Varieties of Greens - The leaves and stems of many young plants in either their wild or their cultivated form are used for food. All of them are similar in composition, but many of them differ in flavor and appearance. The cultivated ones include beet tops, endive, spinach, and kale, as well as lettuce, collards, Swiss chard, sorrel, mustard greens, turnip tops, parsley, and cultivated cress and dandelion. Commonest among the wild greens are dandelion, cress, wild mustard, dock, pokeweed sprouts, milkweed sprouts, and lamb's-quarters. Most of these wild varieties are excellent in the spring when they are young and tender.
The cooking of greens, both wild and cultivated, is not only simple but practically the same for all varieties. When they are not used as a salad vegetable, they are merely boiled until tender and then dressed in any desired way. Some kinds admit of special preparation, and wherever this is the case specific directions are given under the particular variety, but even in such an event the preliminary preparation is the same.
To prepare greens, look them over carefully, remove any decayed or withered parts, cut off the leaves, and wash in fresh cold water. Remove from the water and wash again, and do this as many times as seems necessary to remove all the sand and grit that the stalks contain. An important point to remember is that the greens should not be cleansed by pouring the water off, as the sand will then remain in the pan and is likely to mix with the greens again. When they are thoroughly washed, put them on to cook in a saucepan or a similar utensil. If they are young and tender, they should be cooked as much as possible in their own juice in order to retain all the valuable mineral salts they contain, only enough water being added to start the cooking without burning. In the case of greens that are very strong in flavor, it will be necessary to cook them in a larger quantity of water and then pour off what remains after cooking. When they have cooked until they are tender, season them if necessary, and add butter to give them flavor. Vinegar or a slice of lemon adds much to the flavor of greens.
BEET TOPS - The tops of beets include the leaves and the stems of this vegetable. They are at their best when the beets are very young or before the beets themselves have developed. Beet tops are not used so extensively as some greens, but they will be found to have a more agreeable flavor than many greens that are more popular. Beets are raised for the purpose of supplying greens by planting the seeds closely enough together to form a thick bed of leaves and then thinning them out before the beets have developed. A few may be allowed to remain and develop for use as beets. Young beets that are purchased with the tops on also furnish a source of beet tops as well as beets.
When beet tops are to be cooked, cut the stems into inch lengths and use them with the leaves. Proceed to clean and cook the greens. Season with salt and pepper and flavor with butter. Serve with something tart, such as vinegar or lemon.
DANDELION - Dandelion, both wild and cultivated, is a plant whose leaves are much used for a vegetable green before the blossoms develop. The season for dandelions is comparatively short, lasting only a few weeks in the early spring.
Dandelion With Sour Sauce - If a change in the cooking of dandelion is desired, it should be prepared with a sour sauce. This method of preparation is very popular.
DANDELION WITH SOUR SAUCE
(Sufficient to Serve Six)
1/2 pk. dandelion
1/2 c. vinegar
4 thin slices bacon
1/2 c. water
2 Tb. flour
1 tsp. salt
Clean and wash the dandelion. Cut the slices of bacon into small pieces and sauté until crisp. Stir the flour and salt into the bacon fat, add the vinegar and water, and stir until the flour thickens. Add the beaten egg last, and remove from the fire. Put the dandelion into the pan and mix well with the hot sauce. If the dandelion is preferred well wilted, set the pan over the flame, and stir until the dandelion appears as desired. Serve hot.
ENDIVE - Endive is an herb that is used as a salad plant or is cooked and served with a hot dressing or as greens. The three common varieties of this green are escarole, chicory, and French endive, all of which have a slightly bitter taste and may be found in the market from late summer until early winter. Escarole is a broad-leaved variety that is grown more or less in a head. Chicory has a small feathery-edged leaf, and is often bleached by tying the leaves together at the top, so that the inside ones are very tender. Both of these varieties may be cooked, but they are also much used for salads. French endive bears very little resemblance to the other kinds, having straight, creamy-white leaves that are closely pressed together. It looks very much like sprouts of some kind, and is entirely bleached in the process of growth by banking the earth around it. It is never used for anything except salads and garnishes.
When endive is used as a salad, it may be served merely with a salad dressing of some kind or it may be combined with other vegetables before applying the dressing.
LETTUCES - Lettuce is a well-known herb that is much used as a salad vegetable. There are numerous varieties of lettuce, but these may be reduced to the two kinds, leaf lettuce and head lettuce. Leaf lettuce, which is more often used for garnishing than for any other purpose, has firm, crisp, green, upright leaves; on the other hand, head lettuce has round leaves forming a compact head, like cabbage. The outside leaves of head lettuce are green, but the inside ones are usually bleached by the exclusion of light, as are those of cabbage and endive. These inside leaves are more tender than the others, and hence more to be desired as a salad vegetable than the unbleached variety.
