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It's Good to Be Bitter: How to Use Endive, Raddichio, Broccoli Rabe, and Dandelion Greens

Bitter is good, especially when it comes to greens. How bitter do you want to go? Use our handy list to work out which greens to wilt and which to use for salad. 

Senior Digital Food Editor

We've rated some popular greens on a scale, starting with the most bitter. Our list isn't comprehensive: where would you place turnip greens, nettles, or even arugula? And remember that the level of bitterness depends on variety and will also depend on age: younger, more tender greens are often less bitter than older, tougher ones.

1. Dandelion Greens

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

And the prize for most bitter of all goes to . . . dandelion greens! But don’t shy away from these leafy greens because of that. Their bitterness works well in many recipes, from vegan main-dish salads to paired with pork. And they are a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with calcium, iron, riboflavin, and vitamins A, E,  and K.

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2. Radicchio

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Oh so pretty, this burgundy-and-white Italian chicory has a bitter, almost spicy flavor that's mellowed by cooking or pairing with sweet ingredients (like golden raisins in this salad). In salads, it adds color and magic if thinly sliced or torn into small pieces. It's a good source of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C, K, and E.

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3. Broccoli Rabe

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

This bold-flavored brassica has a bitter edge similar to that of its cousin, mustard greens. It's a staple of Italian cooking where it shines alongside pasta and garlic in many recipes. And it has more calcium and iron than it's more popular relative, broccoli.

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4. Mustard Greens

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Used in many different cuisines from Indian to southern, mustard greens can pack a powerful punch. They're the most peppery tasting of the greens though not the most bitter. Like many of their kin, they are at their peak between January and April but often found in supermarkets year round. Nutritionally they are similar to turnip greens and collards, all are vitamin K kings and high in calcium and fiber. 

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5. Escarole

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Flavorful, slightly bitter and totally underappreciated, escarole stars in salads but is also sturdy enough to stand up to braising or baking. It's a type of endive and has a similar nutritional profile to its kin; loaded with iron, fiber, and potassium, as well as vitamins A and K.

 

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6. Kale

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Yes the omnipresent green, maybe you don't even consider kale bitter? It's not assertive like dandelion greens but it is a super healthy green (you knew that already!). We're sure you savor it in many ways, from soups to salad to snacking.

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7. Spinach

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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Spinach is mild-tasting, versatile, and it's the original powerhouse green (remember Popeye?!). Not only is it rich in iron and magnesium, its packed with fiber and is no slouch in vitamin delivery either.

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