Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turnip Greens and Friends

Sunday was filled with anticipation.  Friends, Tony and Diana, were passing through Nashville on their way to Northern Virginia for the holidays.  We last saw Tony and Diana in Seward, Alaska in late July.  Of course, we’ve spoken on the phone several times, emailed back and forth, and they follow our blog, but there’s nothing like being together.  Since Seward, we knew they would be coming this way and we’ve looked forward to this visit all this time.  Now they’re here.  But first, there’s a mess of turnip greens.

I’m just an ole southern girl and for us true southerners there’s nothing much better than fried chicken, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and a mess of turnip greens.  Some in my family would add a tall glass of ice cold buttermilk to that list, but not me.  Maybe I’m not as true southern as I think I am.  Anyway, the fall of the year is turnip green time and my aunt had promised me a mess when the time was right.  I’ve been looking forward to these turnip greens for a month.

They say cool weather and frost have a whole lot to do with the taste of turnip greens.  Some people, like my aunt, swear that the best tasting greens are those that have had one frost.  Others, like my mother, say that the frost makes them bitter.  I haven’t done a scientific study of these theories since I usually get my greens in a can at the grocery.  However, my own opinion is that the greens, whether frosted on or not, are best when picked young rather than waiting until the leaves are huge.  Since my greens were coming from my aunt, I got young, tender leaves that had been frosted on Friday night. She picked them on Saturday night and brought them to church for me on Sunday.

Along with church, a quick run to the grocery for fresh bread, and preparing a travel day dinner for Tony and Diana, I really didn’t have time to mess with that mess of turnip greens this afternoon, but greens won’t wait.

I had a grocery sack full which is the same thing as having a sink full.  Greens have to be washed and washed and washed.  They have a prickly surface covered with very fine hair-like stuff which holds onto the dirt and grit of the garden.  Washing multiple times is essential.  I’ve heard it said greens should be washed seven times.  That may be a bit much, but I washed my mess of greens five times before the water was clear.

Then it was into the pot.  You’re probably surprised I have a pot large enough to hold a sink full of greens.  It lives under the sofa and I use it about once every 2 or 3 years.  I was sure glad I had it today.  The pot was full to overflowing, but once I turned the heat on the greens wilted quickly and there was plenty of room in the pot.  I haven’t cooked turnip greens fresh from the garden since 1970.  I had to refresh my memory from the internet.  The hardest part is the washing and cutting off the thick part of the stem.  Once in the pot, just add water, salt, onion, and seasoning meat and boil about 45 minutes until the greens are tender.  I used bacon for seasoning since I didn’t have fat back and I also put in about a teaspoon of sugar.  Served piping hot with a little vinegar or pepper sauce, they are yummy--to an old southern gal like me.

Turnip greens are the leaf part of the root vegetable, turnips.  The turnip looks like an albino beet.  My grandmother fed me lots of turnips when I was a child, but I never developed a taste for those.

Tony and Diana arrived about the middle of the afternoon.  Our pear and apple crisp was just out of the oven, the greens were just in the pot.  We had a wonderful reunion with rapid fire conversation as we got caught up with each others lives since leaving Alaska.  We hugged, laughed, talked, and ate.  Now, we’re looking forward to the next few days with them before they continue their journey east.

Obviously, the photos have nothing to do with turnip greens.  They were all from our trip to the southwest  a couple years ago.  That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. Turnip greens are yummy. I'd never had them until we hit the southland. As a kid, mom would prepare dandelion greens, which are pretty much the same thing. Turnip greens are a lot easier to prepare, especially if you have a good can opener. And, oh, I like turnips as well. We always had them in our New England Boiled Dinner.

  2. well.I can honestly say I have never had turnip eyed peas or buttermillk?? fried chicken and corn bread are a yes..glad you enjoyed your visit with your friends!!!