Winter Wonders

Key players in cold-weather recipes, hearty greens such as collards and kale are versatile, healthy and delicious.



Photo by Laura Petrilla

Bright, leafy winter greens are welcome at this chilly time of year, whether your favorite type is mild collards, peppery mustard greens, hearty chard or spicy-sweet kale. With thick, fibrous stalks in brilliant hues and frilly, crinkly leaves, these wintertime treasures possess an earthy flavor that inspires satisfying cold-weather recipes.

We often lump these different greens into one group because they are prepared and cooked in similar ways—making them into a side dish is as simple as stripping out the stems, chopping the leaves and wilting, sautéing or braising them. Yet each of these vegetables has a unique story, with a distinctive history.

With stems that come in bright ruby and lemon yellow, the beautiful plant kale makes a bright addition to any garden. Kale is the same species as cabbage, but was cultivated before that “headed” vegetable, which requires a warmer climate for growth. The name “kale,” or “kail,” originated in Scotland, where it was so commonly used that the word “kail” became generic for “dinner”—and the “kail bells” signaled dinnertime, even when the leafy vegetable was not being served for supper.

Collard greens, which are closely related to kale, are best-known in the United States as a “soul food” staple. Pungent, peppery mustard greens are also commonly used in Southern cooking, although the origins of the plant lie in Asia, where cooks use them in endless preparations. In Japan, they are often eaten boiled with soy sauce; in China, some varieties are used for braises or soups, while others are for pickling. In our own kitchens, however, three primary-ingredient combinations are most popular when it comes to preparing greens: Just about any variety tastes delicious seasoned simply with garlic and lemon juice, prepared Southern-style with smoked bacon or given an Asian flair with soy sauce and sesame oil.

The fact that winter greens are fresh and crisp at this time of year, when good produce is in short supply, is a great argument for bringing them home. But should you need additional convincing, look no farther then the vegetables’ impressive nutritional content: Greens including collards, chard, mustard greens and kale are rich sources of vitamin A and C and many other nutrients—perfect to provide a boost during cold season.

Great Greens

Collards, kale and mustard greens are in peak season until early spring; good-quality Swiss chard can be found year-round (local crops peak in summer). When shopping, look for crisp green leaves without wilting, yellowing or insect damage. Store greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Collard Greens: One of the mildest-tasting winter greens, collards are usually slow-cooked with smoked bacon or salt pork. The plant is a variety of cabbage that doesn’t form a head and tastes like a combination of cabbage and kale. The stalks that run down the center are usually removed before cooking. Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

Kale: Not as mild as collards, but not as spicy as mustard greens, kale is a good choice when you’re looking for a vegetable with medium sharpness. As a principal crop in nearby states such as Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, kale is easy to find fresh in local stores. The vegetable’s tough, center stalk should be removed before use. It’s very healthful and supplies ample amounts of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron.

Mustard Greens: Strong, assertive and peppery, mustard greens are second only to collards as a common ingredient in Southern cooking. Mustard greens come in many leaf shapes (jagged, crinkly, ruffled) and colors (including purple and crimson), but the most common kind for cooking is a rich green color. The thick, bitter stems are usually discarded. The vegetable is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, thiamine and riboflavin.

Swiss Chard: Both the crinkly leaves and crisp, celerylike stalks of mild-flavored chard are edible (the latter require more cooking time, and should be cooked separately from the leaves). Common varieties include green chard, which has silvery-white stalks; red chard, which has bright ruby stalks and red-veined leaves; and yellow chard, which has golden stalks. They are basically interchangeable in recipes, although red chard can lend a ruby tint to any dish in which it’s used. Chard is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as iron.

It’s Easy Being Green

Exploring the world of leafy greens beyond the well-known types profiled here can yield some delicious results in the kitchen. Consider trying one of these other varieties:

Arugula: This delicate, peppery leaf is used raw in salads or sandwiches and makes a versatile addition to recipes,
especially pasta.

Bok Choy: This sweet, mild, crisp green is especially delicious in stir-fry or salad.

Broccoli Rabe: A classic Italian ingredient, this chewy, robust green is wonderful sautéd or braised with red-pepper flakes and added to pasta.

Mizuna: With its spicy flavor but tender texture, mizuna is often included in salad-green mix and works well served raw or just slightly wilted.

