Easy Ways to Cook Greens

Time to Get Cooking!
Time to Get Cooking! | Source

The Epitome of Southern Cooking

I am a born and bred southerner. And as most of us southerners know, there is one dish you absolutely have to know how to prepare and cook in order to successfully be considered a wonder in the kitchen.

Macaroni and Cheese is a dish that is associated with the south, but I mean now it is been duplicated and imitated the extent it is no longer truly special to us in the heart of dixie. Barbecue has become the same way, even though the most common form is actually southern (sorry Texas but I cannot consider you as part of the south).

So now all we have left is the pride and glory of southern cuisine: greens. When I think of greens, I think of the heart and soul of many Sunday Dinners. Cooked just right they are a culinary masterpiece all unto themselves, cooked incorrectly you become the butt of many jokes.

Greens have a certain flavor that is unique to them. My personal favorite are collards. Just the way they taste and their texture alone is enough to make me smile. I will be honest, I did not always like them as a kid, but they have definitely grown on me since.

And hopefully with the help of this hub, you will love greens as much if not more as I do.

How to Purchase Greens

I usually would not include proper purchasing technique for most foods, but greens are a special exception. The first thing to know is that greens eventually cook down after being over heat, so while they may look big to begin with they will shrink to about half the size once cooked. With this in mind, you want to get a few healthy stalks of greens depending on the number of people you are serving and/or you want leftovers.

1-3 People: About one and a half to two bunches of mustard greens/turnips are sufficient for a small group of people or a single serving. For collards, this is the equivalent of two medium stalks.There is a scale located in most grocery stores and fresh markets that allows you to weigh your greens. If you work better with scales, that is about one to two or so pounds.

4-6 People: For mustard greens and collards that is anywhere from two and a half to four bunches. And for collards that is about three medium or two large stalks. Again, if you prefer to weigh your greens it equals anywhere from three pounds to six pounds.

7 or More People: Well, this pretty much means doubling or tripling the previous amounts mentioned.

Bagged Greens: I personally have a disdain for bagged greens mainly because they sell half of the product for twice the price. But if this is all that is available, be careful in that what you buy is still going to cook down to half of what you believe you are buying. Either way, I still consider them a step up from canned greens but about the same as frozen greens.

Frozen Greens: These are pre-cut and precooked, so all you have to do is essentially nuke them in the microwave or warm them over the stove. But like with bagged greens, you have to consider serving portions if you are truly serious about making them for any number of people.

Canned Greens: This is an absolute last resort for me. If there's no other types of greens available, I will think about buying them but so far I have managed to dodge them. Like I said, there's nothing wrong with them but if you are used to fresh it is definitely a step down.

Collards | Source

Cutting and Cleaning Greens

This is getting down to the nitty gritty-literally. Anyone who is serious about making delicious greens knows that having them properly cut and cleaned is more important than anything. If your greens are poorly prepared, no amount of seasoning will save your efforts.

In order to cut greens that are freshly picked, you can use a chopping board and knife to get the job done or read on to see how I let appliances do the job for me!

If you have a sizeable amount of greens, you can wash them one of two ways. The first is the tried and true sink washing method in which you fill the sink with warm water and transfer the greens back and forth between waters on both sides of your sink. Or you can do it how my grandma taught us years ago: slip them into the washing machine.

Now before you go thinking I fell off the wagon of cooking sanity, my grandma was not a culinary genius for nothing. She knew her way around any kitchen and even as she was aged, managed to stay on top of things. Putting greens in the washer on the rinse cycle helps eliminate the many annoyances of preparing greens.

  1. Stalks- Unlike most vegetables where the stalk is revered and used, in greens it is mostly considered a nuisance and interferes with the delightful pleasure of eating them.
  2. Grit and Dirt- This is probably the worst thing about eating improperly cleaned greens. Imagine tripping at the beach and not rinsing your mouth- that's what it tastes like when you leave grit- which is why you should absolutely avoid leaving anything behind.
  3. Withered Greens- Anything in your greens that is not green but apart of the leaf is essentially withered, which means you do not want to eat it.
  4. Other Extras- If you happen to get greens fresh from a field, there might be something else attached to them such as roots and other vegetables starting to sprout. Picking them off is a simple matter that doesn't take that long.

After cutting and cleaning, the bulk of the dirty work is done. All that is left now is to cook your greens.

Hot Crispy Bacon....All the More to Season With!
Hot Crispy Bacon....All the More to Season With! | Source

Seasoning Essentials

Now it is all about getting your seasonings in order. This is about making sure you have something to season your greens with. While I have a recipe for some methods, if you want a good pot of home-cooked greens, there are a few items that will help you along the way.

