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Greens for the Garden

October 14, 2000|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS

The following popular greens are tasty additions to any cool-season garden.

* Broccoli raab: Also known as rapini, this Italian green produces an abundance of deep green leaves and tender shoots that are topped with broccoli-like buds. This full-flavored green adds a zesty lift to foods such as pasta, potatoes, sausage and ham. It can also be made the traditional Italian way--sauted in olive oil and garlic and used to top pasta or rice.

* Chinese cabbage: First cultivated centuries ago in China, this Asian green was introduced into North America in the late 19th century. It has a light, lettuce flavor with a hint of cabbage. It can be eaten raw or stir-fried.

* Cornsalad (Valerianella locusta): Also known as mache or lamb's lettuce, this buttery, nutty-flavored salad green was once a weed that grew in corn patches. It's extremely popular in Europe. The plant has rounded leaves that grow into fist-sized rosettes.

* Endive: Although store-bought endive is often tough and bitter, when grown in the garden, this green is mild and crunchy. Its frilly leaves make an attractive addition to salad.

* Escarole: Closely related to endive, this salad green has broader, thinner, more tender leaves that are crunchy and sweet. It can be used as a salad base instead of lettuce. It can also be braised in garlic chicken broth and served with small meatballs.

* Garden cress: This is a spicy, mustardy green that is added to salads, mixed vegetables, soups and sandwiches, and sprinkled over stir-fries. It grows 1 1/2 inches tall.

* Kale: This is an ancient crop from the Mediterranean that is actually a non-heading cabbage. Unlike kale found in the market that is often bitter and hard to chew, home-grown kale is tender and sweet. It also makes an attractive addition to the garden, coming in a variety of colors, including green, blue-green and purple-red. It can be steamed, sauted, braised or used in soups and stews.

* Mesclun: This gourmet salad mix of tender young lettuces and greens includes endive, several varieties of baby lettuces, escarole, chicory, arugula and chervil.

* Mibuna: The rosettes of these pencil-thin white stalks with fringed leaves have a mustard-like taste. This Japanese salad green is also used for light stir-frying.

* Mizuna: Considered the mildest flavored of Asian greens, this is used in salads and stir-fries. It grows to about 1 foot in a giant rosette with finely cut deep green leaves and juicy midribs. Harvest the plant whole or use leaves as needed.

* Pak choi/Bok choy/Pac choi: Baby varieties of this Asian green grow quickly, producing compact vase-shaped plants with a generally white base and oval green leaves. All of it is tender, sweet and crunchy. This is good in salads, stir-fries or braised in a side dish.

* Swiss chard: Related to the beet and originally cultivated by the Greeks, this hearty green can be used in salads, stir-fries, soups, as a substitute for spinach in cooked dishes, and on its own sauted or steamed. It makes an attractive addition to the garden.

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