What is this leafy green?

Extremely bitter!!

Sarah Jampel
Question image


QueenSashy July 13, 2016
Let me throw in another possibility: Rumex patientia or monk's rhubarb (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monk's_rhubarb). It is in the sorrel family, but the leaves are usually larger and not so delicate ( http://www.natureword.com/tag/rumex-patientia/ ) Also, the leaves are not sour like sorrel, but more bitter in taste. It is an extremely popular leaf in the Balkans, mainly for making soup, as well as dolmas/sarma stuffed with rice and ground lamb.
AntoniaJames July 13, 2016
I see that Greenstuff has made what appears to be a correct identification.
There are often greens that resemble yours, that are sold by the Asian vendors at the Old Oakland farmers' market. When I ask what they are, I'm always told they are mustard. Many other greens that don't look like that I'm also told are mustard. It seems that there are many different kinds of mustard out there. I've tried quite a few. Many are bitter; many are spicy.
That said, I agree that asking the vendor is the most reliable way to know for sure.

Also, for an idea on what to do with any extra stems you may have (though from the photo it looks like the stems are probably tender enough just to saute with the rest of the leaves), scroll down the comments in this thread to see the discussion on making "Chinese Preserved Vegetable." https://food52.com/blog/6220-tatsoi-is-the-new-spinach-haven-t-you-heard
It's essentially lacto-fermented stems and other odd bits. I've used tatsoi-stems, as well as other (not precisely identified) mustard green stems and leaves. It's pungent, spicy without adding chilies, and a great add-in to stir fries, fried rice, etc.!
BTW, it seems like a good topic for the "using food scraps" theme, if it has not already been covered. ;o)
Greenstuff July 9, 2016
I'm guessing nigana as well
Sarah J. July 10, 2016
Thanks so much, Greenstuff! That does look like it.
702551 July 10, 2016
It would be wise to confirm with your CSA. Why didn't you ask them directly?
Sarah J. July 11, 2016
cv, because my friend who I share it with picked it up and didn't ask.
702551 July 12, 2016
Does your CSA not respond to e-mail? You can always ask after the fact.
702551 July 12, 2016
After all, you already have a photo of the mystery produce in question. Asking the vendor would be the simplest course of action in my mind.
BerryBaby July 9, 2016
I'm thinking Sorrel but not sure. Did you taste it? I'm surprised it wasn't identified with some sort of tag at the market where you purchased it.
702551 July 9, 2016
Maybe she didn't buy it at a grocer, it could have been given to her.

At my farmers market (SF Bay Area), many stands do not clearly identify their produce.
BerryBaby July 9, 2016
Yes, to both, cv. I just thought market as in Farmer's Market. Ours doesn't always mark everything clearly either, I'm always asking them what things are and what do you make with it? I probably drive them crazy. Then I thought, maybe this is a little test to see if we 'know our produce'. Now I'm curious to know exactly what it is.
702551 July 9, 2016
Oh, like you I have no qualms about asking what something is at the farmers market and occasionally I will ask for suggestions on how to prepare something. Not sure if Sarah is that type of person.

That said, for a lot of these leafy greens, I already have a general M.O. since I'm a card-carrying member of the "Keep It Simple" party and almost anything that fits this general description will get the "saute in olive oil" treatment the first time around after I've tasted a tiny bit raw.

If something is rather bitter, I will often blanch in hot water, then shock in an ice bath before cooking using another method. That is a reliable method of reducing bitterness in greens.

As mentioned above elsewhere, some context on where these greens were acquired would have been helpful (as well as a better picture).

It's a shame that Food52 cannot gracefully handle displaying user-uploaded high-resolution images since most of us have smartphones which take these sort of photos here in 2016.
Sarah J. July 10, 2016
It came in my CSA! And I couldn't match it to the list of items. Thanks for all your suggestions, everyone. I ended up cooking it like Suzanne Goin's slow-cooked kale, then baking it on a pizza dough made of discarded sourdough starter. Bitter + sour! Added some ricotta cheese for mildness.
Sarah J. July 10, 2016
Sorry about the photo quality, cv. I took the photo very late at night to send to another editor, Caroline, to see if she had any ideas! Didn't plan on posting it but then we decided that the community would know best! :)
702551 July 10, 2016
If the photo quality was affected by alcohol, you are excused.

