My sister, our two brothers, and I, with our spouses of course, were blessed with 11 offspring. These seven boys and four girls now are all 40-something.
Every summer, starting when all of them were very young, my sister and I took our children to the farm in north central, N.D., where the rest of their cousins lived and we’d spend a glorious couple weeks together. They played ball, dug in the dirt, rode their bikes, snagged gophers and rode on the tractor and combine every chance they got.
Meal time was always a hoot and I can still see those 11 around the table. There was and still is a little bit of comedian in each of them.
We still laugh when we think of one lunch time in particular. Tacos were on the menu. Most of them asked for the hard crispy shell type, but my son, Troy, always has preferred a soft shell taco made with a flour tortilla.
On this day, Troy meticulously built his taco, had it folded properly and had just taken a bite when Mike (the one raising buffalo that I wrote about earlier) looked across the table at him in horror and said, “Troy, are you eating your napkin?”
Come to think of it, a flour tortilla could be mistaken for a nice thick dinner napkin.
I tell you all this because it reminds me of something from my youth in the dinner table department.
When my mom cooked what was known as “greens,” and wanted us to try them, I thought she’d gone in the back yard, clipped a pan full of Kentucky Bluegrass, simmered it until tender and served it for supper. I had, after all, heard of dandelion wine.
I disappointed my mom and never did try her greens which were not Kentucky Bluegrass, but Swiss chard.
Several years ago I was bold and tasted some sort of home cooked greens when we visited my husband’s family in Tennessee. I was immediately caught up in their deliciousness.
Last week, I stopped at Allard’s vegetable stand in the Home of Economy parking lot. There on the table were beets with their green tops intact. The gal asked if I wanted her to take the tops off. I said, “You can eat them, can’t you?” She said “oh, people love them.” I told her to leave them on.
When I got home I found a recipe for beet greens on the internet. And, I also learned this: One cup of beet greens has just 39 calories and no fat but contains 220 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin A and 60 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C.
I cooked the greens and oh my were they scrumptious. We ate them before I even got the beets cooked. I do love beets, too.
If you’ve never had beet greens, I’d say, give them a try. Here’s the recipe I used:
While this recipe calls for discarding the stems, if you want you can use them, too, if they aren’t too woody. Just cut them into 1-inch segments and add them to the onions after the onions have been cooking for a minute.
1 pound beet greens
1 strip of thick cut bacon, chopped, (or a tablespoon of bacon fat)
¼ cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
¾ cup of water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/6 cup of cider vinegar
1. Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
2. In a large skilled or 3-quart saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat (or heat 1 tablespoon of bacon fat). Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture to a boil.
3. Add the beet greens; gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until greens are tender. Stir in vinegar. Serves 4.
One last thing: the 11 cousins will all be at a family wedding in September. I think I’ll cook up some beet greens to take along. I’ll offer them two ways – in a crispy hard shell or a flour tortilla. They’ll think they’re back on the farm and little kids again. I can already hear the wisecracks.