Beet greens (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris)

The beet leaves (Beta vulgaris) is a plant in the Chenopodiaceae family. It is best known in its numerous cultivated varieties, the most well known of which is the purple root vegetable known as the beetroot or garden beet. However, other cultivated varieties include the leaf vegetables chard and spinach beet, as well as the root vegetables sugar beet, which is important in the production of table sugar, and mangel wurzel, which is a fodder crop. Three subspecies are typically recognised. All cultivated varieties fall into the subspecies Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, while Beta vulgarissubsp. maritima, commonly known as the sea beet, is the wild ancestor of these, and is found throughout the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast of Europe, the Near East, and India. A second wild subspecies, Beta vulgaris subsp. adanensis, occurs from Greece to Syria.

The beet has a long history of cultivation stretching back to the second millennium BC. The plant was probably domesticated somewhere along the Mediterranean, whence it was later spread to Babylonia by the 8th century BC and as far east as China by 850 AD. Available evidence, such as that provided by Aristotle and Theophrastus, suggests the leafy varieties of the beet were grown primarily for most of its history, though these lost much of their popularity much later following the introduction of spinach. The beet became highly commercially important in 19th century Europe following the development of the sugar beet in Germany and the discovery that sucrose could be extracted from them, providing an alternative to tropical sugar cane. It remains a widely cultivated commercial crop for producing table sugar.

Beta vulgaris is a herbaceous biennial or, rarely, perennial plant with leafy stems growing to 1–2 m tall. The leaves are heart-shaped, 5–20 cm long on wild plants (often much larger in cultivated plants). The flowers are produced in dense spikes; each flower is very small, 3–5 mm diameter, green or tinged reddish, with five petals; they are wind pollinated. The fruit is a cluster of hard nutlets.
The leaves and stems of young plants are steamed briefly and eaten as a vegetable; older leaves and stems are stir-fried and have a flavour resembling taro leaves.

Bitterleaf (Vernonia calvoana)

Vernonia is a genus of about 1000 species of forbs and shrubs in the family Asteraceae. Some species are known as Ironweed. Some species are edible and of economic value. They are known for having intense purple flowers. The genus is named for English botanist William Vernon. There are numerous distinct subgenera and subsections in this genus. This has led some botanists to divide this large genus into smaller groups which separate the species into distinct genera. For instance, the Flora of North America only recognizes about 20 species, 17 of which are in North America or n. Mexico, with the other two or three being found in South America.

Several species of Vernonia, including V. calvoana, V. amygdalina, and V. colorata, are eaten as leaf vegetables. Common names for these species include bitterleaf,ewuro, ndole and onugbu. They are common in most West African and Central African countries. They are one of the most widely consumed leaf vegetables of Cameroon, where they are a key ingredient of  Ndolé. The leaves have a sweet and bitter taste. They are sold fresh or dried, and are a typical ingredient in egusi soup.

V. amygdalina is well known as a medicinal plant with several uses attributed to it, including for diabetes, fever reduction, and recently a non-pharmaceutical solution to persistent fever, headache, and joint pain associated with AIDS (an infusion of the plant is taken as needed). These leaves are exported from several African countries and can be purchased in grocery stores aiming to serve African clients for about $1.50/225gm pkg. frozen. The roots of V. amygdalina have been used for gingivitis and toothache due to its proven antimicrobial activity.

In North America, of the 17 species of Vernonia (eg., V. altissima, V. fasciculata, V. flaccidifolia) all have the same effective properties as a blood purifier and uterus toner, containing sesquiterpene lactone, which helps also to prevent atherosclerosis.

V. galamensis is used as an oilseed in East Africa. It is grown in many parts of Ethiopia, especially around the city of Harar, with an average seed yield of 2 to 2.5 t/ha. It is reported that the Ethiopian strains of Vernonia have the highest oil content, up to 41.9% with up to 80% vernolic acid, and is used in paint formulations, coatings plasticizers, and as a reagent for many industrial chemicals.

Bok choy (Brassica rapa Chinensis group)

Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis and chinensis) can refer to two distinct varieties of Chinese leaf vegetables used often in Chinese cuisine. These vegetables are both related to the Western cabbage, and are of the same species as the common turnip. Both have many variations in name, spelling and scientific classification especially the “bok choy” or chinensis variety.

At present, the Chinese cabbage is quite commonly found in markets throughout the world.

There are two distinctly different groups of Brassica rapa used as leaf vegetables in China, and a wide range of varieties within these two groups. The binomial name B. campestris is also used.

