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10 Nutritious, Delicious Leafy Greens to Grow in Your Garden

Layer your sandwich with crispy lettuce, snack on baked kale chips or stir-fry cabbage with noodles. Leafy garden greens bring flavor to your table.

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Photo: W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Pick Your Favorite Lettuce

Choose your favorite type of lettuce: iceberg, butterhead, loose-leaf or romaine. There are hundreds of hybrids you can toss into salads, cut into wedges or top with shrimp or chicken. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is mostly water, but it provides vitamins A, C, K and minerals like calcium folate and potassium. It's easy to grow your own at home in well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. A pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is ideal. Plant in spring, before the temperatures rise, or in fall, 4-8 weeks before the first frost. 'Heatwave Blend’ is a mix of green and red crispheads, green romaine and various loose-leaf lettuces. It takes full to part sun and is slow to bolt (form seeds and turn bitter).

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Photo: Territorial Seed

Cabbage - Brassica oleracea

Unlike most cabbages, 'Murdoc’ forms cone-shaped heads. The medium green leaves are tender and crispy, high in vitamin C, antioxidants and anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Sow cabbage seeds indoors, 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost and harden them off (slowly expose them to outdoor temperatures and sunlight) for a week before transplanting them. Cabbage needs full sun and loamy or sandy soil and it’s hardy in USDA Zones 1-9. Water regularly to keep the heads from splitting and fertilize as directed on your product's label. Harvest when the heads feel firm and reach their mature size (as indicated on your seed packet). The leaves are tasty when stir-fried, braised or used in slaws, soups, stews or hash. Use big leaves for cabbage rolls.

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Photo: Sakata

Turnips - Brassica rapa

Turnips are a two-in-one crop since you can eat the leafy tops and the roots. Start the seeds in spring or, for a fall harvest, in late summer. Sow them in well-worked soil and cover them 1/2-inch deep. When they're up, thin the plants to every four inches to give the roots room to form. Re-plant every 10 days for an ongoing harvest. Read your seed packet to know how many days the turnips take to mature if you want to pull them for their roots. A rule of thumb: use the roots as you'd use potatoes, so bake, boil or mash them. The greens are good steamed, sauteed or added to pasta, stews and soups.

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Photo: Sakata

Mizuna - Brassica rapa nipponsincia

Also called Japanese mustard, mizuna is related to turnips and has a mild, peppery taste. Eat the leaves fresh, or stir-fry, steam or pickle them. These biennial greens need full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Sow the seeds outdoors in spring 6 weeks before the first expected frost. Cover them 1/4-inch deep and replant every 2 weeks for an extended harvest. Water the plants regularly. Mizuna is a "cut and come again" plant, so you can harvest the leaves and they’ll regrow quickly. This variety, 'Miz America,’ has dark red, toothed leaves.

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