Frequently people visit the Farm to Family Market or the Farm Bus and are curious what those crazy looking greens are! They are creasy greens, an old-time staple southern food in the mustard family which used to be foraged wild, but are now cultivated. Old-time country folks get really excited when they see them and buy them up by the trash bag full! They thrive in colder weather, and are hardy in the snow, and are often the only fresh green thing growing in Virginia snow-covered winter fields. Eating local in January and February can be challenging, but try adding creasies to your shopping or foraging list.
Creasies are nature’s answer to our winter need for vitamin C. Wild foods forager, Euell Gibbons, reported in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs, “100 grams of winter cress contain an impressive 5,067 I.U. of v Vitamin A and 152 milligrams of vitamin C! By comparison, the same weight of raw broccoli spears rates only 2,500 I.U. of vitamin A . . . and oranges (which of course are universally acknowledged as a good source of vitamin C) provide a comparatively measly 50 milligrams of C per 100 grams! ” That’s a pretty hefty punch. I find myself craving them, and many people also say the same thing, “Gotta get me some creasies!” Creasies remind me a lot of watercress for their dark green peppery flavor, which my mom used to take us foraging for, only these grow in sandy soil, not in the wetlands.
We get our creasy greens from Hanover County, VA. Sam, our greens farmer, has been farming for a long time, as has most of his family, and his face is brown from the sun and wind. He’s a man of few words, but has a big smile and laughs a lot. In the summer, Sam has the prettiest okra, and delicious sweet potatoes in the fall. He grows greens for us in the wintertime, hardy creasies, kale and collards. Unfortunately the kale and collards have been burned and stunted by the frigid cold wind this year, but the hardier creasies have survived. Sam is confident that once the weather mellows, we’ll have another round of the collards and kale before Virginia’s heat hits. I enjoy visiting with Sam when he comes by, and I feel his pleasant energy goes straight into the food he grows, giving it a special nourishment.
Nibbled raw, creasy greens have a spicy, peppery flavor, similar to watercress or arugula. When cooked, that peppery flavor dissipates. To prep, rinse them thoroughly before using, to get all the sand out, carefully separate the intertwined plants, and trim off the larger stalks. Depending on how you are going to use them, and if you like stalks, you can use them whole, or strip off the leaves. I usually trim off the larger stems, and either give them to the chickens or see if the dogs want to eat them. Chickens in particular really love anything green, and go crazy over them this time of year.
They can be chopped up and used raw as garnish, or in fresh salads, as many of the farm to table restaurants we work with in the Richmond area serve them. Their peppery goodness works especially well with eggs, and make an excellent addition to quiche, egg salads and deviled eggs. You can add them to sandwiches, like you would watercress. Or my favorite, is braised greens, recipe below.
|The Maytag is a key kitchen gadget here in the South.
Take your greens for a spin on the gentle cycle!
You can cook them slowly, southern-salad-style, with side meat for flavor, as you would collards (the Southern use of the word “salad” for something cooked still confuses me.) Tim Vidra, who writes the RVA blog, E.A.T. has a great post and recipe on how to cook them this style. He includes a handy hint on how to get all the sand off the greens – take them for a spin in the washing machine! These southerners love to use their washing machines to cook with. The old wringer washer in our market used to belong to one of our Mennonite farmers, who made butter in it!
If you are interested in growing creasy greens, you can get seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
Here’s the greens recipe I like to make. Modify it according to your dish, ingredients handy and your mood.
EASY BRAISED CREASY GREENS
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or meat drippings (bacon, sausage, steak etc)
2 bunches fresh greens, about 8 cups, washed, de-spined and coarsely chopped. You can also sub kale, collards, mustard or turnip greens, or a mixture of winter greens.
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped and/or 1 Tbs ginger, julienned
1/8 cup water or vegetable or chicken broth or stock
Sea salt and coarse grind pepper
Optional seasonings: add a shake of Sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, tamari, Braggs Liquid Aminos, Chinese 5 spice, or cayenne pepper
Optional toppings: toasted sesame seeds, chopped almonds or walnuts, toasted pumpkin seeds
- Heat oil or drippings in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add greens and garlic/ginger, stirring to coat with oil.
- Stir occasionally until greens are barely wilted and still have a green color, just a few minutes.
- Add vegetable broth or water and stir, allowing greens to steam until barely tender. Salt to taste.
- Add seasonings and toppings as desired and serve.