Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aunt Etta's Turnip Greens

The little memoir of Uncle Dan's concern over eating turnip greens is a true story. It appears in Flavored with Love: Mary Lou's Family and Friends Can Cook

It also appeared in the Bernice Banner (Bernice, Louisiana).

Feeling queasy a few months after being married, Etta decided she needed medical help. Uncle Dan took her to the doctor, who informed the young couple that she was pregnant. “Don’t hurt yourself lifting heavy loads and working too hard on the farm,” the doctor cautioned. “Eat a balanced diet.”

As they were walking into the waiting area on their way out the clinic, Dan, exposing his ignorance of the subject, turned around and went back to talk with the doctor another time. “Doctor, I’ve got a question.”

“What is that?”

“Is it all right if I eat turnip greens?” he asked.

My family laughed about this for years.

Etta's Turnip Greens

1. Pick some nice tender greens from the patch down in the damp hollow. The best ones are grown in cold weather with a kiss of frost on them.
2. Wash them thoroughly to rid them of grit and sand. Don’t skimp on the washing.
3. Be sure to pull off the stems and ladybugs.
4. You may want to peel and slice a few turnip roots and toss them into the pot with the greens.
5. Fill a big pot with greens.
6. Cover them with water.
7. Throw in a lump of bacon grease the size of a large egg.
8. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Shake in a tiny bit of red pepper.
9. Add a spoonful of sugar–the size depending on how bitter the greens are.
10. Throw in a douse of pepper sauce, or if you don’t have any, use vinegar.
11. Cook the greens over low heat for hours to make sure they are tender.
12. Cut them before serving.


1 .It’s easier to cut the greens before cooking, but that procedure is unorthodox.
2. Serve the greens with plenty of thin fresh cornbread to sop up the pot liquor. Try cracklin’ bread.
3. A sprinkle of hot pepper sauce would taste good on greens.
4. A ham hock or a small block of side meat could be substituted for the bacon grease.
5. If you want to make a pot of heart-healthy food, try omitting the grease altogether and add low sodium beef bouillon with a few drops of liquid smoke.
6. Greens have been enjoyed with slices of fresh raw onions.
7. You may want to dip some sliced green tomatoes in flour and fry them in a small amount of fat in a skillet to serve with your greens.
8. Sliced ripe tomatoes would be good too.
9. Some people serve peppers–sliced bell peppers, sweet banana peppers, hot peppers–with greens.
10. Linda R., a Louisiana friend, cooks garlic in green leafy vegetables.
11. Frozen greens taste good if they are cooked carefully.
12. Diane, my sister-in-law, cuts cooked fresh greens with a pizza cutter.

FLAVORED WITH LOVE has more stories about Aunt Etta and Uncle Dan. THE COLLARD PATCH is an entire book about cooking greens, primarily collards, and the cornbread to go with them.

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