Like clockwork, every New Year’s Day, I can recall eating a large plate of greens along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, because my grandmother said “baby this represents the dollars and cents you will receive for the new year.” With disgust on my face, I swallowed the weird green stems and thought to myself I would probably grow up to become a pauper. It wasn’t until I witnessed my childhood hero, Popeye, scarfing down a can of spinach green that I became a fan. I mean if Popeye would eat this substance and acquire super powers then so could I. That was my first introduction to what would become a life-long love affair with GREENS.
When you say greens, often times we are referring to the more commonly used ones: collards, mustards, and turnips. But others fail to realize that there are a plethora of greens that exist that many of us have never heard of such as bok choy, kale, chard and many others. Known as one of the “super foods” of the food pyramid, leafy vegetables are excellent because they are low in calories and fat, high in protein, dietary fiber, iron and calcium, and as well as very high in phytochemicals such as vitamin C, carotenoids, lutein and folic acid as well as Vitamin K. One of the most popular greens is that of collards. Widely abundant, collard varieties include Georgia Southern, Morris Heading, Butter Collard and Couve Tronchuda; it is also known by name names worldwide: couve in Brazil; “kovi” or “kobi” in Cape Verde; and Sukama wiki in Congo, Tanzania and Kenya. A staple of many who have had Sunday dinner in the South, you often times find them “mixed” with other similar greens such as kale, turnips, spinach, and mustards. There is no particular time of the year to eat collards since they are readily available; depending on where you live it is either noted as a biennial in the winter or a perennial in more extreme climate.
Besides having extreme nutritional importance, greens are probably one of the easiest foods to prepare. All that is required is a slow stew and lots of patience in order to achieve that perfect pot of greens. Often lumped in the”soul food” category, greens have managed to become more mainstream in recent years and a favorite among those living a healthier lifestyle. Historical typical seasonings included smoked and salted meats such as ham hocks, pork neck bones and fatback and a dash of salt, pepper or vinegar. Nowadays, since we have numerous options, seasonings like fresh herbs, diced onions, white or crushed red pepper all meld together to form bowlfuls of healthy, flavorful lefty stews. I have had collard greens in omelets, in dumplings, fried, sauteed and even baked in casseroles. The options are limitless and creativity may even make the dining experience much better especially to a newbie. Or a quick fix would be to purchase canned greens, which is not a bad idea as they are several brands on the market such as Glory if one is pressed for time. One can still add your own spin on it and create the idea side dish without all the hassle of cutting, washing and But to achieve that authenticity I would suggest preparing them yourself. The perfect partner is typically a slice of cornbread which is used to soak up the “pot liquor” or the broth left after the greens have been cooked down. Or as a side dish to any meat such a baked chicken, roasted turkey or a plate spare ribs. Any way you cook them make sure you include the love and commitment because that is really what gives that unique flavoring…
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