Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Green City Boy and The Creasy Greens

Spring is finally here!  Though it's been slow to warm up, the calendar does declare it to be true.  After such a long cold winter, it sure is a welcome sight!

You know, the first time I ever took City Boy to Kentucky with me it was early spring.  We had been dating for quite some time, and I was so excited to show him the place that meant the most to me in all this world!  So we headed down to Aunt "Oh So Sweet's" place for a weekend visit.

The place that means the most to me!
I was curious to see how City Boy would like Eastern Kentucky. And when my mother requested that we bring her back some creasy greens while there, I thought, "Oh boy, there's no turning back now!  I'm about to find out if this guy is the real deal.  If picking creasy greens doesn't scare him off, he's really a keeper!"  Teehee!

Traditionally, when early spring would hit throughout Appalachia, folks would often head outdoors to look for wild greens.  Some would call these greens a spring tonic of sorts...a much appreciated treat after long winter months of mostly preserved foods.

Creasy greens are usually ready for picking before the trees bud out in the spring. 
Some of the greens would be used raw, in a salad, or wilted salad (dressed with the likes of hot bacon grease and maybe some onion).  But many would (and still do) get boiled and cooked down in a big pot, occasionally with a piece of meat added for flavoring...and then served along with cornbread and other items at a meal.

Spring beauty (chicken toe, tangle gut), poke, dandelion, dock, mustard, lamb's quarters, etc. are some favorites you can hear many talk about.  And then there are creasy greens!  My family often just calls them creases.  Creasy greens have a strong flavor when raw, so they are most often cooked down before serving.  But when cooking, they certainly do create a distinct odor.  It's not a terrible smell, but it is strong and lingering.

Once when we were down to visit my mamaw, papaw, and Aunt "Oh So Sweet", my mother had her purse hanging over one of the old bark bottom chairs on the back porch adjacent to the kitchen.  And a big old pot of creases was simmering away on the stove...I swear I could smell the odor of creasy greens lingering on the leather of her purse for weeks after that!

The official term for the plant is upland cress, but whatever you call it, it is a well loved dish that brings back nostalgic memories of spring for so many from Appalachia.

Anyhow, with my mother's request for creases, I guessed City boy was about to get a new spring memory as well...and I was just praying it would turn out to be a good one!

But the trip with City Boy went off without a hitch!  I loved showing him things that were so dear and nostalgic for me, and he enjoyed seeing them as well.  And when it came time to pick those creasy greens, he was a real trooper!

We headed up the creek a ways, to a cornfield that had been harvested the previous season...a perfect place for finding these greens that like growing where the soil has been disturbed a little.

Our creasy green "patch"!
There sure were a lot of them, so I taught City Boy how to identify them, and we stuffed a few grocery bags full.

City boy getting his first taste of Eastern Kentucky...picking creasy greens! 
Me in the creasy green patch!
City Boy with his hands full of creases!  
Our creasy green harvest!
We even had enough that Aunt "Oh So Sweet" was able to cook up a small mess for City Boy to sample before we headed back north.  Unfortunately, I don't think he fell in love with the things...but the whole experience didn't scare him off, as about a month after our trip he ended up proposing and we got engaged! So maybe the secret to true love can be found early in the spring, somewhere in the mountains in a creasy green patch!

If you have fond memories of picking and or eating creasy greens, you might be happy to know that you can actually order seed for them.  Try the company called Sow True Seed based out of the southern Appalachian town of Asheville, North Carolina.  You can order their creasy green seed packets here. They are a company dedicated to preserving old heirloom varieties of seeds, many of which hail from Appalachia.

I hope you are enjoying the start of spring!  And may each of you have a wonderful and blessed Easter filled with the hope of the Risen Savior!