HalfPint July 9, 2016
Kinda looks like mustard greens. Would account for the bitterness.
pierino July 9, 2016
Mustard greens have crinkly edges, so it's not those. The original picture resembles turnip greens more. Could be something in the spinach family though.
amysarah July 9, 2016
The small (baby?) mustard greens at my Asian market (mostly Chinese produce, but also some from India, etc.) look pretty much like those - their edges aren't crinkly, like American mustard greens. Very bitter. But yours appear to have red stems like beet or chard greens, but those aren't usually particularly bitter.
PHIL July 8, 2016
I thought it was this bloody dock / sorrel but now I am not sure . I have picked this at our community farm and it was very bitter . Sarah , is this what it is?
SKK July 8, 2016
It may be red leaf sorrel and it looks wilted in the photo which would certainly explain the bitterness. The flavor gets more astringent as it gets warmer. Question: Where did you get this?
Sarah J. July 10, 2016
It came in my CSA!
Maedl July 8, 2016
The photo is too small to be sure, but I don't think that is sorrel. In any case, sorrel isn't bitter--it is sour.
702551 July 8, 2016
Maedl's right. Sorrel is sour, not bitter.

Heck, sorrel's scientific name is Rumex acetosa so clearly its sourness is a key characteristic.
pierino July 8, 2016
Perhaps it's not sorrel. It does look like it though. I've grown it myself from seed, but it's been awhile. Possibly something to scout in the Asian market. Sarah's post doesn't mention where it was sourced.
702551 July 8, 2016
It sure does look like sorrel, even though it may be something else. Then again, she describes the taste as bitter; sorrel is clearly sour.

I found it once at a store and bought is specifically to make the aforementioned Troisgros salmon dish.

I don't recognize it as an Asian green (not that I know every single one). For sure, I have not seen in this specimen at any of the Asian produce stands at my NorCal farmers market.

It remains a mystery at this point.
702551 July 9, 2016
Hmmm, I'm wondering this this is possibly nigana, an Okinawan bitter green.
Susan W. July 8, 2016
If it is indeed sorrel, here is a recipe I wanted to make by Mrs Wheelbarrow, but I missed the spring sorrel in Oregon.

Susan W. July 8, 2016
It might be red veined sorrel, but it looks a little different. It could be overly mature sorrel. It's not normally bitter. When young and fresh, it's lemony. I love it. I use it in turkey and beef roll ups and in salads to add a lemony brightness.
PHIL July 8, 2016
that stuff is crazy bitter! Never tried to cook with it. What do you plan on doing with it?
pierino July 8, 2016
It appears to be sorrel. The raw bitterness cooks out. It's a good companion to fish.
702551 July 8, 2016
Indeed, "saumon à l'oseille" is one of the legendary dishes from the Troisgros brothers of Roanne.

Here's one English language interpretation of the Troisgros recipe:


Here's a French language recipe from Le Monde:

702551 July 8, 2016
Well, since I quoted two online sources for their interpretations of the Troisgros recipe, here are my observations now that I've compared them to the original Troisgros recipe.

The English-language version from AmateurGourmet.com is less accurate than the one from Le Monde. First of all, the AmateurGourmet version adds mushrooms, not present in the original recipes. The author also uses Pouilly-Fuissé instead of the Sancerre called for in the recipe.

The French language recipe is very close to the original. No mushroom and they call for Sancerre. The ingredient quantities are a spot on match with the Troisgros recipe. Also, the Le Monde recipe instructions follow the Troisgros recipe very, very closely -- many of the sentences are identical.

Neither recipe finishes the sauce with the 40 g of butter whisked into the sauce at the end. Pity. ;o)
Recommended by Food52