Turnip Greens: Boiling in the traditional Southern style brings out a mellow, silky quality in this otherwise sharp and bitter green.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

Love it or hate it, winter is upon us. Because some of us may think there's a lot not to like, we bring you 50+ things to eat, drink and do –– and some helpful tips –– that'll keep the blues at bay.
Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine presents the honorees from its inaugural Excellence in Nursing awards. Meet our judges' choices and learn what makes them remarkable in their field.
Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

A regal ruggedness characterizes the season's menswear looks.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Meet Some Steelers, Get Some Autographs, Help Some Kids

Meet Some Steelers, Get Some Autographs, Help Some Kids

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive line and the team's entire rookie class will be signing autographs for charity later this week.
Richard DeShantz Shows You How to Make Pot Roast Like a Pro

Richard DeShantz Shows You How to Make Pot Roast Like a Pro

The owner of Meat & Potatoes shares his delicious techniques with a national TV audience.
The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

The Mosaic Stairway: You've Never Seen Steps Like These

When viewed from the foot of the South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh, the stairs ascending Josephine Street form a massive image that consists of more than 7,500 individual mosaic tiles.
Joe Manganiello Plays the Good Guy for Children’s Hospital

Joe Manganiello Plays the Good Guy for Children’s Hospital

The actor, director and Mt. Lebanon native is joining the board of trustees of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in December

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

50+ Things That Will Make You Enjoy Winter in Pittsburgh

Love it or hate it, winter is upon us. Because some of us may think there's a lot not to like, we bring you 50+ things to eat, drink and do –– and some helpful tips –– that'll keep the blues at bay.
Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2016 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine presents the honorees from its inaugural Excellence in Nursing awards. Meet our judges' choices and learn what makes them remarkable in their field.
Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

Choreographed Style: Winter Fashion with The Pittsburgh Ballet

A regal ruggedness characterizes the season's menswear looks.
Restaurant Review: B52 in Lawrenceville is a Levantine Lifter

Restaurant Review: B52 in Lawrenceville is a Levantine Lifter

Omar Abuhejleh taps deep into his roots at his vegan cafe that's focused on Levantine cuisine.
Why You Can't Beat The Weather in Pittsburgh in The Winter

Why You Can't Beat The Weather in Pittsburgh in The Winter

I’ve traveled a lot of miles, and I still stare in bewilderment at people who tell me they’ve moved to a place because “You can’t beat the weather.”
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Meet Some Steelers, Get Some Autographs, Help Some Kids

Meet Some Steelers, Get Some Autographs, Help Some Kids

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive line and the team's entire rookie class will be signing autographs for charity later this week.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Café Carnegie Now Open in Oakland

The Café Carnegie Now Open in Oakland

Chefs Sonja Finn and Becca Hegarty helm the refurbished restaurant at the Carnegie Museums.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best of the Burgh: Pumpkin Patches in the Pittsburgh Area

Best of the Burgh: Pumpkin Patches in the Pittsburgh Area

We’ve compiled the best pumpkin patches for fall family fun.

Comments


Why Wait For Summer? Head to Kennywood's Holiday Lights

Why Wait For Summer? Head to Kennywood's Holiday Lights

The park's winter celebration is great for families and a fine choice for anyone who loves Christmas (and/or funnel cake).

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

For some reason Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest playoff rankings and Penn State is No. 7. That has to change if Penn State beats Wisconsin on Saturday night.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Locket Full of Joy

Locket Full of Joy

The handcrafted piece opens to hidden treasures.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Ten Upcoming Flicks Every Oscar-Watcher Should See

Ten Upcoming Flicks Every Oscar-Watcher Should See

PM film critic Sean Collier picks ten forthcoming flicks likely to rake in nominations for the 89th Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Before the Proposal: How to Ask her Parents' Permission

Before the Proposal: How to Ask her Parents' Permission

It can be more intimidating than the actual proposal, asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage. Three grooms share their stories of how they popped that first big question.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Seasonal Shopping: CMOA Store Holiday House, J.Crew Mercantile Opens Doors

Seasonal Shopping: CMOA Store Holiday House, J.Crew Mercantile Opens Doors

The Carnegie Museum of Art is full of Christmas cheer — and great deals. Plus, get the scoop on The Block Northway’s latest retail offering.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuba and Euphonium Players Invited to Join in Christmas Concert

Tuba and Euphonium Players Invited to Join in Christmas Concert

Waynesburg University will present a TUBACHRISTMAS concert on Dec. 9.

Comments