Spicy Greens: Meatless, Slow Cooked and Damned Good!

Growing up, vegetables were a MUST at the dinner table. It didn’t matter the type. It just had to be there and be green as a side to the day’s meat, poultry or fish. So, we often had broccoli, Brussels sprouts, string beans, etc. However, it would be a super special treat to have a heaping side or bowl of greens. 
Lunching green…and white…and red: Greens as my main with mashed potatoes and grape tomatoes
Every holiday, a huge pot would be stewing for my big ole family. There would be so much at my aunt’s house that it would last a few days. Folks would take bowls home with them! The fact that the greens took 2-3 hours was something that no one minded at all!

Our family typically mixed our greens. It was never just collards or just kale. Normally, it would be a 3-greens blend: collard (a must), kale and mustard or turnip. Now, being with my mom and her Southern omnivore (mostly carnivore) family, there was also smoked meats in the mix. All were simply cooked in a stock pot of water and spices. Back when I was a meat-eater, not much else food-wise could be better.

A few years ago, my mom began tasking me with making greens at our home. Having eliminating animal products from my life, I was nervous and hesitant about it. Momma Mac said she appreciated how I cooked, and felt I could do a good enough job (Plus, save her a trip to my aunt’s house). When I mentioned my concerns about cooking greens with meat, she shared insight. The meat wasn’t for added protein value; it was for flavor. Well, animal slaughter wasn’t (and isn’t) about adding flavor to anything. Mom said that the meat wasn’t needed. You can get more flavor using green bell pepper and some lovely spices. Coming from my mother, that said a lot.

In learning the “process,” I became impatient with cleaning the greens. Cutting the stems, multiple rinses and standing over a sink were not my idea of enjoyable cooking. I wanted a sous chef! “MOMMMMMMY! HELP ME!!!! (please)” is what I cried. Mom stepped in…begrudingly I must state…but trying not to disappoint.

As a mother-daughter tag team, she cleaned and I chopped. Momma Mac watched me carefully in putting the dish together. Some garlic sauteed in a little bit of olive oil. Chopped onions and green peppers cooked together until the onions began to sweat. Switched out water for veggie broth to get the REAL flavor out of the greens. And at some point, she gave her sensei nod to allow me to jazz things up with a spice blend of cayenne, cumin and paprika. She also introduced me to a lovely spice called tellicherry, which is a bit more potent than your average table black pepper, or even the fresh cracked kind.

Working with an 8qt stockpot, Mom said not throw all your greens in at once. You’d want a balanced mix between stewed and juicy and some with a slight bite. So, I split my batch of greens, cooking the first down for about 30 minutes before adding in the remainder. Then, let the grand wait begin over the next 2 to 2-and-half hours. That’s when you just need to find a good Lifetime movie to get you through the time (lol), or better yet use a slow cooker!

The garlic, onions and peppers kick the aroma of the greens into high gear. Our entire apartment would smell wonderful, causing Artichoke to keep taking peeks. Well, if he was going to look, he was going to work. Time to give things a stir too!

Honestly, not to brag, I’ve done pretty well with my greens. Mom says so, and I should believe her because she often sneaks into our apartment to make up a bowl. Then again, she could be one of those parents who lies to their kids before they try out for American Idol, knowing they have a bad singing voice. But my mom wouldn’t do that. She’s too brutally honest for that, right Momma Mac?

Below is Mom’s and now my little recipe with tips on how to cook this in your crockpot (slow cooker) rather than on your stove. I hope you enjoy. Oh, and remember, pre-washed veggies have to be cleaned too! I do use them sometimes (Shhh. Don’t tell Mom).

Stuffed in a 6qt slow cooker: Believe it or not, it cooks down A LOT

Spicy Greens
Source: Momma Mac, Her Sisters & Her Parents (Some Traditional Thing)
Serves: 6-10


  • 2 bunches of collard greens
  • 1 head of kale
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens or turnip greens or one of each, depending on how much you want to make
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4c. vegetable broth, low-sodium preferred
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp tellicherry
  • Pinch of cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Spanish/smoked paprika
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions for Stovetop Greens:

  1. BEFORE ALL ELSE: CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN YOUR GREENS! (Even the pre-washed variety) This includes cutting at least 3/4 of the stem’s length, but that’s your choice
  2. Roughly chopped your greens: Bunch them by type and cut into strips, then cut the strips into thirds or quarters. Doesn’t have to be precise. Toss together in a bowl and set aside
  3. Get a stockpot ready. Set it on your stove above a medium flame. When heated, add the olive oil and then sautee the garlic until it comes lightly browned. Add in the onions and peppers. Cook for about 3-5 minutes or until onions begin to sweat
  4. Add in half of the greens mix in the pot and pour over 2 cups of your vegetable broth. Cook until broth begins to boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes
  5. Add the remaining greens, 2 cups of vegetable broth and spices to the pot. Cover with lid and cook for about 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours
  6. Stir occassionally until greens become some what soft with a bite
  7. Serve as you like

Directions for Crockpot/Slow Cooker Greens:

  1. BEFORE ALL ELSE: CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN YOUR GREENS! (Even the pre-washed variety) This includes cutting at least 3/4 of the stem’s length, but that’s your choice
  2. Roughly chopped your greens: Bunch them by type and cut into strips, then cut the strips into thirds or quarters. Doesn’t have to be precise. Toss together in a bowl and set aside
  3. To the bottom of the slow cooker bowl add in chopped garlic, onion and green pepper
  4. Cover with greens and pour in 4 cups of vegetable broth
  5. Set your slow cooker to high and cook for 2 to 3 hours
  6. Serve as you like

I will add that when I eat my greens, I follow in my mother’s footsteps. I add a little bit of pickled sweet relish to mine. I know some folks add hot sauce or even a little spicy mustard. Greens are so versatile. Eat them however you like!

A Fun Fact about Greens:
Ever hear of pot liquor or potlikker? It’s the liquid left in the pot after making a batch of greens. So, what do you do with it? Well, you could dump it, I guess. Some folks to reserve some of the liquid to pour over a serving of greens. And there are folks who just drink it.

Drink it? Yes, they put in a cup or glass and drink it. And the reason is…it has been known as a home remedy to “clean the blood.” It has been used in treatments of blood clotting. Some folks in my family swear by it, because it chock full of vitamin and minerals.

Now, have I ever just gulped some down? Uhh, no. But, I will say that liquid is what gives the greens their flavor. Maybe I’ll be daring and try it…in the far off future.

So, I mentioned American Idol. I really don’t watch the show much. Probably not since the third season, but Fantasia Barrino has a song called “Collard Greens & Cornbread.” The title is fitting and now has me thinking of making a batch of vegan cornbread


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