At the farmers market this week, I was about to leave when I spotted a new couple with a table full of rarely found creasy greens. The old time favorite was a welcome sight: with the newly warm weather and all the planting done, I was in need of a pick-me-up till the spring vegetables starting coming in. I inquired about the price of her “creasies” and was surprised when the lady placed her hands on her hips and interviewed me about my interest in creasies:
“What do you know about creasy greens? How do you cook them? Where are you from? And that bag took a long time to gather so its $3.50″.
I replied, “I cook them like I do my collards with pepper vinegar, I grew up in SW Virginia at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and I know how much effort it takes to go out looking for them. And I will happily pay $3.50 for 3 pounds of local, wild creasy greens to go with those sweet potatoes you are selling.” She just smiled as she handed me the bag knowing that I will be back next week (I will be).
Creasies are also called upland watercress, field cress or wild watercress. They are a small leafy green that is a member of the mustard family. The flavor is similar to the pungent spice of watercress and when cooked, it can have the texture of spinach. Although creasy greens show a lot of similarities to watercress, they do not grow in water as their cousin watercress does.
The mountain folk lore touting the greens as a longevity elixir is warranted: they are extremely rich in vitamin A and vitamin C-more so than broccoli. Being a year-round edible green made them a source of fresh food during the winters. It is no wonder it was seen as a regenerative food-this hardy detoxifying plant grows wild, can survive harsh winters, grows in poor soil and spreads like a weed.
Prepare creasy greens by soaking them in water to remove sand and dirt. Once you have them thoroughly cleaned, remove the tough stems attached to the base and the base itself. Chop in bite size pieces and cook as you would watercress, spinach or collards. Or use in fresh salads if you are a fan of the pungent greens. I like to quickly boil them and then sauté with fresh garlic and a splash of pepper vinegar. I had some leftovers from this so I used those to make a very eclectic recipe with the sweet potatoes.
Creasy Greens and Sweet Potato Cakes
- 3 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
- 1 cup of cooked creasy greens, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons of milk (or more as needed)
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground
- 1 egg, beaten
- 8 tablespoons panko crumbs
- 2 tablespoons oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Reserve the creasy greens. Blend all of the other ingredients together until you have a thick paste being sure to season prior to adding the egg. Use more or less milk as needed to get the desired consistency of a very thick pancake. Stir in creasy greens and blend well. Heat the oil in a frying pan and shape several small patties with the sweet potato mixture and fry it in the pan until golden brown on both sides. A variation calls for reserving the panko crumbs and patting them onto the patties as a coating prior to frying to form a crust.
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