Health experts continually tout the benefits of leafy green vegetables, and rightly so. These simple plants have health benefits far beyond what we ever imagined.

But for many of us, greens mean, “blah!” I have known people who flatly refused to eat any form of greens. Period.

Perhaps that was because in years past, choices of greens were limited. I can recall when “greens” meant lettuce, dandelions, spinach, beet greens and Swiss chard. The more adventurous dined on wild greens such as purslane and lamb’s quarters, but they were the exception.

Garden catalogues were pretty much limited to old favorites such as Detroit Red beets, Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce, Bloomsdale spinach and Fordhook Swiss chard. Of course some catalogues featured more than just this bare minimum, but not much more. Greens just weren’t that big a draw. But all that has changed. A “greens renaissance” has brought greens to the forefront. Now, it seems that everyone wants to incorporate greens into their diet.

The dearth of greens choices in garden catalogues has changed, too. Instead of too few options, there may now be too many. In addition to standard kale, spinach and so forth, Asian greens, which are many, along with traditional European greens, fill page after page.

Greens preparation

Something else has changed regarding greens, and that is how we prepare them. As a youngster living at home, my folks simply boiled our chard, spinach or beet greens. Today, hardly anyone boils their greens.

On the other hand, just go online to find more recipes for cooking greens and incorporating them into other, often complex dishes, than anyone could ever try.

Some of us are slow to embrace the new kinds of greens cookery. For instance, when having supper at a friend’s house about 20 years ago, I raised my eyebrows when I saw that my buddy had sauteed, rather than boiled, the Swiss chard. But that was a mild treatment when compared to the many ways people prepare greens today.

Green shopping

But this is a gardening, not a cooking, column, so let’s get down to growing the healthful greens. Whereas once, with the exception of kale and chard, most greens were considered springtime crops, the wide variety offered today allows gardeners to have a steady crop from spring through fall.

My favorite garden catalogue, Pinetree Garden Seeds, offers oodles of greens, some meant for springtime planting, some for spring and fall and some that thrive throughout the season. Even better, Pinetree gives helpful writeups on each plant.

One page includes Asian greens, many of which, for me, have near-unpronounceable names. There was a time when I would shy away from such unfamiliar plants, especially if I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce their names. But things are different now. Many of these greens are well-known and respected in their homeland and if some other culture thinks so highly of them, who am I not to give them a try?

Not all, but many greens do not require full sun, which, for me, is a big deal. I have only limited space where the sun shines fully, and that is reserved for my annual favorites. So having access to interesting and no doubt, excellent, new greens (at least for me), that do well in less-than-ideal situations, comes as a great benefit.

The way I view it, what does a gardener have to lose when doing a trial planting of a new crop? If it doesn’t pan out, don’t plant it again. If it proves a hit, then keep on growing it.

Other catalogues besides Pinetree offer good selections of greens, too. So if you haven’t already done so, why not add some new healthful, tasty and easy-to-grow greens to your garden plan this year? I think you’ll be glad you did.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.