Down Home Southern Greens

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!

Down Home Southern Greens |
These delicious greens are satisfying comfort food for all ages. This recipe is as beloved by children as it is by adults.

Recipe Variations

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!


Down Home Southern Greens

Down Home Southern Greens |
Jeanette Marie
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side dish
Prep Time:  10 minutes - Cook Time:  2 hours Servings:  8

This is one of my family's favorite side dishes. Even my kids adore it! Preparing a big pot of greens is easy, nourishing, comforting a terrific way to ensure your children want to eat their greens.

  • 500 g (1 lb) bacon bones
  • 1 whole dried red chili (or to taste)
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 500 g kale, washed and roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Pepper vinegar or white vinegar, to finish

  1. Add bacon bones, chili and water to a medium stockpot set over high heat. Bring to the boil. Then, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until water is diminished by half (about 45 minutes). Remove bones from broth with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.
  2. Once the bones are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Discard the bones, and return the meat to the pot containing the broth, along with the greens. Return to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until liquid is reduced by about half again, and greens melt in your mouth (about 45 minutes).
  4. Taste. Season, as needed, with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Sprinkle with pepper vinegar (a few Tbsps should be sufficient) to taste.
  6. Serve with homemade cornbread, spoon bread, biscuits or rice (to sop up the “pot liquor”), and more pepper vinegar, for diners to add according to their individual tastes.

The bacon bone may be replaced with an equal volume of ham hocks, or a ham bone, if desired.

Any variety of dark, leafy greens may be substituted for the kale. Examples of other greens that work in this recipe include collards and mustard greens.

Nutrition label for Down Home Southern Greens

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