Cooked Greens
Leafy greens, like those used in salads, have a high vitamin content that they should be prized for. Some of these vitamins are lost in the cooking process, but this effect can be minimized if they are carefully prepared and cooked. As with salads, the best greens are the youngest and freshest that you can find.

Wash them off in cold water before cooking, and then use as little water as possible during the cooking process. Most leafy greens can actually be steamed in only the water remianing on them after washing, although some, such as Common Milkweed, require boiling in a few changes of water to remove toxins. Again, to prevent vitamin loss, avoid overcooking the greens.

Plants in this guide with greens that can be cooked

Asclepiadaceae - The Milkeweed Family
Common Milkweed

Boil leaves for 15 minutes using several changes of water to rid the plant of its light toxin. Make the first few changes quickly, and be sure to use boiling water for each changes, as cold water will fix the bitter flavor.

Balsaminaceae - The Touch-Me-Not Family
Spotted Touch-Me-Not

Boil young shoots* for 15 minutes in 6 inches of water. Use at least two changes of water.

Compositae - The Aster Family
Bull Thistle

The young leaves can be cooked, but spines must be removed first.


Boil the above-ground portions of the leaves in just enough water to cover them.

Common Burdock

Boil leaves in several changes of water.

Common Dandelion

Young leaves can be boiled for 5-10 minutes.

Wild Lettuce

Boil young leaves for 10-15 minutes. Since the leaves have a somewhat bitter taste, they should be mixed with other cooked greens.

Cruciferae - The Mustard Family
Field Pennycress

Use young leaves, gathered before flowers appear, and steam.

Leguminosae - The Legume Family
Red Clover

Boil young leaves or flowerheads for 5-10 minutes.

Phytolaccaceae - The Pokeweed Family

Young shoots* and leafy shoot tips can be boiled for about 30 minutes using several changes of water.

Plantaginaceae - The Plantain Family
Common Plantain

Boil the youngest leaves that you can find for 15 minutes.

Urticaceae - The Nettle Family
Stinging Nettle

Pale upper leaves and young shoots can be simmered in very little water for 10-15 minutes. The stinging property of the hairs disappears when the leaves and shoots are cooked.

Vitaceae - The Grape Family
Wild Grape

Either boil the young leaves for 15 minutes and serve them on their own, or boil them for 5-10 minutes and use them to wrap rice or meat, then bake.

Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.