Featured in Foothill Magazine

Get to know your leafy greens

Low calorie, healthy, versatile
By: Gloria Young, Reporter
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Green Garlic Pesto
This great green garlic pesto is delicious as a topping for bread, pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, fish or chicken. 
About 1 ½ cups of green garlic (white part and tops)
About ½ cup of olive oil
Salt to taste
Puree all the ingredients until smooth in a blender or food processor, adding enough olive oil to create a good spreading consistency.
Optional: Add a handful of pine nuts or other nuts, basil or other herbs, Parmesan or other cheese, hot peppers, or whatever pleases you.
~ Recipe courtesy of Jan Thompson, owner of Newcastle Produce

Newcastle Produce
Where: 9230 Cypress St., Newcastle
When: 7:30 a.m. — 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. — 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. — 5 p.m. Sunday
Info: 916-663-2016

Natural Trading Company
Where: 5841 Fruitvale Road, Newcastle
Info: 916-409-9440 or

Placer Grown Foothill Farmers Markets
Auburn - Old town
Where: Auburn Folsom Road
and Lincoln Way, Auburn
When: 8 a.m. – noon Saturdays
year round
Auburn - DeWitt center
Where: Richardson Drive
and B Avenue, Auburn
When: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Wednesdays June 13 – Aug. 29
Loomis - Taylors

How well do you know your leafy greens? Bundled on shelves at the farmers’ market or grocery store, they may look similar. But each kind has a distinct flavor.

Pick one, some or all — they are healthy, low calorie and versatile.

At Natural Trading Company in Newcastle, owner Bryan Kaminsky has some type of leafy green growing year round.

“October through January is best for greens in general in our area,” he said. “We have some under plastic to protect them from the cold. If we get cold temperatures, it makes the greens sweeter. In the summer, there’s a lot of pest pressure.”  


Looking for something to spice up a salad? Arugula, with its small peppery leaves, is a
good choice.

And it will grow year-round in our area, Kaminsky said.

“Arugula is pretty easy to grow,” said Jan Thompson, owner of Newcastle Produce in Newcastle and Twin Brooks Farm in Loomis. “If you are picking it for salad, you can have leaves in 30 days and big enough to bunch in 45 days. I like it best at 30 days.”

Collard greens

Collard greens — part of the cabbage family — are mild and usually served cooked.

“They get the size of a dinner plate and have a mild taste similar to cabbage,” Thompson said.


Kale in its numerous varieties is tasty raw or cooked.

“You can use it in salad if you get it small - three inches tall or so,” Thompson said. “You have to strip out the center rib because that is tough. Then slice it across the grain in thin strips. You can stir fry it, too. Any greens are good stir fried with onions and garlic. I like it in soups. We do a soup with a Portuguese kale and white beans with sausage, that’s really good.”

When growing it in the home garden, kale is best as a fall, winter and spring crop. Once summer heat arrives, it is vulnerable to pests.

Natural Trading Company produces a lot of kale.

“We grow Dino kale (Lacinato), red Russian, redbor (red curly one), white Russian and four or five more varieties,” Kaminsky said. “There’s a Dino kale that has a ruby red stem to it, which is interesting.”

When picked small, kale goes well with sunflower greens, pea shoots and lettuce in a salad — and add some herbs like parsley or even basil for extra flavor, he said

Mustard greens

Mustard greens are peppery — even more peppery than arugula.

“The bigger they grow, the more spicy they get,” Thompson said.

They are widely used in the south.

While the leaves are small, they work as salad greens. But cook them when the leaves get big.

“In the south they cook them with ham and onions and garlic,” Thompson said. “They will hold up to long-time cooking. In my experience, they are not nearly as popular as the other (leafy greens), except the small salad ones. You’ll find them in some of our spring mixes.”

Swiss chard

Swiss chard is another green that works well in salads in its small-leaf form.

When it is bigger, it is good steamed.

“You don’t have to take out the center rib. It is not tough at all,” Thompson said. “It will cook very similar to celery. I take the stem that’s behind the leaf and cut it up into pieces and cook that for a minute or two before I throw in the rest of the leaves because it takes a little longer for the stem to cook.”

Swiss chard is available in several colors, but the taste is the same.

While it grows best in cooler weather, chard handles the heat better than kale, is more pest resistant and will do better in the garden after the weather warms. Kaminsky grows it year-round.

“Chard and kale are two entirely different plant families and attract totally different pests,” Thompson said. “They can be planted side by side.”  

Beet greens

If you like chard, then give beet leaves a try.

“The tops of beets are just like chard,” Thompson said. “They taste the same. Chard is a beet propagated for the leaves rather than the fruit.”

“Beet greens are so sweet and delicious,” Kaminsky said. “The best way to cook them is in coconut oil in hot pan. They cook very fast in the high heat and in two minutes are ready to eat.”


Mizuna, an Asian green, is a type of mustard. It is mainly used in salads, but can be stir fried, too.

“All of our Asian greens do well in winter and spring,” Kaminsky said. “Mizuna is a easy to grow from seed and is very fast growing.”


Kohlrabi leaves are similar to cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli leaves.

“It’s very similar in texture to a collard leaf and has similar flavor,” Kaminsky said.” If I pick leaves off Brussels sprouts or broccoli, it’s hard to tell from smaller collard.”


Microgreens are exactly that — often made up of the leaves of lettuce, radish, spinach and arugula.

Any greens that you can grow to a big size, you can also cultivate as a microgreen, Thompson said.

Use them raw in a salad or as a garnish. Don’t cook them.


A specialty at Natural Trading Company is wheat grass.

“That’s what put us on the map,” Kaminsky said. “We sell it to Whole Foods and Raley’s.

The thing about wheatgrass is that humans can’t digest it. It is like eating a blade of grass.

“(Cows) can digest it, because they have four stomachs,” he said.

Kaminsky separates the roughage and extracts the juice.
“(The juice) is really healthy,” he said. “It tastes like you just ate a blade of grass from the front lawn. It’s a powerful elixir — really concentrated energy.”