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Thanksgiving Day Series: The History Behind Kale, Collards, and Mustard Greens

Greens, recipe below

Greens have a long association with people of African descent in the South and by extension the white folks around them. For example, in eighteenth century Africa, female toddlers of commoners accompanied their female elders into the forest to gather vitamin rich “bush greens,” different varieties of kale, collards, and mustard greens to supplement what the men of their compounds produced and hunted. Over time they domesticated these wild greens and learned to prepare them raw or cooked and seasoning them with salt, pepper, onions, garlic, herbs, and pieces of meat and fish when they had access to them. We know that both Igbo and Mande women commonly served greens with chicken battered and deep fried in palm oil. Thus meals with greens were yet another culinary tradition passed on to African Americans from their African descendents who first came to the Americas during the colonial period. The African and Amerindian diets contained far more greens than Europeans consumed and over time European colonist, particularly in the colonial south, began eating more greens like the black and people around them. During the antebellum period enslaved African only had time to make greens when masters gave them days off such as on Sundays and holidays. Thus over time they become closely associated with days like Thanksgiving. Below find traditional and vegan recipes that would work well with kale, collards, and mustard greens.

Pork Seasoned Greens: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/collard_greens_with_bacon/

Healthier Southern Greens: http://www.healthyselfandhome.com/InTheKitchen.html

Vegan Greens


1 bunch of greens: collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, or chard
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt, depending on the saltiness of your stock

Liquid smoke or smoked paprika


Wash the collards good in plenty of slightly salted water, strip the leaves off the steams, discard the steams and cut the greens into small pieces. Start out with 3 bunches which will serve 6 people, they are big but they cook down like spinach. I steam mine in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes until the fibrous leaves are easy to eat. Steaming preserves the water soluble vitamins that are killed when you just boil the greens down like most of my ancestors have done for years.

Remove the collards from the pressure cooker and save the water to make the pot-licker or stock.

Season the water with 3 cubes of vegetable bullion, dried bay leaf, dried red pepper flakes, little vinegar, and some honey. Had some smoked paprika or a little liquid smoke which most grocery stores sell if you like that smoked meat flavor (the traditional recipe calls for a smoked ham hock or a hunk of smoked fat back). The pot-licker is full of vitamins and great seasoning for the greens Sauté the steamed greens with chopped onions and garlic in olive oil with your preferred seasonings like pepper, salt, etc. Add sautéed greens to the pot-licker and let them marinade for 30 or more minutes.

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