Leafy vegetables are often more nutritious than other types of vegetables because they provide many different nutrients to the body through different pathways. Leaf vegetables usually have a base of a large number of nutrients, which may not be present in other types of vegetables. For example, spinach is very high in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.
What Is a Leaf Vegetable?
Leaf vegetables are the edible parts of plants that are usually harvested before flowers, fruits, roots, or other non-edible plant parts. These leaves include kale and spinach and can be eaten raw with a variety of dips or cooked in a stir fry like green beans.
Vegetables such as cabbage produce their leaves above ground in a form that is not edible so these leaves do not fall under the category of leaf vegetables.
Common Leaf Vegetables
- Swiss chard
In the western world, leaf vegetables have been less popular because they are less commonly used as toppings to other foods but in some cultures around the world, leaf vegetables are widely eaten as a main course or as an accompaniment to other foods. In traditional diets, leaf vegetables were usually eaten with roots or fruits because they are more filling and provide more nutrients than just leaves alone.
Leaf vegetables can be found at farmers’ markets during the summer months or can be bought year-round at grocery stores. Some types of leaf vegetable, like spinach or swiss chard, are available in bags in the produce section and do not need to be washed. Leaf vegetables can also be grown at home to use year-round.
Leaf vegetables are closely related to herbs but the two are not quite the same. Herbs may have a variety of flowers and edible leaves but they do not grow above ground. These edible leafy parts of herbs, like cilantro or parsley, are still considered leaf vegetables because they grow from the base of a plant and have a similar taste as other leaf vegetables that grow above ground.
Examples of Leaf Vegetables
1. Bok choy
This vegetable is most commonly known as Chinese cabbage but it also has a long history as a food ingredient in Asian cultures. Bok choy is best known for its long white stems that can reach over 3 feet in length. This vegetable can be eaten raw when it is tender or cooked in stir-fries or soups.
Broccoli is a green or purple vegetable that is closely related to cabbage but has a firmer texture. Broccoli may be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir-fries. This vegetable also tends to have more nutritional value than other vegetables because it contains many phytonutrients and vitamins.
Cabbage is one of the most commonly used vegetables in the western world and comes in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Cabbage is usually eaten raw or cooked in stir-fries.
Cilantro refers to the leafy part of a herb that grows above ground and is often used as an herb or as a garnish to dishes. This herb is long and thin with delicate green foliage, like parsley or cilantro, that can be eaten raw or in salads and dips.
5. Collard greens
Collard greens are a type of vegetable that is related to cabbage and kale, but they are much more nutritious because they contain a higher amount of vitamins. This vegetable is often sold fresh in the winter months at farmer’s markets or picked and wilted for use during the summer months.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that can be eaten as both a salad and for cooking. Some types of kale may be eaten raw but it is best when cooked to soften its rough texture. Kale is very high in nutrients, especially vitamins A and C, and is a great source of calcium and iron.
7. Mustard greens
Mustard greens are a type of leafy green that can be eaten raw as a salad or cooked in stir-fries or soups. This vegetable has long stems with dark green leaves and stems that have been grown since the 1700s as an ingredient in Chinese cooking.
Arugula, also known as rocket, is a kind of leafy green that is most commonly eaten raw. This vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways with a variety of ingredients but it is often served as a salad or tossed with olive oil and vinegar to make an Italian herb called arancini.
Spinach is a leafy green that is most commonly used as a salad ingredient, but it is also popular as an ingredient in other recipes. This vegetable may be eaten raw or cooked and can also be substituted in place of lettuce in salads.
10. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a leaf vegetable that is related to spinach and beets, but it has a much different taste. Swiss chard is often served in stir-fries or soups and may be eaten raw in salads.