As I talked to my wife the other day the subject of picking greens came up, and I couldn't help but think of Mom, Sis and my Grandmother Wickliffe doing that when I was a boy. Anyone who has spent hours in pursuit of greens, and then sat and picked them clean before they could be cooked will probably see themselves in this memory.

In pursuit of greens

There are a lot of foods that grow wild, that we don’t see on our tables the way we did in the past, and while canned goods do have tame versions they are not the same as when we picked them ourselves. What I am talking about is the greens that were so much a part of our table when I was a boy. I remember walking along a country road with mom and Grandma Wickliffe to pick wild greens like “Polk, Dock, Dandelion, Lambs Quarter, and even Wild Grape Leaves”. They knew them all, and they made up our salads, and even a main course, that had some of those leafy ingredients.

I would be afraid to go out and pick greens now. I would be afraid something was sprayed on them to kill them out as competition to other grasses. Most people get their greens from a can or from the vegetable Isle at the grocery store now, as we do, but I don’t think they are as tasty, or as satisfying as the free greens we gathered back then.

That could also have something to do with the process of driving out to the country with the family to spend a couple of hours, head down in pursuit of a perfectly formed leaf, and the thrill as a child when I found one. Or it could be the fact that mom and grandma took the time to teach us kids something they learned as kids walking along, head down with their families. Grandma would have made a great teacher the way she pointed out each plant, and explained what dish it would be cooked with.

My wife makes great wilted lettuce with eggs, and bacon mixed with bacon grease, and it compares nicely to the dish mom and grandma would make after one of those foraging trips. There was however something special about looking into your plate, and picking out the different leaves, that had been growing wild along some road just hours earlier.

I guess progress is a shiny can of greens that you don’t have to go through to make sure a bug isn’t hidden somewhere on the leaves before you cook them; but when I think about the difference between walking the shiny isles of a grocery store for my greens, and walking along with mom and grandma, head down listening to them talk about doing the same thing as girls, it doesn’t seem like a fair trade.