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A Green Tradition

April 04, 2001

I was glad to see a feature on greens ('Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Greens," March 21). But I felt it a major oversight not to mention how greens are a mainstay in menus for black families like mine, as for most African Americans, and have been since slavery. In fact, greens were a carry-over from their diets in Africa. For us, they have never been "big, bad greens." They are one of our main "soul foods."

In the neighborhoods where I shop, the produce staffs in the groceries stores are constantly rolling out bushels and bags of turnip, mustard and collard greens, in an attempt to keep up with the demand. At the Albertsons in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, they had to create an entire section just for these greens.

But I was alarmed at any recipe calling for cooking greens in 1 gallon of water (Collard Greens With Roasted Peanuts and Crushed Red Pepper). That's way too much. The greens loose their flavor and, worse, too much of their nutritional value. And if that wasn't bad enough, throwing away the water? In preparing a "mess of greens'-as African American cooks traditionally refer to them when cooked correctly-greens need only two three cups of water (if that much) and create enough additional liquid on their own while simmering. This liquid is referred to as "pot liquor." It's not thrown away but often poured into a glass and used for "dunking" and eating good old-fashioned "hot water cornbread" or regular cornbread. If not used for dunking, the "pot liquor" may be just plain drunk, bottoms up. Many an older black person swears by liquid from the greens for its medicinal value.

CAROL HALL HOLLIDAY

Via e-mail

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I was amused to see your reference to dandelion greens. I grew up in Allentown, Pa., and dandelion greens were frequently served as a side dish, even then (I'm in my 70s!), so you can imagine they are no surprise to me. But the only way I have ever seen them served is with hot bacon dressing. I am sending you the recipe my mother gave me.

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