Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Kale, chard, spinach, and lettuce

When we first moved to the south over 20 years ago, I had never eaten kale, collards, mustard greens, or turnip greens. I don't recall eating much spinach either, as a child, since it was largely available as the canned sort. And my mom was a decent, but relatively uninspired plain cook, from a farm cooking background. Although I grew up eating broccoli and green beans (frozen), my education with vegetables and fruits started in the SF Bay Area markets during my graduate school years. I first had fresh brussel sprouts (good), fresh mushrooms (delicious), fresh local Gravenstein apples (great), peaches, apricots, and plums straight from the Central Valley (fabulous), and learned about so many unusual vegetables in the Chinese and other ethnic restaurants that were springing up in the late 70's and early 80's in the melting pot that was the SF Bay Area even then.

But moving to SE Georgia in the mid 80's was interesting in a different way. Southern cooking with its greens, fried fish, and biscuits and gravy were a long way from the plain cooking of my youth or the Schezuan restaurants in Chinatown. A new, older colleague who was a keen organic vegetable gardener was amazed when I said I had never eaten kale, or turnips, or collards. I quickly learned to appreciate the greens at a local restaurant, where the fried whiting was a Friday night standard. A bit salty, by today's tastes, but delicious with a bit of Texas Pete.

Today, I stir-fry homegrown greens of all sorts with olive oil and garlic, and we thoroughly enjoy them. And I've grown all sorts of 'ethnic' greens from the Tuscan kale, to Russian kale, to Asian mizuna, to the pac choi. All delicious! The high-end Italian dandelion greens were more bitter than I expected, requiring par-boiling, but hopefully quite the spring tonic. And hopefully the radicchio (that was such a favorite of our nursing female squirrel) falls into that category as well.

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