Greens, Greens, the Edible Weed

We are a mixed marriage, you see. My husband is 100 percent Yankee, and I am 100 percent Southern.

As you might imagine, he has some issues with my part of the country. Starting with the weather, and working on up to national politics, with several stops in between. Let’s just say we have settled on DC for retirement, because he can’t get me to go any further north, and I can’t get him to go any further south. End of discussion.

But there is one Southern thing that my husband is absolutely nuts about—aside from his wife’s adorable accent, of course. That is the food. The man can’t get enough of it. From barbecue to pecan pie, there is practically nothing he won’t eat. (Well, OK, maybe Jell-O salad, but that’s really kind of a Midwestern thing, anyway. Doesn’t count.)

And so, we need us some greens. I am growing them on the balcony, since they are not common here in Austria. One container equals roughly one “mess” or about a pound of greens.

Probably the only mess of mustard greens in Austria.

Greens are any kind of green, leafy weed that you can eat, basically. From collards to kale to mustard greens, they are super-easy to grow, even if you don’t have a yard. Fill a pot with dirt, throw a bunch of seeds in it, water regularly. That’s it. They have a long growing season, too. In a mild climate, and staggering plantings in several garden sections or containers, the first batch can be planted as early as February, and the last as late as early September, for a constant supply of fresh greens over several months.

People even used to collect greens growing wild. I remember as a kid, being totally fascinated by my day care center’s cook as she gathered “cooking greens” from the an un-mowed grassy patch on the side of the building. Maybe because greens are so easy to gather or grow, they are considered to be sort of a poor folks’ food. But don’t go dissing them. They are also loaded with vitamins, and considered by nutritionists to be one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

So, you want you some greens. First buy some or grow some (see above). Then wash them well, removing the tough stems. The rule of thumb is to wash them three times to make sure they are clean. I find that when I grow them in a container they don’t get so dirty and one good wash, swishing them in the sink and rinsing them under the tap, is enough.

The mess above, ready for cooking.

Here’s one of my basic recipes for greens.

Tear them or cut them up into fat strips with kitchen shears.

Cook in a pot of simmering water until they are sort of “al dente.” This takes about 20 minutes for mustard greens: allow more time for tougher greens like kale and collards.

Meanwhile, slice about four strips of bacon into bite size pieces, and fry in a bit of oil until almost done. Drain on paper towels.

In the bacon grease, sauté one minced garlic clove and one small, thinly sliced onion until soft.

Drain the extra grease from the frying pan, and put the pan back on the eye. Using a slotted spoon, lift the cooked greens into the frying pan. Add the onions, bacon and garlic and about a half cup of the greens cooking liquid (“pot liquor”). Stir it all up, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer over low heat for about half an hour. (You can save the cooking liquid to add to soup later if you like.)


Greens are especially good with corn bread and beans. In fact, I have heard that is a nutritionally complete meal. Fried chicken, biscuits and greens is another classic combo. But they work pretty well with Austrian sausages and potatoes  as well. That’s how we had them tonight, and they were so good I thought I’d share!


  1. This could be an Italian recipe. I grew up eating greens with Italian sausage. So good! Thanks for sharing your recipe.


  2. So I bought a “mess” of red chard at the farmer’s market Saturday. Greens are about all that is ripe this time of year. I put them in a pot with water, boiled them to death (which didn’t take long), added some chopped bacon and cooked that in. Reduced the liquid and seasoned with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. This was great. Who would have known!


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