Green Dream

December 2010
Written By: 
M. Linda Lee

Lowcountry folk wisdom dictates that eating collards on New Year’s Day might net some greenbacks in the months to follow—and that’s not their only benefit

“Eat your greens—they’re good for you!” was a common command at our dinner table when I was growing up. At the time, my brother and sister and I had less than no interest in consuming anything green and leafy, but that didn’t stop my mother from trying.

Turns out Mom was right—as moms so often are. Dark leafy greens are good for you, and now that my palate is more refined, I have even come to like the taste of them. Kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and collards concentrate a wealth of vitamins and nutrients into relatively few calories. Vitamin K—which regulates blood clotting, helps maintain bone density, and reduces inflammation—heads this list, along with C, E, and many of the B vitamins. And that’s not to mention phytonutrients such as beta-carotene and lutein, and minerals like calcium and potassium. All these greens, grown year-round in South Carolina, also contain a healthy dose of fiber.

The roots of these vegetables dig deep into Lowcountry culture. Whether sautéed, slow-cooked, tossed with pasta, or stirred into soup, dark, leafy greens are mainstays in Southern kitchens. In winter, for example, steaming pots of collards are still slow-cooked with ham hocks and doused with vinegar. And no self-respecting Southerner would let New Year’s Day go by without feasting on collards and hoppin’ John (field peas and rice, flavored with smoked ham hocks), dishes that promise prosperity, with the greens representing dollar bills and the field or black-eyed peas standing in for coins. As the Gullah adage goes: “Eat poor on New Year’s Day, eat rich the rest of the year.”

Turnip Green and Butternut Squash Risotto

December 2010

Blanch greens in salted water for 3-4 minutes. Shock in ice water and drain.

Toss squash in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in 350°F oven until tender, 20-30 minutes. Pull from oven and leave at room temperature.

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until it slides across the pan. Add onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add rice and cook 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Add 2 cups stock and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add 2 more cups stock and cook, continuing to stir, until absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring until rice is tender and creamy (30-45 minutes). Fold in squash, greens, Parmesan and butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Side dish
  • Large pot of salted boiling water
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • 1 ½ cups white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 cups warmed chicken stock
  • 1 small bunch turnip greens (trimmed & thoroughly rinsed)
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

Courtesy of Chef Darren Smith of Rivertown Bistro in Conway

This is a hearty vegetarian entrée and equally delicious topped with grilled fish. Chef uses turnip greens, but any winter green (chard, kale, etc.) will work just as well.