F is for Food: GreensPosted on May 17, 2015
“Cornbread and beans
And those good old collard greens
Keep your skillet good and greasy all the time, time, time
Skillet good and greasy all the time” -From the Appalachian folk song “Skillet Good And Greasy”
Greens are a way of life in the South. For enslaved African Americans in North Carolina, greens supplemented rationed food. Enslaved men and women foraged for wild greens or grew them in their own gardens during very limited free time. Some enslaved gardeners sold greens to their neighbors. In his authoritative guide, Southern Cooking, author Bill Neal tells us that of the cultivated greens, collards are the most nutritious and turnips are the most popular, but the seasoning is always the same—pork fat and red pepper.
Today’s recipe, from the Saint Joseph’s A.M.E. Church’s Favorite Recipes and Household Hints (edited by Melzie E. Elliott, published 1982) is for poke greens, which grow wild locally. The web site of the Poke Salad Festival (held annually in Blanchard, Louisiana) tells us that “pokeweed is edible (cooked) and medicinal. It has a long history of use by Native Americans and in alternative medicine. The young shoots are boiled in two changes of water and taste similar to asparagus…. The root is alterative, anodyne, antiinflammatory, cathartic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis and diseases related to a compromised immune system…. Caution is advised as the whole plant, but especially the berries, is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.”
3 lb. poke sallet
4 thick slices bacon
½ t salt
12 tender young onions, chopped
2 hard cooked eggs (optional)
Select tender, young poke greens. Pick out any unwanted leaves. Wash three times, parboil twice and discard water—this is important. Cover with hot water and cook until greens are tender. Do not overcook. Fry bacon until crisp, remove from drippings, set aside. Add poke greens, salt and chopped onions to dripping. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes. To serve, sprinkle crumbled bacon and chopped hard boiled eggs over greens. 4-6 servings.
The Museum of Durham History and the North Carolina Collection at the Durham County Library are partnering to bring you food lore and recipes from the North Carolina Collection, just in time for the Durham A-Z: F is for Food exhibit, on display at the History Hub through July 27.
Originally published in Herald-Sun 05/17/2015