In just a few days, we shall ring in a New Year. For some, it will be a night of revelry, and for some, it will be a night of quiet reflection, but after singing a sentimental rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” it is time to embrace the future and make New Year’s resolutions.
For most folks, New Year’s Day is all about football, but to insure good luck in the coming year, there is a time-honored Southern tradition of feasting on turnip greens and black-eyed peas the first day of the New Year. Such humble fare may seem rather bland and old-fashioned, and in 2020 perhaps only an older more superstitious generation will partake of such a repast. However, the Earth Lady would encourage all folks, even young millenials, to especially eat their greens. This leafy green and its cousins, collards, mustard greens, and kale, may not necessarily bring good luck, but they can be the beginning of a healthy lifestyle.
The health benefits of turnip greens are remarkable. To name just a few, they are a great source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium. This vegetable is also high in antioxidants, which are purported to fight many dreadful diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The Vitamin K helps to maintain strong bones, and the anti-oxidants in the greens help to protect eye health, prevent diabetes, and prevent cognitive decline.
Turnip greens are a cool weather vegetable, and in the garden this accommodating vegetable can tolerate the cold, even a little frost. Savvy gardeners planted their greens eight to 10 weeks before the first frost and will be harvesting greens most of the winter.
Of course, a cooked pot of greens may bring to mind pond scum, and this vegetable is frequently an acquired taste. But with a few seasonings, a little pepper sauce, and a piece of cornbread to push with, greens can be quite palatable. The liquid left behind after cooking greens is called potlikker and may not seem like an elixir of the gods, but is most nutritious.
It is interesting that leafy greens are now in vogue again, especially with health food advocates and nutritionists, but not so long ago, a pot of greens was deemed to be rather plebian fare. Just a few generations ago in the rural South, especially following the after-math of wars and during economic depressions, this vegetable helped the common folks get through the hard times. Remember Scarlet O’Hara pulling up a root vegetable, probably a turnip, and swearing, “As God is my witness, I’’ll never be hungry again.”
Before the advent of supermarkets, fresh produce came from a garden and was home grown. Our forebears, in spite of poverty and adversity, possessed survival skills that are woefully lacking today. It should give us pause.
In the meantime, make a New Year’s resolution to perhaps plant a garden for old time’s sake, and on New Year’s Day eat your greens for good health and good luck.