May 17, 2010

Thank God for Good Directions and Turnip Greens

 4 to 4 1/2 pounds turnip greens
1 pound salt pork, rinsed and diced
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
A pod of whole dried red pepper

Cut off and discard tough stems and discolored leaves from greens. Wash greens thoroughly and drain well. Cook salt pork in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp and brown. Add the turnip greens, water, onion, sugar, pepper, and red pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 40 to 45 minutes or until greens are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve with vinegar or pepper sauce and cornbread.
Serves 6.
Fresh turnip greens are one of my favorite things. I always think of my aunt and uncles grass that turned out to be turnip greens instead of grass. The practical joking neighbor across the road came over in the dark of night and sewed turnip seeds in the freshly planted grass seed my uncle had planted. In with the grass was a good stand of turnip greens. One of the funniest stories from my childhood I must remember to do to someone.

Turnip, mustard, and even poke salad were the greens that the adults treated as if they were a delicacy. When we lived up north Mama would even get a notion that dandelion greens would be good to eat. I remember her talking about them, but I really don’t think she actually ever cooked any. She would eat the stew out of the ones that my grandmother cooked. Grandmother never ever considered cooking dandelion greens though. She loved the turnip and mustard greens. Poke salad was not one of any of the clan’s favorite, except for my mama. She absolutely loved them. Poke salad was one of those things that had to have something added to make it better; that being eggs. So in with the greens there were pieces of scrambled eggs. To me the poke salad was like pork brains. Grandmother also added scrambled eggs to them; two not good things that if scrambled eggs were added you might could like them.

I always thought of the poke berries that we were always told were poison. The stalk was also said to be poison. How could the berry and the stalk be deadly and the young leaves not. I was scared to eat them kind of for those two reasons. One thing about the poke it grew wild and did not cost a cent. Not costing anything was right up my grandmother’s alley. Even though, I don’t think she even liked it that much. Now, my mama really did like it.

Mustard was probably my favorite of all the greens. It was good to cut up raw with green onions and pour bacon grease over the top of the greens and onions. This was a salad of sorts to be eaten most of the time with corn White Hickory King corn was the best of all the different kinds of corn. Just like White Half Runners were the best green beans.

Turnip greens had the turnip as an added bonus. When I was a child I really did not like the turnip. It tasted bitter to me. By the time we had the turnip to eat it was already getting cold weather. Turnips remind me of it getting close to Halloween. Associating food with times of the year is what happens when most all of your food is raised on a farm. Turnip greens were put up by blanching them and freezing. I am sure before we had a deep freeze that they were canned. We did do the easiest way and found that frozen turnip greens were as good as or better than canning. We did not plant as much mustard plant as turnip, but if we had a bunch left at a meal we might put it in the freezer for later.

Cute song by Billy Currington,
Good Directions

I was sittin’ there sellin’ turnips on a flatbed truck
Crunchin’ or a pork rind when she pulled up
She had to be thinkin’ “This is where the rednecks come from”
She had Hollywood written on her license plate
She was lost and lookin’ for the interstate
Needin’ directions and I was the man for the job
I told her way up yonder past the caution light
There’s a little country store with an old Coke sign
You gotta stop in and ask Miss Bell for some of her sweet tea
Then a left will take you to the interstate
But a right will bring you right back here to me

I was sittin’ there thinkin’ ‘bout her pretty face
Kickin’ myself for not catchin’ her name
I threw my hat and thought, “You fool, that coulda been love”
I knew my old Ford couldn’t run her down
She probably didn’t like me anyhow
So I watched her disappear in a cloud of dust.


I told her way up yonder past the caution light
There’s a little country store with an old Coke sign
You gotta stop in and ask Miss Bell for some of her sweet tea
Then a left will take you to the interstate
But a right will bring you right back here to me

Is this Georgia heat playin’ tricks on me
Or am I really seein’ what I think I see
The woman of my dreams comin’ back to me
She went way up yonder past the caution light
Don’t know why, but somethin’ felt right
When she stopped in and asked Miss Bell for some of her sweet tea
Mama gave her a big ‘ol glass and sent her right back here to me

Thank God for good directions…and turnip greens

1 comment:

  1. Great blog. Brings back memories of my own mom and grandmother. They loved greens. I never could get over the smell while they cooked. The smell always reminded me of a dirty sock. But, I was a city boy... so that might explain it. And I have a couple of friends that swear by polk salad stalks. They claim you can cut them up like you would okra and bread the same way. They say it tastes like okra... I havent tried this myself though.