leaves    Shopping hints: Nettles have long been used in Europe as a substitute for spinach or kale, but they're tricky to use.  The tips contain formic acid, a nasty irritant that can give you a serious rash on the outside and cause even more damage on the inside. You can remove the formic acid by cooking and/or soaking the nettles, but don't try this unless you know what you're doing.  If you're harvesting your own nettle leaves, select young ones.    Substitutes: escarole OR beet greens OR spinach

pumpkin leaves = pumpkin greens   Substitutes:  Swiss chard OR turnip greens OR chicory OR spinach


purslane = verdolaga   Shopping hints:   Hispanic cooks especially like these crunchy, mild tasting greens.  You can use them raw in salads, or cook them as a side dish.  Look for them in Hispanic markets.   Substitutes:  watercress (milder flavor) OR spinach (milder flavor) OR okra  

quail grass  Substitutes:  spinach



radish greens    Notes:   These have a peppery flavor, and they're great raw in salads and sandwiches, or you can cook them as you would other leafy greens.   The leaves are fairly pungent, though, so a  little goes a long way.  The greens from young plants are best.   Substitutes: mustard greens






saan choy  See Malabar spinach

seakale beet

silver beet

slippery vegetable  See Malabar spinach


sorrel = rosella = sour grass = dock = sour dock  Pronunciation:  SORE-uhl  Notes:  This sour herb is quite popular in France.  They like to cook it briefly and make a purée out of it, which they ladle over eggs, fish, meat, and other dishes.  It can also be served raw in salads.   Substitutes:  spinach + lemon zest OR arugula   

sour grass


spinach  Equivalents:  One pound fresh = 1 cup cooked = 5 ounces frozen  Notes:   Spinach is packed with nutrients, and it's quite versatile.  You can toss it raw into salads, or cook it briefly to make a side dish or soup.   Of the two main varieties, smooth leaf spinach = flat leaf spinach = salad spinach is more delicate and better suited to salads than curly leaf spinach. Look for spinach with small, narrow stems--they're younger and more tender.   And always use fresh spinach if you can; it's much  more palatable than frozen or canned spinach.   Substitutes: Chinese spinach (more delicate) OR Swiss chard (more flavorful, but takes longer to cook) OR beet greens (more flavorful, but takes longer to cook) OR sorrel (color fades when cooked; consider adding parsley for color) OR kale (especially in casseroles; takes longer to cook) OR turnip greens (discard stems; takes longer to cook) OR escarole (especially with hot bacon dressings)    

spinach beet

swamp spinach


Swiss chard = chard = spinach beet = leaf beet = seakale beet = silver beet = white beet    Notes:  Swiss chard is used much like spinach, except that it has an appealing beet-like flavor and a heavier texture, which requires longer cooking.  Many cooks simply sauté it in olive oil and serve it as a side dish.  Red chard = rhubarb chard = ruby chard, with green leaves and red stalks, is slightly more tender and flavorful than white chard = green chard, with white stalks and green leaves, but the two are interchangeable in most recipes.    Substitutes: beet greens OR spinach OR turnip greens OR bok choy OR escarole OR mustard greens 


taro leaves

tong ho


turnip greens = turnip tops = turnip salad = Hanover greens  Notes:   A staple of Southern cuisine, turnips greens are traditionally served with salt pork or ham hocks.  The leaves are pungent and slightly bitter, especially older ones, but they become milder when cooked.   Don't prepare them with aluminum cookware, as it will affect their flavor and appearance.  Substitutes:  dandelion greens OR mustard greens OR kale (takes longer to cook) OR collard greens (takes longer to cook, consider blanching first to reduce bitterness) OR Swiss chard (milder flavor) OR spinach (milder flavor) 

turnip salad

turnip tops

ung choy

verdolaga  See purslane.


water spinach = swamp spinach = ung choy = long green = kangkong = tangkong   Notes:  This cooking green is very common in the Philippines.  Some varieties have purple stems.  Substitutes: spinach OR watercress

white beet

yin choy


Copyright © 1996-2005  Lori Alden