Appalachian Thursday – Kilt Lettuce

farm market

A Farmer’s Market haul from late June last year. The spring onions were give out, but there was still good leaf lettuce.

I made my first trip to the local farmer’s market last week. There was an ABUNDANCE of spring greens available along with green onions, garlic scapes, and a few of last seasons potatoes.

Which means it’s time for kilt lettuce!

I don’t know for sure, but I assume the name comes from the fact that the lettuce is pretty much killed (kilt in Appalachia) by pouring hot bacon grease over it. Regardless, it’s a delicious way to take a perfectly healthy spring green and make it decadent!

KILT LETTUCE

8 big handfuls of spring lettuces, washed and torn
2-4 spring onions, sliced
4 strips of bacon
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsps sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 hard boiled eggs

Fry the bacon and set it aside to cool, then crumble it. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to the hot bacon drippings in the skillet and stir until the sugar dissolves. Toss the lettuce and onions with the still warm dressing and then top with the crumbled bacon. Serve with hard boiled eggs cut in pieces.

Man, who’s ready for lunch?!?

Appalachian Thursday – A Spring Walk

We’re fortunate to live just a mile from Pisgah National Forest. Almost every day after work I head to the woods for a hike with Thistle. On the weekends, my husband comes along and we go even further afield.

Hiking not only provides Thistle and I with exercise, it also gives me a break from the world, a chance to enjoy nature, freedom to mull over story ideas, and to ponder life.

So, in case you can’t go for a lovely hike most days, I thought I’d share mine with you. Come along . . .

We have toad shade trillium, redbud, dwarf iris, painted trillium, showy orchis, stone crop, phlox, and the elusive morel. I still love fall, but spring is steadily growing on me. In spite of the pollen . . .

Appalachian Thursday – Which Winter is This?

redbud

A sure sign of redbud winter.

We’ve been complaining lately about the weather.

I know, I know, everyone does that ALL the time. But spring this year has really been a roller coaster ride. Windows open. Windows closed. Coats off. Coats, hats, and gloves back on.

I was thinking the weather really is getting crazier. Then, this past weekend, I noticed that the redbud trees had bloomed almost overnight. Suddenly there were all these gorgeous sprays of deep pink in the edges of fields and neighbors’ yards.

Which reminded me. This warm, cold, hot joy ride is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it’s so not new, there are several old-time names for the various bouts of cold that crop up after that first taste of spring.

Like redbud winter. Which is what we had last weekend.

Now, let’s see. There’s also dogwood winter, locust winter, blackberry winter, britches winter, and whippoorwill winter.

Some of these are pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a primer:

  • Redbud winter – When the redbud trees bloom
  • Dogwood winter – When the dogwood trees bloom
  • Locust winter – When the locust trees bloom (see a pattern?)
  • Blackberry winter – When the blackberry brambles bloom
  • Britches winter – Wait. What? This one is more fun. The full name is linsey-woolsey britches winter which means it’s the last time it’ll be cold enough to wear your long underwear
  • Whipporwill winter – (I smell a book title) This one is barely cold enough to call winter, but it’s when the whippoorwills migrate north from Mexico

So, turns out the now-warm-now-cold craziness we call spring in Appalachia really isn’t anything new. It’s been around at least as long as long underwear.

Appalachian Thursday–Enjoy Some Ramps

ramps 18Ahhh, ramp season! I’ve been keeping my eye on the patch behind a neighbor’s house. They’re in Florida this time of year so, by default, that’s MY ramp patch.

Of course, I’m not really one for cooking what you’d call a mess of ramps. I’m more a fan of the idea of ramps. I’ve shared before that while I think foraged food is nifty, it’s not a major part of my diet. Shoot, my ancestors ate that stuff because they HAD to.

But I did eat some ramps last night. There’s something about spring that makes me crave simple egg and asparagus dishes. So, I roasted fresh asparagus and made a basic cheese omelette with a few ramps sauteed in the pan. Simple. Easy. Delicious and downright nutritious. Nothing like eating a plant that was in the ground 15 minutes before dinner.

Now, if you really want to purify your blood, what you do is boil up a pot full of ramps, douse ’em in vinegar with some salt and pepper, and eat them alongside ham, beans, and cornbread. If you’re like me, though, you’ll carefully clean five or six of those beauties, slice them, saute them in some butter, and then cover ’em up with eggs. And cheese. Season to taste and call that spring on a plate!

How about you–do you eat ramps? If so, how do you like them?

ramp omelette

Appalachian Thursday – Spring Tonics

GE DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a roller coaster leading up to the first few days of spring. We’ve had temperatures in the 70s and then . . . snow. Back and forth, spring has been a terrible tease this year.

Of course, it’s not as bad as when folks had to wait for spring to eat anything that resembled a fresh vegetable. Those were the days when country folks indulged in their favorite spring tonics.

My great-grandmother would send Dad out to gather young mullein leaves each spring when he was a boy. She dried them in the oven, then crumbled them. She smoked two pipes full and that was her spring tonic. I don’t know if she enjoyed it, or if it was more of a medicine, but it allegedly perked her up.

I think most of us are in need of a spring tonic now and again. The idea is to purify the blood and enliven the body after a long winter of being cooped up inside. Some popular spring greens for tonics included dandelion, poke, and ramps. Sassafras and spice bush were used to make teas.

And then there was the classic Appalachian spring tonic–Sulphur and molasses. Each has definite health properties, although I wonder if the main purpose of the molasses was to help get the Sulphur down. Regardless of whether it got the blood moving, it would definitely cause other systems to “move.”

As for me . . . I think I’ll stick to a nice, green salad and a long walk in the sunshine.

Appalachian Thursday – Watch Out for Deer

deer at table

A normal afternoon behind my mom’s house in WV. Photo by: Jean Clark

I saw a Facebook post earlier this week sharing how to speak “Appalachian.” Some of the phrases weren’t exclusive to Appalachia–they definitely overlapped with the south. But one was 100% Appalachia.

“Watch out for deer.”

And what’s the translation?

“I love you.”

It sounds odd at first, but let me explain. In WV it’s hard not to trip over deer when you walk around outside. When we porch sit at the farm, it’s just a matter of time before the deer start drifting through the pasture. When we drive up to the house after dark, the headlights almost always pick out several deer as we come around the last turn. And the photo above speaks for itself.

They are EVERYWHERE.

Which means people are forever hitting them on the roads. Most people I know from back home can tell you about the time they hit a deer. Or were hit by one. Sometimes the poor animals misjudge and leap straight into a moving vehicle.

It’s awful and it’s dangerous. (For the driver AND the deer.)

So, when someone from Appalachia says to you, “watch out for deer,” what they mean is . . . I care about you. Be safe. Keep an eye out and don’t get in a wreck. Be careful. Come home to me.

Which really does mean, “I love you.”

So for all my friends and readers out there . . . watch out for those deer!