The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

For Best Southern Greens: Launder Well

By Tom Sieg © 1991

Issue: May, 1991

Editor's Note: Tom Sieg is a columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina by trade, but he is a mountaineer at heart. He wrote this column sometime around 1980-81 and it reflects his true understanding of spring greens.

If you've ever washed home-grown or wild picked greens, you'll probably totally agree on his methods. Every good Southern cookbook tells how to cook greens. Most, however, do not adequately describe the process of preparing them for cooking.

First, cut out the stem. Now we come to the important part; washing the greens. When you have enough greens to fill a two gallon container, put them in a bathtub and run water over them until the tub is two-thirds full. Stir vigorously with a canoe paddle for 20 minutes. Drain tub.

Repeat above step.

Repeat again.

Now remove the greens to your kitchen sink. Run water over front and back of each leaf while scrubbing it with a greens brush, which is available in most Southern hardware or department stores.

Dry the greens in your clothes dryer for 20 to 30 minutes on warm setting. This is very important because it has somewhat of a vacuum effect that removes particles that water can somehow miss.

Next, if at all possible, find a fast-running unpolluted stream. Put your greens in a greens net in the fast-running water. Leave for eight hours or overnight.

Now hang your greens on a clothesline and dry them with an air hose. If you do not have an air hose, most Southern vacuum cleaners are equipped with an airflow-reverse feature to serve this purpose. Borrow your neighbor's. She will be delighted to know that you are cooking greens, and she will be happy to help you out.

The next step is very important. Without it you just won't enjoy your greens after they are cooked. Wash the greens in your clothes washer, including spin-dry cycle. Most Southerners do this only once or twice, but being a beginner, you may want to repeat the step several times.

Next, many people like to repeat the clothes-dryer treatment, but I feel that this is optional. In any case, it is certainly unnecessary to use any heat in the dryer this time. Just let the greens spin in cool air for 30 minutes or so.

Next, put your greens in the net again and take them down to your local fire department. There, they will be hung on a greens rack and hosed down. This is a free service that all Southern fire departments provide.

Keep in mind, however, that there may be others ahead of you and greens require two hours of hosing on each side. For this reason, many Southerners prefer to buy their own fire hoses, although this can be costly because the city charges $340 to put in a special valve to increase your water pressure.

Your greens are now ready for cooking. Just follow any Southern cookbook recipe. When your two gallons of greens are done, they will have cooked down somewhat. You should, however, have at least four servings.

There will be a little sand and grit in them, but you will get used to this.

Editor's Note... Our thanks to Tom Sieg for sharing this bit of humorous wisdom with our readers and allowing us to add it to The Mountain Laurel Cook Book. Besides over 150 recipes, the book contains several stories such as this one on how to cook.