“Leafy greens” or “greens” are broad terms used for a number of vegetable crops with edible leaves. Plants in this group belong to several unrelated taxonomic plant families that include Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, and Asteraceae. Greens are cool-season crops that are planted in early spring or late summer/fall in Kentucky. High tunnels and similar structures can be used to extend the season into winter; however, extreme summer temperatures make year-round production in Kentucky a challenge.
Direct markets for leafy greens in Kentucky include farmers markets, roadside stands, on-farm markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Leaf lettuce mixes (sometimes called “mesclun mix”) are popular farmers market sales items. Wholesale options for Kentucky greens producers include produce auctions, foodservice and grocery stores. Leafy greens are a major vegetable crop for certified organic production, and growers may be able to gauge interest for newer and specialty varieties through discussions with grocers and chefs specializing in the organic category.
Leafy greens that have been grown in Kentucky include the following, grouped by plant family:
• Crucifer or Mustard family (Brassicaceae): Arugula, broccoli raab, collards, kale (including flowering kale and Chinese kale), mustard greens, and turnip greens
• Goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae): Beet greens, spinach (flat leaf and savoy), and Swiss chard
• Sunflower or Aster family (Asteraceae): Bibb (Boston), iceberg, leaf, and romaine (cos) lettuce; chicory; dandelion; endive; escarole; and radicchio
There are numerous cultivars to choose from, depending on the type of greens and market.