(KLTV/KTRE) - There are certain foods that we Southerners claim proudly as our own; things like cornbread, muscadine jelly, and, of course, greens. The debate among us Southern folk often boils down to what kind of greens are best: collard, turnip or mustard?
Whichever side of the greens debate you fall on, there's no doubt that they have a long history in our region. Research by food historians indicates that collard greens, for example, originated in the eastern Mediterranean, and that it was many years later that they were brought to this continent, arriving from Africa in the 1600s.
The habit of eating greens that have been cooked down into a low gravy and drinking the juices from the greens (known as "pot likker") is of African origin, according to an article by the Latibah Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Mustard greens are native to India, according to a specialty produce site. The greens have a peppery, bold flavor, and are available in the winter months and through spring. They can be prepared much like collard greens, as a salad green, or cooked with pork fat or turkey wings until they're tender.
Turnip greens are a tender green, with the perfect hint of bitterness, often cooked with a splash of vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar to complement that bitterness. While most people simmer them with ham hocks, they're also easy to use as a stir-fried green or in soups. Turnip greens are believed to have been cultivated in Hellenistic and Roman times, more than 4,000 years ago.
Though they all arrived in the U.S. at different times and in various ways, we are certainly happy that these greens, along with the familiar spinach and kale, are popular on Southern tables. If any are new to you, try them out in some of these recipes, keeping in mind that you can use a type of green that may be different than what is called for in the recipe. Remember that thicker greens, like collards, will take longer to cook to tenderness than a delicate green like baby kale.
A basic, homestyle recipe for old-fashioned greens can be found at this link, prepared on The Chew by Chef Carla Hall.
Rotini with greens and sausage: Greens are so excellent during the cooler months, and using them in different ways will boost the flavor and nutrition of whatever you pair them with. Here's a recipe that will give you a new outlook on greens!
Slow-cooker red beans and greens-sausage soup: This soup is packed with incredible flavor and, if you believe many nutritionists, virus-fighting garlic. It's colorful appearance ensures you that along with the deliciousness, you're also getting a great boost of nutrition.
Curried mustard greens and garbanzo beans with sweet potatoes - be bold and try this flavorful, nutrient-dense meal, which pairs curry powder with greens native to India.
Southern grits and greens and casserole - This casserole marries three of the South's favorite ingredients: greens, grits, and eggs. It is perfect any time of day, and is a great way to use up leftover cooked greens.