This group is the more common of the two, especially outside Asia; names such as napa cabbage, dà báicài (“large white vegetable”), Baguio pechay or pechay wombok (Tagalog); Chinese white cabbage; baechu (Korean), wongbok and hakusai (Japanese) usually refer to members of this group. Pekinensis cabbages have broad green leaves with white petioles, tightly wrapped in a cylindrical formation and usually forming a compact head. As the group name indicates, this is particularly popular in northern China around Beijing (Peking).

The Chinensis varieties do not form heads; instead, they have smooth, dark green leaf blades forming a cluster reminiscent of mustard or celery. Chinensis varieties are popular in southern China and Southeast Asia. Being winter-hardy, they are increasingly grown in Northern Europe. This group was originally classified as its own species under the name B. chinensis by Linnaeus.

Bok-choy or Chinese cabbage contains a high amount of Vitamin A per 4 oz. serving – about 3500 IU. Bok-choy also contains approximately 50 mg of Vitamin C per 4 oz. serving.

Bok-choy contains glucosinolates. These compounds have been reported to prevent cancer in small doses, but are toxic to humans in large doses. In 2009, an elderly woman who had been consuming 1 to 1.5 kg of raw bok choy per day developed hypothyroidism, resulting in myxedema coma. There are other milder symptoms from over-consumption of bok-choy, such as nausea, dizziness and indigestion in people with weaker digestive systems. Sometimes this is caused by not thoroughly cooking.

Broccoli Rabe (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa)

Rapini (also known as Broccoli Rabe or Raap or Raab), Broccoletti, Broccoli di Rape,Cime di Rapa, Rape, Rappi, Friarielli (in Naples) is a common vegetable in the cuisines of Southern Italy (in particular Basilicata , Puglia and Sicily), Galicia (northwestern Spain) andChina. The plant is a member of the Brassiceae tribe of the Brassicaceae, whose taxonomy is very difficult. Rapini is classified scientifically as Brassica rapa subspecies rapa,  in the same subspecies as the turnip, but has had various other designations, including Brassica rapa ruvo, Brassica rapa rapifera, Brassica ruvo, Brassica campestris ruvo.

Rapini has many spiked leaves that surround a green bud which looks very similar to a small head of broccoli. There may be small yellow flowers blooming from the buds, which are edible.

The flavor of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, and pungent.

Rapini is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.

A common preparation involves sauteing it with garlic over low heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea Capitata group)

Cabbage is a popular cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea Linne(Capitata Group) of the Family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) and is used as a leafy green vegetable. It is a herbaceous, biennial, dicotyledonous flowering plant distinguished by a short stem upon which is crowded a mass of leaves, usually green but in some varieties red or purplish, which while immature form a characteristic compact, globular cluster (cabbagehead).

The plant is also called head cabbage or heading cabbage, and in Scotland a bowkail, from its rounded shape. The Scots call its stalk a “castock”, and the British occasionally call its head a loaf. It is in the same genus as the turnip – Brassica rapa.

Cabbage leaves often have a delicate, powdery, waxy coating called bloom. The occasionally sharp or bitter taste of cabbage is due to glucosinolate. Cabbages are also a good source of riboflavin.

The cultivated cabbage is derived from a leafy plant called the wild mustard plant, native to theMediterranean region, where it is common along the seacoast. Also called sea cabbage and wild cabbage, it was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans; Cato the Elder praised this vegetable for its medicinal properties, declaring that “It is the cabbage that surpasses all other vegetables.” The English name derives from the Normanno-Picard caboche (head), perhaps fromboche (swelling, bump). Cabbage was developed by ongoing artificial selection for suppression of the internode length.

The only part of the plant that is normally eaten is the leafy head; more precisely, the spherical cluster of immature leaves, excluding the partially unfolded outer leaves. Cabbage is used in a variety of dishes for its naturally spicy flavor. The so-called “cabbage head” is widely consumed raw, cooked, or preserved in a great variety of dishes.

Brussels sprout (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera group)

Brussels sprout is a cultivar of wild cabbage grown for its edible buds. The leafy green vegetables are typically 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The sprout is Brassica oleracea, in the “gemmifera” group of the family Brassicaceae. Although named after the city in Belgium, few historians believe the plant originated there.

Brussels sprouts grow in heat ranges of 7–24 °C (45–75 °F), with highest yields at 15–18 °C (59–64 °F). Fields are ready for harvest 90 to 180 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of approximately 60 to 120 cm (24 to 47 in) in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk. Sprouts may be picked by hand into baskets, in which case several harvests are made of 5 to 15 sprouts at a time, by cutting the entire stalk at once for processing, or by mechanical harvester, depending on variety. Each stalk can produce 1.1 to 1.4 kg (2.4 to 3.1 lb), although the commercial yield is approximately 900 g (2.0 lb) per stalk. In the home garden, “sprouts are sweetest after a good, stiff frost.”

Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous. They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, because they contain sinigrin. Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.

Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Although boiling reduces the level of the anti-cancer compounds, steaming, microwaving, and stir frying does not result in significant loss.

Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata)

Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata or Hypochoeris radicata), also known as flatweed, cat’s ear or false dandelion, is a perennial, low-lying edible herb often found in lawns. The plant is native to Europe, but has also been introduced to the Americas, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The leaves, which may grow up to eight inches, are lobed and covered in fine hairs, forming a low-lying rosette around a central taproot. Forked stems carry bright yellow flower heads, and when mature these form seeds attached to windborne “parachutes”. All parts of the plant exude a milky sap when cut.

All parts of the catsear plant are edible; however, the leaves and roots are those most often harvested. The leaves are bland in taste but can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, or used in stir-fries. Older leaves can become tough and fibrous, but younger leaves make for good eating. In contrast to the edible leaves of dandelion, catsear leaves only rarely have some bitterness. In Crete, Greece, the leaves of a variety called pachies (παχιές) or agrioradika (αγριοράδικα) are eaten boiled or cooked in steam by the locals.

The root can be roasted and ground to form a coffee substitute.

Celery (Apium graveolens)

Apium graveolens is a plant species in the family Apiaceae commonly known as celery (var. dulce) or celeriac (var. rapaceum), depending on whether the petioles (stalks) or roots are eaten: celery refers to the former and celeriac to the latter.

Apium graveolens is used around the world as a vegetable, either for the crisp petiole (leaf stalk) or the fleshy toproot.

In temperate countries, celery is also grown for its seeds. Actually very small fruit, these “seeds” yield a valuable volatile oil used in the perfume and pharmaceutical industries. They also contain an organic compound called apiol. Celery seeds can be used as flavouring or spice, either as whole seeds or ground and mixed with salt, as celery salt. Celery salt can also be made from an extract of the roots. Celery salt is used as a seasoning, in cocktails (notably to enhance the flavour of Bloody Mary cocktails), on the Chicago-style hot dog, and in Old Bay Seasoning.

The use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain was described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus around 30 AD. Celery seeds contain a compound, 3-N-butyl-phthalide, that has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in rats.

It is thought to be an aphrodisiac by some people, because it is thought to contain androsterone, a metabolic product of testosterone. However, this is a misunderstanding of androstenone.

Bergapten in the seeds can increase photosensitivity, so the use of essential oil externally in bright sunshine should be avoided. However, this is a potentially useful action in psoriasis, with caution, and celery, along with other umbellifers, is one of the vegetables to be included in the diet as a source of psoralens for this purpose according to herbalists. This may constitute a risk factor, though, in skin cancer. The oil and large doses of seeds should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can act as a uterine stimulant. Seeds intended for cultivation are not suitable for eating as they are often treated with fungicides.

A common use for the seeds is as a “blood purifier”, and it is sometimes taken for arthritis.

Celery is used in weight-loss diets, where it provides low-calorie dietary fibre bulk. Celery seeds are also a great source of calcium, and are regarded as a good alternative to animal products.

Celtuce (Lactuca sativa var. asparagina)

Celtuce (Lactuca sativa var. asparagina, augustana, or angustata), also called stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce, IPA (UK,US) /ˈsɛlt.əs/, is a cultivar of lettuce grown primarily for its thick stem, used as a vegetable. It is especially popular in China, where it is the most common form of lettuce, and is called wosun (Chinese; pinyin: wōsŭn) or woju (Chinese:; pinyin: wōjù) (although the latter name may also be used to mean lettuce in general).

The stem is usually harvested at a length of around 15–20 cm and a diameter of around 3–4 cm. It is crisp, moist, and mildly flavored, and typically prepared by slicing and then stir frying with more strongly flavored ingredients.

Ceylon spinach (Basella alba)

Basella alba, or Malabar spinach (also Phooi leaf, Red vine spinach, Creeping spinach,Climbing spinach) is a perennial vine found in the tropics where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable.

Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 m in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture. The stem of the cultivar Basella alba ‘Rubra’ is reddish-purple.

Basella alba grows well under full sunlight in hot, humid climates and in areas lower than 500 m above sea level. Growth is slow in low temperatures resulting in low yields. Flowering is induced during the short-day months of November to February. It grows best in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter with pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.0.

Typical of leaf vegetables, Malabar spinach is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It is low in calories by volume, but high in protein per calorie. The succulent mucilage is a particularly rich source of soluble fiber. Among many other possibilities, Malabar spinach may be used to thicken soups or stir-fries with garlic and chili peppers.