Many greens that are high in nutritional value don’t get the same amount of love and attention as, say, kale. For example, dandelion greens rank high in beta-carotene and contain vitamin E, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium and zinc. Best picked when young, these bitter greens also support kidney functioning and toxin removal.

Known for the medicinal benefits and drying agents in its tannins, sorrel is used to reduce pain and inflammation of the nasal passages and respiratory tract; to treat bacterial infections and sinusitis; and as a diuretic. For cooking, use garden (common) and French sorrel to add a lemon flavor to soups, stews and salads. Due to its oxalic acid content, sorrel should be used in moderation.

Found mainly in New England and Canada, the fiddlehead fern looks like the scrolled top of a violin. Aesthetically appealing, the fern—when washed, boiled and served with lemon and butter—also tastes a bit like asparagus. It’s good in salads, pasta and stir-fry dishes as well. There are several varieties, with different levels of toxins; the most commonly eaten fiddlehead is the ostrich fern when it’s young (8–16 inches tall).

Most gardeners have peas in their garden at some point, but there’s more to the pea plant than just peas. Pea shoots are the leaves, and they have more vitamin C than blueberries and more vitamin A than tomatoes. Also high in potassium, vitamins E and K, folate, thiamin and riboflavin, pea shoots can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.

Experienced foragers and gardeners collect all these unique greens on their own, but everyone else can find them at farmers’ markets or specialty markets.

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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