Creative Uses for Common Greens

November 2013

Don’t toss those tasty greens — dish up delicious creations using radish, beet and kohlrabi tops

As farmers dust off their market stalls and local grocers stock up on spring-fresh produce, popular greens such as spinach, kale and chard fly off the shelves. But what about the humble greens sprouting from colorful bulbs like radishes and beets? They often get tossed out at home or lopped off at the store — which is a sad waste, because not only are these veggie tops delicious, they’re practically free.

Recipes included with this story: Beet Slaw With Creamy Dill Dressing, Roasted Garlic Cilantro Broth With Beet Greens and Hominy, Radish Escabeche, Beer-Braised Kohlrabi and Kielbasa, Creamy Radish Green Soup, Cold Peanut Noodles With Kohlrabi Greens

To prove their worth, we plucked a trio of spring vegetables — radish, beet and kohlrabi — and created six top-to-bottom recipes. From their “roots” to their vibrant green riches, these veggies offer some of the best 2-for-1 deals around.

Watery and crisp, often with a spicy bite, radish is a quintessential spring vegetable. It’s delicious sliced into a salad; eaten French-style, raw with rich butter and sea salt; or as a Mexican garnish, marinated in lime juice, salt and chili powder. Its fuzzy greens make a bright, grassy addition to soups, salads and stir-fries. Many people believe radishes stimulate appetite and digestion, making them ideal as before- or after-dinner palate cleansers. They are very low in calories but high in potassium and vitamin C. Be sure to select bunches with firm, brightly colored bulbs. Avoid floppy or cracked radishes. Radish greens are especially delicate and should be cleaned, dried and refrigerated — or cooked — as soon as possible.


If you only know beets as a canned salad-bar staple, you’re in for a treat. Eaten raw and shredded, beets are crunchy and earthy. When roasted or boiled, their natural sugars are heightened, producing tender, sweet flesh with stunning garnet juice. The greens are paler than those of kale or chard, and they can be sauteed, braised or tossed into soups. The roots are full of vitamins A, B and C; and the greens are a great source of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Make sure you select firm roots; generally the smaller the sweeter. Beets come in several varieties, any of which work for the accompanying recipes.

Kohlrabi gets a lot of strange looks from shoppers and cashiers alike. This alien-looking veggie once enjoyed haute status in some of the best European kitchens, but modern Americans are often unfamiliar with kohlrabi and its uses. Eaten raw, the “root” has a watery, sweet crunch similar to jicama or the tender heart of a broccoli stalk. When cooked the flesh has a potatolike consistency and complements any soup or stir-fry. Kohlrabi greens are like kale’s, and are delicious braised, sauteed or chopped raw into salads. Kohlrabi is a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. When shopping, look for firm bulbs between the size of a golf and tennis ball, with sturdy top fronds.

Nina Lary is a Portland freelance writer.

Make sure greens don’t go to waste
Even with the best intentions, veggie-top greens often go to waste. Get yourself in the habit of using greens by cutting them off the vegetable as soon as you get home. A salad spinner is ideal to wash, dry and store greens. If you don’t have one, store greens in a separate plastic bag in the crisper and use as soon as possible. Freshness is key, so be sure to always select greens that are firm, vibrant and free of yellowing or slime.

— Nina Lary

More on food

More from