Green Things

I absolutely LOVE greens, which is a good thing because green things are good for you — especially when expressed as something to eat. Greens are  so nutritionally rich, one could survive quite well by eating greens and nothing else.

Growing up, every meal of consequence included greens — collards, mustards or turnips. For daily fare, the green slot on the plate was occupied by spinach or cabbage.  I do not remember any of these not being “seasoned” with chunks of meat — salt pork, ham hocks, ham — with the sole exception of spinach, which was merely steamed and garnished with thin slices of boiled egg and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

In my travels around the world, I thankfully embraced the concept of “Pan-African Cuisine.” That is, wherever you find people of African descent, you find that we eat much the same things cooked in much the same ways. Greens are at the top of our list, along with black-eyed peas, fried chicken and cornbread.

When I operated my restaurant in France — which was dedicated to Pan-African Soulfood — I knew I couldn’t serve a proper menu without greens. But I was at a  loss for where to find them — at least the type I was used to. I scoured  markets  and L’alimentation générale (small general stores with fresh produce) for favorites. Nothing. Then, one day, I discovered broccoli tops. They were found in the poubelle (trash bin). I bought them, cleaned them and cooked them up just like I was used to and they were DELICIOUS. I also learned to cook them without any meat seasoning as all of the food I served needed to be halal (pure) for my Muslim clients.

The  following recipe comes from South Africa, where I also lived for several years. Every cultural group — there are 12 — has its own preference. For Zulu people, the favorite is Umbido, which is a dish made from beet leaves.  It is important to use the entire leaf, including the stems, which adds a nice texture.

Umbido - Zulu Beet Greens

Umbido – Zulu Beet Greens


2 tbs oil (olive)
1x onion (chopped)
1 tsp garlic (crushed)
1 tbs sugar (natural)
½ tsp pepper (crushed red)
½ c water
½ cup lemon juice
3 bunches mixed beet & mustard greens and/or kale (chopped leaves & stems)


SAUTE onion lightly in olive oil
ADD garlic, sugar & pepper & MIX well
ADD water & lemon juice & MIX well again
ADD greens, COVER pot & COOK on low heat until done (about 40 minutes)


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