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The Sweet Truth About Bitter Greens

Howard L. Puckett
Once shunned for their bitterness, such exotic greens as arugula, radicchio, and curly endive have become supermarket standouts―in tune with today's healthful-living tastes.

Not so long ago, if you served a salad made with bitter greens and lettuces in place of iceberg, guests might not have understood. Although arugula, endive, radicchio, sorrel, and watercress have always been popular in Europe, they're just being discovered here. Today, supermarkets across the country feature a year-round profusion of lettuces and greens that were once considered specialty items. Consumption of these greens has exploded since the advent of gourmet packaged salads. Of course, these lettuces and greens aren't just for salads, as our recipes demonstrate. They can stand up to spicy seasonings, aromatic herbs, and tangy dressings, hallmarks of contemporary cooking trends. They even hold their own in a soup or a risotto, for which we have recipes.

Then there's the health factor, which has also helped boost their appeal. People always knew that greens were good for them―they just didn't realize how good. Radicchio and endive are nutritional champs, brimming with vitamin A and iron. As for versatility, in many cases these greens can be readily substituted for one another. If you want to know just how much eating preferences have changed of late, try serving your guests a plain old iceberg lettuce salad. Considering all the current choices of greens and lettuces filling supermarket produce bins, they might not understand.