Spring offers an array of wild greens
The sun has tried valiantly all morning to break through the cloud covering but has succeeded very few times. There are patches of blue interspersed between the clouds, bringing hope for a nice spring day ahead. Warm weather has been a little remiss in coming to Clay County, although golden dandelions cover the lawn and modest purple violets peep from the greening grass.
Each portent of spring is eagerly looked for, and the buds on the lilac bush are beginning to open. In Charleston, the Bradford pear trees are in full bloom; clouds of white blossoms lining the streets. Pink and white apple blossoms and pink peach blooms appear, along with yellow forsythia that brightens the landscape with their pastel colors.
Daughter Patty wages a relentless war with the dandelions, grubbing out the little plants as they appear. I love the cheerful yellow blossoms, popping up all over the yard like harbingers of spring. They are a tasty wild food, also, now that they are at their tender stage and not tough and bitter. In honor of my late Aunt Addie, I picked a mess of these greens and cooked them.
She loved dandelion greens, and warm weather found her gathering them. I was afraid they might be too tangy, so I parboiled them first. They would have been more flavorful if I hadn’t. I ate them with balsamic vinegar, and they were lovely. Mom always picked a variety of wild mixed greens, but there are several that are good cooked alone. Don’t be put off by the stinging hairs on nettle greens, but use gloves when you pick them. Those tiny hairs will wash off, but use tongs while rinsing them.
If you have never eaten them, you will be surprised at how delicious they are. Here is a good recipe to prepare them:
Render two slices of bacon in an iron skillet and remove from pan. Drop washed greens into hot grease and stir until just coated. Add a bit of water, turn down heat, and simmer, covered, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar. Best when eaten with a crusty pone of corn bread baked in an iron skillet.
Lambs quarter makes good greens, and taste a lot like spinach. They are so easy to cook: wash and cook in a covered skillet with the water that clings to them. They are tender in just a few minutes and retain their bright green color.
There are so many wild foods that are available this time of year, although I confess that poke greens are one of my favorites. I am eagerly waiting for them to pop through the ground, young and tender.
Probably the most popular wild food this time of year is the scrumptious morel mushrooms. Call them merkles, Molly moochers, or by any other name; they are the gourmet mushrooms of the woods (my opinion anyway!) I love them merely sautéed in a little oil or butter, with salt and pepper. I think this simple method allows the full flavor of the mushroom to develop.
Criss likes them rolled in flour and pan fried; however, a simple batter can be made by combining two tablespoons of milk with one egg. Slice the morels in half and dip in this batter, and then roll in seasoned flour. Fry in hot oil or butter until golden brown.
There are so many good wild foods in this state, especially in the spring. We have already enjoyed one delicious ramp supper — ramps cooked with eggs, fried potatoes and hot cornbread. I am longing for our springtime camping trip so I can eat them to my heart’s content! There’s nothing like fresh trout fried over an open fire, ramps and fried potatoes.
We’ve had some input on old-time phrases rarely heard any more. Lana Workman says that her grandmother, Amanda Jones, of Whipple, used the expression, “Well, pawn my honor!” It was a long time before she realized that what she was saying was “Upon my honor!” We used a lot of expressions to verify the truth of our statements such as, “Well I’ll swear!” We weren’t allowed to use the word “swear” so we said, “I swan!” We also said, “Well, I’ll be!” My daughter-in-law Sarah, when she was growing up, recalls an old lady saying, “Well, I’ll be a swan!” She always wondered why the woman wanted to be a swan!
My husband’s family used the phrase, “Hope to my die!” It was years before I realized what they were saying was, “Hope I might die!” (if this not true.)
Ed Gilpin, the old bachelor who lived above us in Jackson County, would say, “Bust my pitchur! (picture)” when he was told something surprising. He would laugh heartily and slap his leg.
My brother-in-law, Jim, was raised in Kentucky, where there were many unique expressions. He remembers one boy who would exclaim in astonishment, “Well, shoot a mile!” A neighbor lady was heard to say, “I’m afraid she drove her ducks to a poor market!” (Meaning, made a bad marriage.) When someone would get into a fracas, Mom would say, “Let the toughest hide hold out the longest!”
Mr. Wilford Bird of Yawkey writes, “Since 1971 I have “trotted in double harness” with a Clay County girl with never a thought of “dividing the blankets.” He also sent a poem I would like to share.
Cast the First Stone
By Wilford N. Bird
When I saw my friends in trouble,
Did I in love unto them go;
Or did I look all around me
To find a stone to throw?
Did I in love extend a helping hand
When their sorrows were so great;
Or did I choose a stone to cast
Then hide and lie in wait?
My own transgressions came to mind
And what Jesus did for me.
Instead of the stoning I deserved,
He bore my cross to Calvary.
In shame, I went unto my friends
To show them they were not alone.
I will thank my God forever
That His love replaced the stone.
When you learn of someone’s sorrow
Will you rush to cast a stone;
Or will you ask God to help us all
And claim us as His own.
(The first day of spring is one thing and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes great as a month — Henry Van Dyke
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.