There are some things money just can’t buy.
And a big black trash bag full of fresh mustard greens.
Love, we all know about.
Greens, not so much.
Of course, you can buy greens, but as I was blanching the towering pile of greens on my counter to freeze today, I realized I could never have bought these particular greens.
True: you can buy greens in the produce section of the grocery store. Lettuce, definitely. Kale, maybe. Collards, even. But probably not mustard greens.
You might be able to get them at natural food store, Whole Foods maybe, on a good day, or the local natural foods store. And if you’re lucky enough to have a fabulous farmer’s market like mine, you’ll be able to get them there as well. Or, you could grow them yourself But if you want a whole big black trash bag full of them, you’d have to have a lot of space in the garden.
Last week, I was at the Callaway Community Cannery, a place that’s been open since 1945 for local folks in Franklin County, Va. to can their greens – along with their tomatoes, applesauce, venison, beef, you name it. I’d already been told that people there share their bounty with one another, and they share the work of preserving it. If you finish cutting up your potatoes and you’re waiting for your soup to be finished before you pack it into jars and place it in the ginormous pressure canner, you go over and help the 90-year-old gentleman who is smashing up his apples in the strainer and packing it into his jars. You swap recipes with your neighbor, and share advice about tin cans vs mason jars. You let your friend know when you’re slaughtering the pigs, and offer her a ham. I overheard all these transactions the day I visited the cannery.
Frances and her friend, Shirley, were there canning greens, and when she heard I loved greens she said, “Come with me.” Then she took me out to her car, where I saw more greens in one place than I think I’ve ever seen. There was the big black trash bag, along with those black speckled pots – enormous ones -- full of cooked greens ready to can. Frances cans a lot, and besides the greens, she’d brought chickens to can the day I saw her. She gives more than half of her canned goods away to neighbors who don’t have easy access to fresh food. She is one giving person.
In fact, when she found out I wouldn’t be able to come by and see her garden and get some fresh greens straight from the source (I’d told her I was envious of a garden that could grow that many greens) she gave some of those greens from the back of her car, stuffing a quart jar full of the cooked ones, and cramming fresh ones into a re-usable shopping bag I had in my car.
These are the sweetest, tenderest greens I’ve ever eaten. Thank you Frances.
Money can’t buy that kinda greens. And it can’t buy this kind of community.