Edna Lewis observes that “Greens were one of the most important vegetables in the South. They were considered to have great nutritional value. We hunted the lowland during the winter for wild watercress and early spring for wild mustard, shoots of poke plants, and such greens as lamb’s quarters or pigweed; then we’d harvest the cultivated greens such as rape, turnip greens, mustard, and wild purslane. All of these greens were cooked with pork as a seasoning.”
“We used cured pork or a cut of pork known as streak of lean. I prefer cured or smoked pork, whichever is on hand, for seasoning. Many of the wild greens have been wiped out because of farmers using weed killers; many of these greens are weeds. However, you can still find many of the wild greens at the greenmarkets from farmers who do not use chemicals. If you do not see the greens, ask—the farmers will happily bring them in for you.”
Yield: Serves 8
2 pounds cured pork shoulder or slab bacon
3 pounds turnip greens or mixed mustard, poke, collards, and lamb’s quarters or pigweed, stems removed, well rinsed
1. In a heavy pot over low heat, simmer the pork in 3 quarts cold water for 1 hour. Remove and discard the pork and skim the broth. This stock can be prepared 1 day ahead of time and refrigerated until needed.
2. In a nonreactive large pot, warm the broth. Add the greens, cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Check a few leaves to see if they are tender: Young greens may be nice and soft after 30 minutes; older ones can require up to 2 hours of simmering. When the greens are soft, taste. Add salt if needed.
3. Serve the greens hot with relish or fresh sliced onions and vinegar.