My neighbor Joan invited me to pick greens at her house last weekend, but due to wakes, funerals, travel and such yesterday was the first day I was able to make it over. I brought her several garlic bulbs which delighted her; apparently her garlic didn’t grow too well this year, so the little bag of six bulbs, with their full, lush cloves was a treat for her. We picked greens before the men headed out to tour the farm and their poultry house and Joan and I sat down to tea and catching up.
Greens are a treat here in the south, but up north on Long Island where I am originally from, very few people know or enjoy them. I think that’s also because very few are available in the grocery stores. You can buy bags of prepared kale and spinach, and sometimes find Swiss Chard at the store, but you have to really search the farmers markets and little vegetable stands to find other types.
We walked down to one of their three lush and well tended vegetable gardens. The greens grew near the house in a bed of red clay liberally amended with goat and cattle manure that made the perfect soil. Joan handed me mustard green, field greens, and bunches of greens whose names I did not catch, while Mel picked perfectly globe-shaped turnips. The turnips glowed in the twilight with a purple beauty and a healthy, rosy light that you don’t find in months-old, heavily waxed turnips at the store. With Virginia red clay soil still clinging to the turnips, John bagged them for the trip home. I think only a gardener can appreciate the beauty of the scene; the rich, red soil, the perfect purple and white spheres of turnips with the lush green leaves above.
Once we returned home, John chopped the turnip tops off for me and we put them in a big stockpot of water overnight to keep them fresh. I’ll cook them tonight, along with our home grown sweet potatoes and pork chops for the fellas. The other greens are bagged, awaiting their turn in smoothies and salads. I feel so blessed to have generous neighbors! I could not get over how beautiful their greens were out in the field. I’m inspired now to grow my own next year. I told Joan about broccoli rabe, and she seemed puzzled, so now I want to grow double – just to share it!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.