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More Than Just Vegetables: Using your garden to it's fullest potential

Francie Griffith

While gardens are great sources of food in the summer months.

Are you sure you are using all the bounty yours has to offer?

Many plants serve up a variety of other edibles aside from just the fruits and vegetables harvested from them at full maturity.

Today, from my garden, I prepared semi-traditional greens.

I picked baby kale, the leaves and some tender shoots from sugar snap peas, Brussels sprouts leaves, rutabaga leaves.

I split the amount of pea leaves in half (which are edible both raw or cooked) and placed half into the greens mixture, saving the other half for a salad.

Here is the recipe I used for the greens mixture.

Southern Style Greens with a Twist


2 C kale

2 C sweet pea leaves

1 C sweet pea shoots

1 C rutabaga leaves

1 C Brussels sprouts leaves

.5 C bacon cut into .25 in strips

1 t sriracha sauce

1 t garlic powder

.5 t black pepper

.5 t sea salt

3 C boiling water

2 T cider vinegar


Place washed greens into stockpot over boiling water.

Add sea salt, sriracha sauce and garlic powder.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam, checking occasionally to stir for even cooking.

In a saute' pan or large skillet, lightly brown bacon, leaving it soft and meaty.

Do not allow it to crisp, this will cause the bacon to overpower the greens' delicate flavor instead of imparting succulent smokey flavor that is desired for this dish.

Place bacon and grease into pot with greens and mix well.

Add 2 T cider vinegar

Allow to simmer an additional five minutes.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Makes a great side dish, or double this batch and make some soft yellow cornbread to sop up the broth. (That's pot liquor to us Southern folk!)

FYI, make a LOT of this! We began with this size recipe, as a side dish to a huge salad and half pound hamburgers.

Between three people, there were zero leftovers within fifteen minutes, and we were competing over whom would get the last of the pot liquor!

Kale Francie Griffith


Fresh picked baby kale from my backyard! Wash and clean kale, then chop if you like smaller pieces. (I prefer larger leaves, and so I keep the leaves whole.)

Pea Shoots
Pea Shoots Francie Griffith

Pea Shoots

Sweet pea shoots, tender and crisp. These taste just like sweet peas, but the plant yields these far earlier than the pea pods, so you get to eat the same great flavor in a dark leafy green while you wait for the garden to grow!

Sweet Pea Leaves
Sweet Pea Leaves Francie Griffith

Sweet Pea Leaves

Leaves from the sweet pea plant, they look like bearded dragons and taste just like snow peas! These variegated leaves look great in salads AND cook up perfectly to add to dishes like this one. The plants also have teardrop shaped leaves as well which are more cabbage like in texture and are not variegated, so you really get a lot out of one plant if you are willing to try something new!

Rutabaga Leaves
Rutabaga Leaves Francie Griffith

Rutabaga Leaves

The tops of the rutabaga plant, slightly rough in texture and mild in flavor not dissimilar to turnip greens. These have spiny hairs on the underside, and feel almost thistle like when you wash them. This fiber cooks down nicely and is not noticeable once the greens are steamed.

Brussels Sprouts Leaves
Brussels Sprouts Leaves Francie Griffith

Brussels Sprouts Leaves

Greens from the initial growth of Brussels sprouts. Cabbage like in texture and flavor, but with a bit more crunch than cabbage. These add a nice chewy texture to the mix and they taste great with the kale, which is a nice mix between a cabbage flavor and a collard green flavor.

Stock pot with boiling water.
Stock pot with boiling water. Francie Griffith

Stock pot with boiling water.

Bring 3 C water to boil in large stock pot. You can also use chicken stock if you prefer a richer broth at the end, and add more water if you like more pot liquor to use at the end. This is really up to preference, the more water you use, the less rich the broth will be, unless you adjust the seasonings to match the amount of liquid.

Kale in stock pot.
Kale in stock pot. Francie Griffith

Kale in stock pot.

Place baby kale into stock pot over boiling water. If the pot seems a little full don't worry, all these ingredients WILL fit, you simply have to wait a few minutes, letting the first layer cook down until there is room for the next ingredient.

Remaining greens over kale.
Remaining greens over kale. Francie Griffith

Remaining greens over kale.

Layer the remaining greens over the baby kale until pot is full. If needed, steam for a few minutes, then add more, repeating until you have placed all the greens into the stock pot.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for about fifteen minutes, or until greens begin to wilt and change color to a darker olive green.

Finished greens.
Finished greens. Francie Griffith

Finished greens.

Add sauteed bacon and mix thoroughly. Simmer an additional five minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

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