From bok choy to escarole: This guide to greens will help you make the tastiest salads, smoothies, stir-fries

Earlier this week, freelancer Nelly Paulina Ramirez shared some of her favorite spring greens recipes and some tips on using them in a variety of dishes.

She also compiled a helpful green-by-green guide, which can help you figure out when is the right time to use, kale instead of bok choy or collards instead of chard. For instance, mustard greens and chard cook much faster than collards and bok choy, so you’ll want to add them at the end of a stir-fry. Also, mustard greens are usually too spicy for smoothies, but spinach has a light enough flavor to mix well with bananas, peanut butter or other smoothie ingredients.

 

Austin author Georgia Pellegrini makes a dandelion salad, one of the dishes from her book, “Modern Pioneering.” LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

Dandelion Greens: These easily foraged greens have a surprising amount of moisture in the thin leaves, which make them a great base for pestos. Really yummy sautéed, but the green from the leaves does bleed into other food.

Flavor/Texture: Mild and grassy with delicate leaves.
Pairs well with: Citrus, vinegars, pumpkin seeds
Good for smoothies: Yes

Kale is one of the many greens for sale through Johnson’s Backyard Garden, but you can find it in mainstream supermarkets, too. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN

Kale: The tougher texture of this green is an asset if packing salads in advance. The greens hold up well even when dressed for at least a couple of days. Slice very finely, similar to slaw, if you are looking for a finer texture and for easy adds to scrambles and cooked foods.

Flavor/Texture: Relatively mild taste with a tougher texture.
Pairs well with: Citrus, vinegars, potatoes, smoked flavors, garlic
Good for smoothies: Yes

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Bok choy isn’t great in smoothies, but it’s excellent for stir-fries and for broth-based soups. Photos by Addie Broyles

Bok Choy: Blanched in broth is my favorite way to eat bok choy. Saute both the stems and greens in peanut oil with lots of garlic for a great addition to your bowls or over steamed rice.

Flavor/Texture: Sweet with crisp edible stalks and tender leaves.
Pairs well with: Garlic, ginger, nut oils, peanuts, cashews, chilies, soy sauce, ferments like miso and kimchi
Good for smoothies: No

Collard greens have broad leaves that are thicker than chard and spinach. You can cut the leaves into thin ribbons to encourage it to cook faster. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Collards: These hearty greens are best simmered, but the smaller leaves are more tender. Slice collards into thin ribbons for quicker cooking times.

Flavor/Texture: Mild flavor with leathery texture (similar to green leaf cabbage).
Pairs well with: Smoked paprika, roasted peanut oil, toasted sesame oils, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, butter, whole wheat pasta, potatoes
Good for smoothies: No

Nelly Paulina Ramirez loves to use spinach in salads, pestos, soups and stratas. Contributed by Nelly Paula Ramirez

Spinach: With a quick cooking time, spinach is one of the more flexible greens our Texas spring offers. Use it in salads, add to pestos if you are short on basil, and add ribboned handfuls onto your spring stews for a bright green pop.

Flavor/Texture: Fairly neutral and as it gets warmer out, lightly sweet
Pairs well with: Dairy (butter, cheeses, cream), eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, lemon, basil
Good for smoothies: Yes

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Swiss chard, the plant with the red stems in this photo, pairs well with onions and garlic, and it soaks up the flavor of whatever spices you cook it with. Contributed by Rene Studebaker

Chard: A bit bitter when raw, chard is a chameleon when cooked, taking on whatever flavors you decide to pair it with.

Flavor/Texture: Mild to slightly bitter, with texture similar to spinach.
Pairs well with: Onions, garlic, lentils, grains, basil, cilantro, cumin, ricotta, queso fresco, eggs
Good for smoothies: Yes

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Gabrielle Hamilton’s Escarole Salad is the best-yet recreation of a traditional Roman recipe with American ingredients and why crushed ice belongs in your salad. (James Ransom/Food52)

Escarole: Similar to endive, escarole is easy to shred and use as a compliment to other greens in your salads or bowls. A quick sauté helps to ease the bitter.

Flavor/Texture: Slightly bitter with texture of a much thicker lettuce.
Pairs well with: Beans, pasta, olive oil
Good for smoothies: No

Arugula is a common salad ingredient these days, especially at restaurants, such as Central Standard Kitchen & Bar. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Arugula: Eat this first when you get home from the market as it has a very short life. In salads is best, but can make for a really exciting pesto base.

Flavor/Texture: Peppery bite and very fragile leaves.
Pairs well with: Earthy flavors like mushrooms, beets and tubers; pasta, saltier cheeses
Good for smoothies: No

Mustard greens cook very quickly, no matter the method. Contributed by Judy Barrett

Mustard Greens: These cook down quickly compared to other brassicas so they make for a great weeknight side. Try mixing with milder greens like spinach and kale for a slightly less aggressive flavor if eating fresh.

Flavor/Texture: Strong and spicy
Pairs well with: Peanut oil, sesame oil, ginger, chilies, garlic, peanuts
Good for smoothies: No

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