As has already been implied, lettuce finds its principal use in garnishing salads. Since the coarse outside leaves of a stalk or a head of lettuce do not look so well as the tender bleached ones, they are often rejected, but this should not be done, for use can also be made of them. For instance, such leaves may be shredded into narrow strips and used as a foundation for salads that will be just as attractive as those having a single lettuce leaf for a garnish. Most of the garden varieties of lettuce, especially when they have grown very large, are frequently cooked as greens. This vegetable also makes an appetizing dish when it is prepared with a sauce and served hot in the same way as dandelion.
SPINACH - Spinach consists of the large, fleshy, deep-green leaves of a garden herb much used as a green for food. In fact, this is one of the most popular varieties of greens and is used more extensively than any other. Many varieties of spinach are grown, but all of them are used in just the same way.
Spinach may be prepared in a greater number of ways than most of the other greens except, perhaps, those used for salads. For instance, it is served with entrées of various kinds, is combined with meat, ham and spinach being a much used combination, or is made into a purée by forcing it through a sieve and then used in the making of soup or soufflé. Then, again, spinach is often boiled and pressed into small cups to form molds. Such a mold may be used to garnish a dish of some sort or may be garnished with a slice of hard-cooked egg. When spinach is used in any of these ways, it should first be cooked.
SPINACH SOUFFLE - The puree that is made by forcing boiled spinach through a sieve may be used in a variety of ways, but none of these is more satisfactory than spinach souffle.
(Sufficient to Serve Six)
2 Tb. butter
1/2 c. hot milk
2 Tb. flour
1 c. spinach purée
1 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
Dash of pepper
Melt the butter, add the flour, salt, pepper, and hot milk, and stir in the spinach purée. Beat the egg whites stiff and fold them into the mixture. Grease individual baking dishes or a large baking dish and fill two-thirds full with the mixture. Place in a pan of hot water and bake in a slow oven until firm, or for about 20 or 30 minutes.
SPINACH ROYAL - A very attractive dish can be made by combining spinach with toast, hard-cooked egg, and lemon. This dish is known as spinach royal.
(Sufficient to Serve Four)
1/2 pk. spinach
1/3 c. water
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tb. bacon fat or butter
3 Tb. flour
1/8 tsp. pepper
Triangular pieces of toast
2 hard-cooked eggs
Look the spinach over carefully and remove all roots and dead leaves. Cut the stalks apart and wash them thoroughly several times in fresh, clean water to remove the sand and dirt, lifting the spinach out of the water each time instead of pouring the water off. Put the spinach into a saucepan with the water. Stir frequently until the spinach is wilted and there is sufficient water to boil it. Add 1 teaspoonful of the salt and cook until the leaves are very tender, or for about 15 or 20 minutes. Drain off all but about 1/2 cupful of the liquid. Melt the fat in a frying pan, stir the flour into it, brown to a golden brown, and then add the spinach, pepper, and remaining salt. Stir and cook until the flour has thickened and mixed well with the spinach. Turn out in a mound on a platter and place the pieces of toast around the spinach as shown. Slice the hard-cooked eggs, cut the lemon into any desirable shape, and use these to garnish the platter. In serving this dish, put a spoonful of spinach on a piece of toast and serve a slice or two of egg and lemon with each portion.
CREAMED SPINACH - After spinach has been boiled until it is tender, it may be made more appetizing by combining it with a well-flavored cream sauce, according to the accompanying directions.
(Sufficient to Serve Four)
1/2 pk. spinach
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tb. ham or bacon fat
Dash of pepper
2 Tb. flour
2/3 c. milk
Boil the spinach. Melt the fat in a frying pan, add the flour, salt, pepper, and milk, and stir until the flour thickens. Chop the cooked spinach and add it to the hot dressing. Stir and cook until the two are well blended. Serve hot.
WATERCRESS AND PARSLEY - Watercress and parsley are two herbs, or greens, that are used considerably for garnishing and flavoring other dishes.
Watercress, which is commonly known as peppercress, usually grows wild in beds along the banks of springs or clear, cool streams. A few varieties, however, are cultivated, and these are grown in dry soil and known as upland cress. It is a very prolific herb, and may be obtained from early spring until late in the fall. Watercress may be used whenever it can be procured, but it is not very desirable when in blossom. Its chief use is to garnish salads and other dishes, but it may also be cooked and served hot as a green. In such an event, its cooking is accomplished in the same way as that of other greens.
Parsley, while classified as a green vegetable, is perhaps not in the true sense of the word a real vegetable, since it is used for only two purposes, and in neither of these is it served cooked or raw as an exclusive article of diet. The most important use of parsley is perhaps that of flavoring. It is added to soups, sauces, and various kinds of cooked vegetables in order to impart additional flavor. In such cases, it should be chopped very fine in order that all possible flavor may be extracted from it. Parsley may also be dried before it is used for this purpose, provided it must be kept for any length of time. The other use of parsley is that of garnishing. It is often used in small sprays to garnish a roast of meat, a steak, chops, fish, or some baked, fried, or sautéd vegetable. Sometimes it is chopped very fine and placed around the edge of a patty shell, a croustade, a timbale case, or a piece of toast upon which food is served. Parsley may be eaten when it is served as a garnish if its flavor is found to be agreeable to the taste.