Here are some rarer greens that you may not have had the opportunity to try.
Erba Stella: Also known as buckhorn or minutina, this is a species of plantain that you may be most familiar with growing as broad, low leaves in your lawn. The lawn species commonly encountered is Plantago major is also edible. This version is Plantago coronopus, a seaside plant that is quite cold hardy and has been used traditionally in different wild salads or mixes of greens. It is technically a perennial though I’m not sure of its hardiness in the Ottawa valley especially if we have extended ground penetrating freezes. Incidentally we also carry lance leaf Plantain to be used as an edible and a herb.
Large, round leaf mache: Also known as corn salad, Valerianella locusta is a delightfully mild-tasting, cool weather, reseeding annual. I have had it persist in a forest garden for a few years before having to intentionally reseed it in more disturbed soil areas. Like many of these lesser known greens, it is and was collected in the wild before, originating in Europe. Sow in cool weather – even the fall – as it may overwinter under the snow (incidentally fall sown spinach can produce a nice early crop too).
Salad Mallow: Malvas have lots of traditionally edible species from their flowers, to young leaves and little green seed wheels but this one has been cultivated for its frilly little leaves. Though Malva verticillata flowers aren’t showy, its foliage is pretty and a favourite in my old gardens. Grew mostly as a sparingly reseeding annual for me.
Molokhia: Corchorus olitorius, which goes by a number of other names and spellings, is another mallow relative which was originally used in the middle east and northern Africa. There are lots of cooked greens recipes online to explore if you don’t have a personal connection already with this semi-cultivated wild plant. Some of these delicious looking green sauces are apparently beloved by children! I’m convinced.
Purple Shiso: Perilla frutescens is a pretty self-seeding tender perennial (grown as an annual around these parts) with purple tinged leaves. It’s often strongly flavoured, reminiscent of its relatives basil, mint and anise, but popular as a micro green and in salad or greens mixes. Used traditionally to colour foods like pickled ginger.
Shungiko: Often called chrysanthemum greens because its yellow-white daisy flower and finely dissected leaf and the fact that originally its Genus name was the same though it is now Glebionis coronaria. Aromatic, slightly bitter flavour. Another plant to include in the edible, ornamental category.
Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Garden Cress – Garden cress – Lepidium sativum – is much easier to grow than traditional water cress as it does not need to be suspended in aerated in water though it has the same crisp, almost radish, flavour. This variety has fun textured leaves giving a satisfying crunch.
There are many more greens to try!