  • Bacon Drippings- Alot of us southern cooks have a grease canteen of leftover bacon grease for seasoning. It is very handy and usually helps. However, if you want the fresh taste of bacon you can always take a fresh batch of fried bacon and add the grease to the pan. Another method will be discussed later in the hub.
  • Onion or Onion Powder- Fresh onion does a world of good to most dishes, especially foods that absorb flavor as well as greens do. But if you have an allergy, sensitivity, or just don't plain like it all that much, you can always complete your pantry with Onion Powder found in the seasoning section of the grocery story.
  • Salt and Pepper- This should be a no-brainer, but I still err on the side of caution in case people are apprehensive to using it. A word to the wise about the pepper: go light. Not everyone likes it that much and it can be added later to individual servings to the taste of the diner.
  • Chicken or Beef Broth/Stock/Cubes/FlavorBoost- In recent years, our family has been straying away from the old guard of flavoring that my grandparents used. So instead of fat from animals, we use stocks as a strong flavor base and it helps quite considerably

These are what I consider essential ingredients for good greens. You do not have to include all of them but most of them used in conjunction plump up any pot of greens. There are some things that I would encourage in very small doses if at all for seasoning greens. They have their use, but used too heavily it may not earn you favorable returns.

  • Vinegar- If you watch Food Network and Top Chef like I do, they always talk about acidity and how it adds to a dish. That's what vinegar does but you have to remember the greens are like the base, so you have temper that as not to overwhelm the diner. No more than a tablespoon will do you well.
  • Ham- I personally do not eat or use ham for my cooking but it can help improve the flavor of greens. If you want to use it, make sure the salt has been boiled out of it if it's cured.
  • Fat Back- If you know about southern eating, you know what this is. If you do not, consider yourself lucky. I would say do not use it at all but if you know what you are doing, that's all well and good.

Cooking Your Greens

Now here's the real part of cooking greens, the actual cooking part. Now that you have made it this stage, it's all gravy from here.

  1. Get a pot ready- Preferably a large one with a lid that helps you keep the simmering steady.
  2. Put the pot on and preheat the stove- The stove should be on a low to medium setting. If you want your greens to cook faster, use the medium setting and if you want a slow-cooker effect, you should definitely put it on low.
  3. Pour in liquid ingredients as a base- If you are seasoning with broth, bacon grease, or any other liquid to keep the greens coated and from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Place greens in pot and add sprinkle seasoning in- If you have any seasonings such as onion powder and pepper, you can put them in and stir accordingly.
  5. Stir your greens at least every 15 minutes- You have to be vigilant about keeping them rotated with a lot of flavor and not loosing moisture.
  6. Final touches- Add your vinegar in the last few minutes to add the extra layer of flavor.
  7. Serve and Enjoy- That's pretty self explanatory!

Awesome Greens Recipes

Brazilian Collards: I will tell you up front, this is probably one of my favorite recipes of all time for any kind of dish. I first got to eat these in college at a gathering and while I forget the other dishes, this recipe remains a staple for me. I got this recipe from Allrecipes and I give many thanks to the user.

Smothered Turnips: This is another recipe that is great for Turnips. I have used a similar recipe once before and it turned out pretty well.

Unfortunately, I don't have any recipes for Mustard greens but I will definitely be on the look out.

A Video Cooking Lesson for Collards!

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Comments 36 comments

alocsin profile image

alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

Bacon dripping and onions on greens. Yum. I'll forward these recipes to the family cook. Voting this Up and Useful.

VoxyLady profile image

VoxyLady 5 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

Wow this sounds amazing and delicious! Thanks

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Alocsin! I hope you enjoy them!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

VoxyLady, I'm glad you're interested in trying them. It's really good. Thanks for commenting!

thebiologyofleah profile image

thebiologyofleah 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Very informative article for someone not familiar with greens. I've always been curious about them and you presented all the answers. Thanks! I'll have to look at the grocery store and see what is available to try out.

albertsj profile image

albertsj 5 years ago from Pittsfield, Ma

I can't get enough veggies, esp greens. I'm a huge foodie too, so I know what to do with them, but am always looking for new ideas. So I'm salivating, after reading. : )

albertsj profile image

albertsj 5 years ago from Pittsfield, Ma

Oh, and voted up & yummy...oh yeah there's not an option for that. Usefull: )

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

Good greens, you bet. To me canned fresh with onions and bacon, we grew up eating them that way, the best. Great article on ways to cook other greens, loved your article.

Very well done.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Leah for dropping by and commenting. I'm glad this helped you learn about greens. I hope you enjoy eating them.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Jacy,

I agree that you can't have too many greens! Thanks!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

There should be a yummy button for food hubs!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Ruby,

Thank you for coming by and commenting!

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Well have to pick some up on my next trip to the grocery. I love anything that includes garlic and onions and the bacon is a bonus. Thanks for sharing.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

You will definitely love the flavors if you like bacon, garlic, and onions teach12345. Thank you for coming by and commenting!

Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho

You can never go wrong with a dish that contains bacon : ) Growing up in Cincinnati my mom never cooked greens. I've never seen my relatives who live in Kentucky just on the Tennessee border cook greens. Yet as a food lover I sought them out. Since Emeril Lagasse has never let me down I tried his recipe. Naturally there was bacon and onions, but there was also brown sugar, molasses, and crushed red pepper. I loved them and I will order them at a restaurant if I think the people in the kitchen have a clue. Thanks for sharing how it is traditionally done in the south : ) As for barbecue, I'm fond of Georgia because I like the mustardy (is that a word) tang. Voted up, useful, and shared.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Jennifer,

That's interesting about your family. I thought greens were universal among all southerners and considering Kentucky is the home of KFC, I would have automatically thought they would have greens. But that's definitely interesting.

I've never tried Emeril's recipe but that sounds yummy for sure. I'm hesitant about ordering them in restaurants because growing up my parents and I would order them and either they'd lack seasoning or taste like they just been dumped out of the can.

I mention barbecue but to be honest, I don't eat barbecue but I know it's heavily debated among southerners how to cook it. I didn't know Georgia had their own version :). Thanks for coming by and commenting!

rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Would you believe I married a girl from Alabama 32 years ago that refuses to cook greens?!? I've always loved them, as well as, spinach, kale and anything close. So, now, I can cook my own! Great Hub!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks rcrumple! And I do find it hard to believe that your wife refused to cook greens but I think that's a stereotype of southerners- not all of us love greens but I do. So I'm glad I know how to cook my own.

prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 4 years ago from Canada

Alecia, great hub that is very useful for me! I was not aware of any of these ways to cook greens. They are not often used here in Canada, at least from the prairies where I am from. Our way was to simple boil or steam them plain. I love your methods and will have to try this new way of cooking. Thanks for the great tips! Voted up and more. (and pinned)

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you prairieprincess! I didn't know that Canada didn't have greens but given the climate, I'm sure they're not entirely easy to grow. I definitely think you will enjoy eating them slow-cooked, it seems like flavors are better absorbed that way and the taste is always delicious!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

What a useful hub! Let me know if you come up with anything good for mustard greens. I have more coming up in my garden!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Deb! I need to think of something for mustard greens :).

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 4 years ago from Oklahoma

Great hub! I love greens any way they come. Especially collard greens. I have to cook heart smart for my husband, so we avoid bacon. That cuts down n the flavor a lot. So I use canned greens often. He likes them because they are less bitter. I like them because if I am having a very lazy day I can buy them pre-seasoned. :)

But it is true that nothing beats a mess of fresh greens cooked down with salted pork and onions. Yum!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Sharkye! I know some people have to cut bacon out of the equation but one time I made greens with bacon and then took out the bacon and the flavor was good. Being southern makes it hard for my family to take canned greens over fresh- even though fresh is alot of work. But I figure as long as you season them well and they taste okay- they're still greens.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 4 years ago from Oklahoma

Seventh generation Southener here. Arkansas and Tennessee-so I have definitely eaten more fresh greens than canned or frozen. I was surprised when I moved to Central OK a few years ago and found out that there were some major culinary differences. Like, here they don't eat greens. Or grits! And they eat sweetened cornbread. And make chili without beans. It was a major adjustment, and my husband sometimes thinks I'm nuts when I set something in front of him!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Wow! I didn't know that about OK. But then again I didn't really consider them to be part of the south. I don't eat grits either- I'm in the black sheep category of my family there. But I like cornbread with a certain sweetness. And the only chili without beans we ate are on hot dogs.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 4 years ago from Oklahoma

I've learned to like sweet cornbread. Especially with home-made chili. The flavors are very complimentary.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I agree- they do work well together :).

Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

Great recipe that brings hunger to me as well as good memories of good foods prepared by Mom :) All greens are good and healthy.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Mike Robbers!

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Great hub Alecia, well you learn something new every day! I think we call collared greens, spring cabbage and I love it but I have to tell you I have only ever boiled it and had it with gravy poured over it. I am wondering now about trying it as you have suggested here, with bacon and cooked in broth - it will be like a revelation after boiling it :o)

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Audrey Howitt!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Jools,

You're the second person to comment on this hub about boiling greens. That's very different than how we cook them here in the south. I think you'll enjoy slow cooking them because the bacon and broth produce such a great flavor. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

rainpurplewine profile image

rainpurplewine 3 years ago from ATLANTA,Ga

I love collards and grew up on them,but there something that scares me about cooking them. Great tips!

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi rainpurplewine,

It scared me as well but once you start, it's quite easy to finish. Thank you for coming by and commenting.

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