… Before ‘Green’ Was Cool

Looking across the fields and along the roadways, watching everything turn green brings back such memories of my grandmother. The memories are recorded in my mind as fun, looking back now I am sure they were work for Granny. Each spring nearly everyday she would arm herself with the dishpan or water bucket, her old Old Hickory Butcher knife and head out to get the young tender “greens”. Dandelions, Fiddlehead or Ostrich Fern, Lamb’s Quarters or Wild Spinach, Nettle, Shepherd’s Purse, Crow’sFoot, Watercress, Collard, Turnip and Wild Mustard Greens were not safe from that butcher knife.

When her container was full it was off for a thorough washing, and washing and washing of the greens. Of course that was my favorite part (playing in water). The part, I did not enjoy was the cooking (I don’t like that smell to this day). Granny would do this for what seemed like every day for the entire spring. What wasn’t eaten was canned for winter food. Granny was ‘green’ before ‘green’ was cool.

Following is a couple of recipes for wild greens, I hope you enjoy them as much as she did.

Southern Style Collard Greens

2 pounds of collard greens
1 ham hock or 6 slices of cooked bacon
1 medium onion, sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons salt

Clean and wash greens well; remove tough stems and ribs. Cut up and place in a deep pot; along with the onion. Wash ham hock and add to the pot. Add red pepper and salt. Add enough water to cover greens and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust seasonings. Granny would serve this with sliced tomato and corn bread.

Quick and Easy Greens

10 to 12 slices bacon, diced
1 cup chopped onion
about 1 pound mustard greens
water
diced cooked ham, optional
1 teaspoon , seasoned salt, or salt, or to taste
dash red pepper, optional
dash black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons butte

Cook bacon until almost crisp; add onion and sauté until onion is tender and bacon is crisp.
Put chopped mustard greens (dandaloin or any other greens or a mixture) in pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add bacon and onion, along with ham, if using. Toss with seasonings and butter to taste.

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4 Responses to … Before ‘Green’ Was Cool

  1. mimi says:

    mikie, that’s fascinating. i never knew about picking whatever was out there and just cooking it all together. i love greens, and i think i would love eating them that way. do you eat any wild greens still today (other than ramps)? i love nettles, and they are one consolation prize i can usually bring home when looking in vain for morel mushrooms. i think there’s a plant known as watercress around here that is not what i know as watercress. i’d like to know more about this greens picking tradition. i also never even thought of canning wild greens. she must have really picked a LOT of greens!

  2. mikie says:

    Mimi,
    Thanks so much for the comment. I am ashamed to say, I have never been much of a fan of cooked greens (not even ramps). When the greens are young and tender I add them to our salads and I like them that way. My husband loves them cooked or raw, and there are so many ways to fix them that he never gets tires of them. That’s where my comment comes in about the smell when they are cooking. If it had just been for the smell or the flavor of wild greens, I probably would never have gone. My reasons for gathering greens was to be with my Granny, she was such an amazing person and my very best friend right up to the day of her death at age 97.
    She did pick a lot of greens and preserved them, because there was no money and that kept food on her table throughout the year. I am sure there were many others like her. She just passed away a couple of years ago and lived alone until just a very brief time before her death. When I think of the many changes in the world she (and others her age) saw in there life time, it is just amazing. Just think of from the early 1900s, the changes in automobiles, roads, telephones, cooking stoves, food, etc. that they lived through. Probably more than any other generation in history. It’s amazing. I doubt that many of us could survive like that today.

    • Bilge Rat says:

      This highlights the quite literally dangerous steps that we as a culture have taken *away* from our food. To think that our local forest (or backyard?) has a bountiful supply of fresh greens is a thought that is nearly lost in America today. I’ll bet those wild greens are more nutrient rich and healthier for you than any store-bought produce shipped across the country from California. Bravo on a great wake-up call.

  3. Katie G. says:

    This is a great story Mikie! Other than ramps and berries, is there much we scavenge for anymore?

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