Choy or choi is the Chinese word for vegetable. Bok choy is one of many popular leafy greens of varying sizes, shapes, and textures. It has crunchy, juicy white stems that grow upright. Most asian vegetables are rich storehouses of beta-carotene, folate, calcium, vitamin C, and many of the B vitamins. The leaf and stalks are mildly cabbagey, add bulk and texture to soups, and can be braised and stir-fried. Bok choy is usually chopped before being cooked but small specimens may be cooked whole.
Sometimes called Swiss chard, this member of the beet family has large, dark leaves and thick white, orange, or red edible ribs. It packs nutritional punch with vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. While you sometimes see chard recommended as a salad ingredient, use it sparingly because raw chard contains oxalic acid (like spinach), enough of which can cause gastrointestinal upsets and block the body's ability to absorb iron and calcium. Cooking disarms the oxalic acid. Chard leaves and stems can be thrown into soups or stews. The leaves can be steamed and served like spinach or made into quiche. The substantial leaves can also make excellent sandwich wrappers or, dolma-style, for ground meats, grains, or nuts to be baked in casserole.
Fennel is grown for its seeds, its feathery leaves, and for its swollen edible bulb. The celery-like crunch and mild anise flavor is most potent when eaten raw. Cooking tempers the flavor giving it a sweetness. When raw, slice it thin or cut it roughly to add to salads. Alternatively, slice it into wedges and steam it or brush with oil and roast or pan cook it. Fennel is a diuretic and also has a calming and toning effect on the stomach. It has beta carotene, folate, calcium, vitamin C, and potassium. Fennel merges well with fish, lemon juice, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, and bourbon. In Europe, fennel is eaten both cooked and raw as an accompaniment to cheese. Try making pesto with fennel fronds instead of basil.
Whereas the garlic bulb grows underground, the scape is a curly green shoot that emerges out the top of the garlic plant a few weeks before the bulbs are ready to harvest. This green garlic can be used in the same way that the more seasoned and mellow white garlic is used, however, the scape generally has a stronger bite, so use sparingly. The scape is also often a bit woodier than regular garlic, so even if you are tempted to cut it up raw (like a chive or scallion) it pays to saute or cook it.
This alien-looking plant is a member of the cabbage family. It has a short stem which swells and forms a tennis-ball sized globe called a "corm." The leaves are edible. It is found in two colors, white or pale green and purple. A cup of boiled kohlrabi provides the full daily requirement of vitamin C and more than 25 percent of a person's daily potassium needs. It's at it's mildest and sweetest eaten raw. You can peel one and eat it like an apple. It has hints of mild turnip, broccoli stem, cucumber, cauliflower, and celery root. It can be grated raw into a salad or cole slaw. It can replace cabbage in sauerkraut. On the other hand, cooking it enhances it's turnip-like flavor. It can be julienned and stir-fried, boiled and pureed into a hot soup with spices, or mashed with potatoes for a variation on mashed root veggies.
Another asian green that is a variation of bok choy (above), this has very dark green spoon-shaped leaves that form a perfect rosette with the stems pressed flat on the ground.
Native to Mexico, the tomatillo has been a staple part of the diet there since Aztec and Mayan times. It's a member of a family of plants whose fruits are enclosed in a papery husk. They store better if the husks are not removed until ready for use. They are high in vitamin C, beta carotene, and the antioxidant lutein. Tomatillos are traditionally used somewhat underripe to make salsa verde and mole verde, and to add an acid snap to sauces and Mexican dishes. If allowed to ripen fully, they acquire a yellow cast and become milder and sweeter with a light citrusy flavor, when they are good for chutneys and preserves. Boil for three to five minutes, depending on their size, to soften the texture and flavor. Roast at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, but don't overcook, as they have been known to burst. Cool before pureeing.