Guide to Greens

Several of our farmers have indicated that customers are asking how to cook greens and I am happy as always to answer that question, so I am first going to provide a basic cooking method that I have developed to cut the time it takes to cook greens and thereby preserve more of their intrinsic flavor and crispness. But watch this space for additional recipes over the next few weeks that offer other options.

The following describes a method for preparing and cooking greens; it is not a recipe. You may adapt this to any leafy green vegetable that is grown for its leaves such as kale, collards, mustard and turnip greens.  Beet greens and very young greens of all kinds can usually be sautéed without prior steaming.  You should work with at least ½ to 1 pound of greens for two people; they do reduce considerably when cooked; you need to try it yourself to see how much you can eat after preparation.

Greens should be well washed, individually if they are large. Then stack four or five together and cut crosswise into ½-inch strips. Small, baby greens can be sliced into slightly wider strips as they will not be as thick.  First place the greens in a deep sauté pan or skillet with a lid with just the water that clings to the leaves after rinsing.  Over medium-low heat steam until they wilt, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Then lift the greens from the pan and set aside.

At this point, you are going to prepare the flavoring. I use about 2 tablespoons of finely chopped country ham bits and pieces per each ½ lb of greens (You may buy some of the best country ham in Virginia from Valentine right here at the market) and sauté them in the same pan in a small amount of oil or bacon grease. You may add a little onion or garlic too, but as soon as the flavoring ingredients are beginning to color, return the greens to the pan and sauté them for an additional 3 – 4 minutes to absorb the flavors.  You may sauté them longer if you want them to be softer, but I like a little crispness in mine and I like to stop the cooking before they lose too much of their own flavor and consistency.  You may chop and sauté lean bacon if country ham is not available and wait until the bacon is almost crisp before adding back the greens. Add a little salt if necessary – country ham is very salty itself – and lots of freshly ground pepper and just keep tasting until they are the consistency you prefer.