Fresh plantain harvested from the author’s yard and flavored with ham

Americans have grown fat and lazy in recent generations, many living off processed food that is high in calories while providing little nutrition.  Obesity and diabetes accompanied by hypertension are at epidemic proportions even in our children.  The fault lies with parents who allow children to live in this manner.  A child that is taught to eat well will usually do so for life.

In times past, children ate what adults ate and were healthier for it.  God and Nature provided nutritious food but somewhere along the way most Americans got lazy.  First they found it easier to shop at markets and roadside stands with a limited selection of fruits and vegetables, proprietors’ goals being to profit from what shoppers were more likely to buy, then in the last couple of generations many have been willing to forego nutrition altogether for the convenience of pre-made meals.

Even families who are conscious of nutrients may have fallen into the abyss of white flour and sugar.  Your author had an awakening this year that prompted the removal of such ingredients from our diet.  Bulk wheat berries and a grain mill have replaced the worthless processed flour and honey is going a long way toward replacing sugar.  Our garden has for some time now provided fresh produce and berries.  The reward for me has been weight loss, lower blood sugar, and manageable hypertension.

Let’s look at eating habits of our forebears and how families sought nutritious food even during eras of inflation.

“I think we keep well by using a great many wild greens that are so plentiful in the spring—why, when I drive along the roadside I have a basket and knife with me because I want those wonderful greens.  I go up town and do my marketing early in the morning, and I take my knife along and my basket, and on my way home I have a mess of greens.  Children are very fond of them, small children—at least I find it so at my table”.

“Children were dispatched to gather wild greens – wild mustard, tongue grass, snake’s tongue, young poke shoots, Shawnee, wild lettuce, ‘mouse’s ear’, speckled dock, lady’s slipper, little dock, elder leaves, wild ‘cresses’ and other ‘sallet greens’ were growing everywhere.

A dandelion salad, which all Germans like, is in itself a most wholesome food.  We could never taste it as made by Germans; however, because they use bacon-fat to dress the leaves with.  Olive oil and lemon juice can take the place of their hot bacon fat and vinegar.

The cresses, dandelion, radishes, scullions, lettuce, horseradish, chives, pusley [purslane], asparagus and various field greens, can be used in their native state in salads to great advantage.

Chopped dandelion leaves and asparagus tips, with green onion tops, dressed with French dressing, as little condiment as possible, using lemon juice and not vinegar for the dressing, is a most healthful salad.  Eaten with a slice of unfermented bread with a handful of nuts, it makes a sufficient and wholesome meal for spring.

There are salads for every month in the year.  A delicate salad for August, made of nasturtium flowers and leaves, flaked nuts, tomato and other delicate combinations which might grace the salad course of a sixteen course dinner and do honor”. – 1909.

Let’s take a look at how these wild greens were being prepared and served.  “The wild greens, such as the dandelion, mustard, and the cowslip are much improved by boiling them with a piece of salt pork striped lean and fat.  A slice of the pork cut very thin should be served with each dish of greens.  Beet greens also may be prepared in this way.  One of the most appetizing meals I can think of is made of hot sliced boiled ham or corned beef—a piece of corned brisket is suitable for this—a dish of greens, new potatoes boiled in their jackets with the greens and ham, and rhubarb pie for dessert”.

Except, perhaps, for rhubarb which likes to grow in cooler temperatures, Southerners have served up such meals since colonization began.  Blissful Meals, y’all. © Text and photos copyrighted by the author.

  • The Vegetarian Magazine.
  • The American Child.
  • The Delineator. May 1922.
  • Year Book. Illinois Farmers’ Institute.