TURNIP GREENS // elspeth

Today there is only one thing ready for harvest in the garden. It's a patch of turnip greens. I got a packet of Eastham seed last year when I was researching this story for Cape Cod Life magazine, down at the barber shop in Eastham from "Jolly" Roger Taggert. He reached under the counter, poured them into a manilla packet, and pressed it into the palm of my hand. "Plant these July 4th," he said. "Then let them overwinter, and the next year, they'll go to seed." That would give me more seed, he said, enough to start saving my own.

We're still waiting. The turnips are big and cream-colored, and the tops have popped up over the ground. The greens wilted and went dormant all winter in and out of the snow, and now they're growing again, furiously. Sometime around the end of June, I imagine, we'll start to see bolting and flower heads and then tiny black seeds.

In the meantime, we'll be eating the greens. I love wilted greens (Mom! are you reading? :), though I don't always follow a recipe. 

I didn't this time either. I gathered up a big armful this weekend, washed them, and cut them into thin ribbons. Then I warmed up a spoonful of bacon fat in the cast iron skillet and turned up the heat. When the greens started to wilt I added a splash of red wine, some minced garlic, and a pinch of salt. I spooned everything into a bowl, topped it with a few cooked pinto beans, croutons, and Parmesan ribbons, and that was lunch.

It was delicious and incredibly easy. And best of all, it made use of what we have today.


I'm not sure this is so much a recipe as a recommendation. You could sub all sorts of things: black beans or garbanzos for the pinto beans, spinach or Swiss chard or kale for the turnip greens, duck fat or butter for bacon fat, you name it. But the idea's here, and it's one of my favorites. You wilt some greens, add in some flavor and protein, and have a warm garden salad for lunch.

2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 large bunch turnip greens
3 gloves garlic, minced
a splash of red wine (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
sea salt and pepper to taste
a handful of cooked pinto beans
Parmesan, for grating
1 piece whole wheat toast, cut into squares, or a handful of croutons

Warm up the bacon fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the greens and cook, stirring occasionally. When they start to wilt pour in the wine and cook another few minutes until it's reduced by half. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste, and turn off the heat. Scoop the greens into a bowl and top with beans, Parmesan ribbons, and croutons. Eat warm. 


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.