Boiled Leafy Greens or Horta Vrasta in Greek are a staple in Greek cuisine and a popular side dish. This simple to make recipe is served dressed with good olive oil and lemon juice for a healthy, nutritious dish.
Growing up in a Greek home, horta was something that was frequently on our table. This dish, comprised of leafy greens (often wild) that are boiled and then topped with olive oil and lemon juice, was a side dish to so many of our meals.
As a kid, I can’t say I was a huge fan. But as an adult, I have come to appreciate this healthy side dish. It’s a simple, healthy and nutritious dish.
While horta can be eaten as a vegetarian dish – they are so good topped with feta and served with a side of crusty bread!), they are usually served as a side dish. Horta vrasta are a great accompaniment for so many different meals but we especially love to serve them with fish dishes and BBQ dishes in the summertime.
What are Horta Vrasta?
Horta refers to a variety of wild greens. The word “vrasta” means boiled in Greek. So “Horta Vrasta” simply refers to boiled leafy greens.
So what leafy greens do you use to make horta vrasta? There are so many options to choose from. These include:
- curly endive (andithia in Greek)
- amaranth leaves (vlita in Greek)
- Swiss chard (seskoula in Greek)
- dandelion greens (radikia in Greek)
- chicory (also radikia in Greek)
All of these options can be used to make horta and offer a variety of nutrients. While some of these have bitter flavours, others are mild. If you are not a fan of bitter greens, opt for amaranth leaves (vlita) or swiss chard which are much more mild in flavour.
Where to get horta
Ask any Greek kid and they will tell you about their parents excursions out of the city to find horta in the wild. My parents still do this to this day. Every spring, when horta are tender and at their best, they head out of the city to rural areas with garbage bags in hand. After returning from these excursions with bags of fresh wild greens, they would proceed to clean them and prepare them for freezing so we could enjoy them in the months ahead.
Luckily, you can also find horta in local supermarkets. In Greece, you can find a wide variety of leafy greens at the supermarket to use for horta vrasta. In other parts of the world, although it may be hard to find some, you can still find many of the leafy greens on my list above at your supermarket.
That’s great news for me, cause I have no desire to head out for any horta-picking excursions!
In our home, we grow a variety of leafy greens in our garden each summer (as do our parents) so we can have horta at the ready all summer long. We especially love growing curly endive and vlita (my personal favourite) for this. The curly endive I used in the pictures for this post was from my mother in laws garden.
How to clean horta
Before cooking horta, you will want to make sure that they are thoroughly cleaned. This is especially important if you are using wild horta as they may be covered in more dirt than the ones picked up at the supermarket.
To clean them, I submerge them in a large bowl of water. You can also fill a clean sink with water to do this if you are working with large quanities.
While they are submerged in water, swish the greens around in the water to loosen up any dirt. Drain the water and repeat this until the water is clear and the horta are clean.
While cleaning the horta, I also trim any thick stems from the horta and remove any leaves that don’t look too good.
Ingredients needed for Horta Vrasta
- Wild leafy greens: dandelion greens, curly endive, amaranth leaves, chicory). About 1 lb of wild greens serves 2 people, though this will depend on whether you eat them as a side dish or as a meal.
- Salt: to taste.
- Olive oil: to taste. I use about 3 tablespoons or more to drizzle and toss with the horta. This is done just before they are served.
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice is squeezed on top of the horta just before serving as well. Use as much as desired.
Note: for ingredient amounts and full instructions, see the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
How to make Horta Vrasta
- Boil water: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt.
- Clean Horta: Meanwhile, fill a large bowl (or a clean sink) with water and wash your leafy greens. [See details above or the recipe card below on how to clean horta.]
- Boil the greens: Add the leafy greens to the pot of boiling water and lower heat to medium. Boil the leafy greens for about 20 minutes or until the stems are tender. As they boil, stir them a couple of times to ensure they are all submerged. Drain the water and transfer the horta to a bowl.
- Flavour: Drizzle the horta with olive oil and as much lemon juice as desired. Salt to taste.
Other popular ways to use horta
While horta vrasta are a popular Greek side dish served throughout Greece, horta can also be used in other ways. They can be used in fricassee dishes and in Hortopita (Greek Mixed Greens Pita). This Greek filo pie is similar to the popular Spanakopita except that in addition to using spinach in the filling, other leafy greens are added as well.
What to serve with Horta Vrasta
Horta vrasta go great with a variety of meals, but we especially love them fish dishes and other traditional Greek meals. Some ideas to serve alongside horta vrasta include:
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! Kali orexi (Bon appetit in Greek)!
Horta Vrasta (Greek Boiled Leafy Greens)
- 2 lbs wild leafy greens (e.g. dandelion greens, curly endive, amaranth leaves, chicory)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (or more). Use to taste.
- 1 lemon juiced (use as much as desired)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt.
- Meanwhile, fill a large bowl (or a clean sink) with water and wash your leafy greens. Change out the water and continue to submerge the leafy greens to loosen up any dirt that may be in the leaves. Do this until the water is clear. Trim any thick stems from the leafy greens.
- Add the leafy greens to the pot of boiling water and lower heat to medium. Boil the leafy greens for about 20 minutes or until the stems are tender. As they boil, stir them a couple of times to ensure they are all submerged.
- Drain the water and transfer the horta to a bowl.
- Drizzle the horta with olive oil and as much lemon juice as desired. Salt to taste.