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COLUMN: Fresh greens and my sister Bonnie
New American Gothic

COLUMN: Fresh greens and my sister Bonnie

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My sister liked to eat weeds. That is, she liked to eat the weeds that I cooked for her when she came over.

This time of year it starts. The whippoorwill is waking us up in the early morning before the sun has come up, the days are getting warmer, the garden is starting to look like something, and the milkweed on its edges has started to bud.

Milkweed florets that have not yet opened and the small leaves and stem near them make the best cooked greens in the world as far as I’m concerned.

In the pan, sautéed in butter first, seasoned with salt and pepper, then steamed for a few minutes by covering the pan, and you have a delicious cooked green.

I know my sister agreed, because she would say, “That is delicious.”

A little later the young leaves of lambs quarters, goosefoot and amaranth would be ready for the same treatment. My sister’s reaction would be the same.

This from a woman who would no longer eat egg noodles and butter as a main dish because she said it was poor people’s food.

I considered that her loss, especially with a side of greens.

But she could not decline the free vegetables that nature would provide. They just tasted and felt full of goodness. I don’t think she would ever prepare them herself, but she didn’t mind if I did.

The early greens from the garden and from the patches of rich soil that I let seed on their own are an absolute tonic.

We can eat all of our own frozen vegetables or store-bought vegetables we want over the winter but they just cannot provide all of the nutrients we need.

Here, the time of year we can’t get our own fresh vegetables is so long that our bodies really feel the lack of whatever magical nutrients come from fresh produce grown in good soil.

Most people can taste the difference.

Sadly, some people never do.

Even though we are now in the middle of June, I’m still planting potatoes and winter squashes.

Both of those crops can get planted a little later, and the later planting helps with pest control. Both potato beetles and squash buds thrive on early plantings of their respective hosts.

So, in addition to moving those plantings around each year, it seems a good idea to have early and late plantings of both.

I learned that trick from my old friend George Vincek. He would plant his potatoes on or about July Fourth and get perfectly satisfactory results.

Fresh potatoes are another great taste from the garden, but we’ll be waiting awhile for those.

By then some cabbages will be ready, and we’ll be able to make great salads using both, perhaps with the addition of a little shredded goat cheese.

I’m sad that my older sister, Bonnie, is no longer around to enjoy the Gouda and cheddar cheeses that Maggie’s been making from our goat milk.

I’m sure she would have said they were delicious, too.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y. His gardens aren’t weedy, but some of their edges are. Leave a message at


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