Down Home Southern Greens
As a little girl, these smokey, slightly piquant, mildly spicy greens were amongst my favourite vegetable dishes. I never understood why kids weren’t supposed to like greens until I discovered that northern folks ate their greens without the addition of smoked pork and pepper vinegar!
The greens at our house are as popular with the children as they are with adults. We all love our greens. The more, and the spicier, the better!
Greens — usually collards — are a Southern standard. You will find them on offer everywhere — from soul food restaurants to small town diners. In fact, greens are so popular in the South that bales of them are sold at local farmers markets. The sheer variety of leafy vegetables on offer in the summertime is impressive. There are so many options to choose from — collards, mustard greens, and infinite varieties of kale.
Here in South Africa, our selection of dark, leafy green vegetables is growing quickly. We still don’t have as many varieties as they do in the Southern US. However, several different varieties of kale are now available in local supermarkets, in addition to the more traditional Swiss chard.
In addition, the quality of smoked pork on offer at our local German butchers is superb. It could stand up to some of the finest Virginia pork in terms of both quality and flavor. So, as far as I’m concerned, the only reason why greens aren’t a hit in South Africa is because most folks have never tried them!
This recipe calls for bacon bones. I tend to buy them when I find them and stock them in the freezer, because the availability of good bacon bones is not continuous. However, if you cannot get bacon bones, you could always substitute a smoked hock or even a ham bone from a Sunday dinner. The point of the pork is to create a rich bone broth, add a hint of smokiness, and allow you to strew your greens with tiny bits of meat.
As for the greens, you do not have to use kale alone. You could use kale, collards, mustard greens, or a mixture of all three. Baby spinach would be a bad idea because it cooks too quickly. This recipe requires greens that stand up well to low and slow cooking. So, the heartier the better. However, the variety of dark leafy green vegetables can change according to season and personal preference.
Health Benefits of Kale
If taste alone is not sufficient inducement to try preparing kale at home, you will certainly be motivated by its health benefits. Kale happens to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet.
It is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Scientific studies have demonstrated that consuming even 1/2 cup a week of kale can significantly reduce your risk of glaucoma. It is also rich in anti-oxidants and a natural de-toxifier.
Kale ought to be on your menu, and this recipe is a great place to start. Why not serve it with Quick Southern Cornbread? Bon appétit!