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 Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.
Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

The movie is the first non-documentary to focus solely on the pop artist’s life.
How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

The state-of-the-art playspace is expected to keep more than 100 children entertained.
Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Joe Manganiello's wife told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” that she's learned to accept his Steelers' obsession but also admits “in the beginning it was kinda weird.”

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz wants to dish out a couple hundred more hits, play a couple hundred more games and win a couple more Cups.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Finn and chef de cuisine Becca Hegarty to bring salads, sandwiches, house-baked bread, wine and more to the refurbished Café Carnegie.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

The historic (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn is a fine stop for drinks and food.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

The puck drops for the opening of training camp on Friday, and once that happens the Penguins must transition from “champions” into “defending champions.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Work It

Work It

A new handbag from Sandra Cadavid’s is perfect for work — or play.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

Reviews of the "Magnificent Seven" remake and "Storks," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

Also: If you’re looking to redo a room to invite relaxation, PPG Paints promises a wide variety of soothing colors for 2017.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Ken Gormley began his new tenure by delivering good news to University employees.

Comments