COLUMN: Green with envy for greens

By Candace Nelson - 8:17 PM

Creasy Greeens

Here's my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

March has me thinking green.

Capitol Market just held its Green Chili Shootout this past weekend. St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. And, green shoots are popping up from the ground in the form of daffodils and tulips as we speak.

Then, there are the edible greens this time of year - like creasy greens.

Creasy greens are a cold-hearty edible plant that is one of the first signs of spring. Growing wild throughout Appalachia, creasy greens - or Barbarea verna - are also known as upland cress and are kin to watercress.

While watercress is found at the edges of streams, creasy greens are found growing in fields throughout the eastern United States. They are part of the Brassica family, which includes kale, broccoli and cabbage.

You may find the latter on supermarket shelves, but if you’re in search of creasy greens, your best shot is at farmers markets in mountain towns or even your own backyard.

The entire plant - from stems and flowers - is edible. The peppery green has a slight tangy flavor and is similar to mustard greens. They are often cooked down with bacon and onions and sometimes used in hearty stews and soups.

Creasy greens have been a staple in Appalachian cooking for generations, providing both flavor and nutrition to traditional meals.

Because the greens are usually foraged from the wild, the connection to land is strengthened in Appalachian food. Creating meals and providing nourishment with fruits from the mountains is critical to Appalachian food culture.

The significance of creasy greens extends beyond their availability as a wild edible. They embody the resilience and resourcefulness of the Appalachian people, who have long relied on the land to sustain themselves. In a landscape characterized by rugged terrain and economic challenges, creasy greens offer a source of sustenance - both for the body and the soul.

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