This month we’re going green down here in the South—and I’m not talkin’ composting and recycling. You see, each year Savannah plays host to the second largest St. Patty’s Day celebration the country has to offer. Nearly half-a-million people flock to our little downtown for the purpose of eating, drinking and being merry. Everything is dyed green—from the hair on people’s head to the fur on their dogs’ back. The city even goes so far as to dyeing the water in our fountains!
My backyard is no exception to the March greenin’ trend. There are truckloads of delicious spring greens covering every inch of my garden. It’s overflowing with fragrant herbs, thickly leafed collards, delicate salad greens and bushels of Swiss chard that somehow managed to survive all winter long. If Heaven has a garden—and I’m thinking it does—I swear it must look like mine right now. Lush, green and beautiful. I can’t bear to let a single heavenly leaf wilt away, so I’ve got to put ‘em to some good use.
And I know just where to start. Home-cooked collard greens have always held a special place in the hearts and bellies of Southerners. For the New Year, I simmer them down with meaty ham hocks or salt pork and eat ‘em for good luck and fortune (because the cooked leaves resemble folded money). But Southern families actually feast on them all year round; it’s in our blood. There’s just nothing that warms my heart more than watching my grandson shove a forkful of greens into his mouth and then ask for more. He’d choose his grandmomma’s greens over a boxed cookie any day. I hear some people complain about the pungent smell of greens cooking on the stove, but I consider it a test of your Southern breeding. If you can’t stand the smell, then you best get out of my kitchen. At least until dinner’s served.
As for all those crisp salad greens and fragrant herbs, well, don’t go thinking that I’m going to turn over a new leaf and start eating rabbit food. I’m too set in my ways. I have a hard time calling anything a salad unless it’s made with mayonnaise or Jell-O. But my recipes for Citrus Salad and Spinach Salad with Hot Blackberry Walnut Dressing change all that. I take those delicate and sweet salad greens and dress ‘em up in surprising ways, changin’ that bowl full of rabbit food into something you will remember. As for those fresh herbs, I plan on chopping them up to make a wonderful herb butter (1 stick butter mixed with 1 tablespoon of your favorite herbs) that will dress up any ol’ biscuit.
This St. Patty’s Day, I think I’ll skimp on the partying and instead spend a few quiet hours tending my overflowin’ garden. But I won’t miss Savannah’s Grand Parade. I get so excited seeing the marching bands play and the crazy folks waving from their floats. And I always get choked up when the service men and women who protect our freedoms come marching by. My favorite part is running up on our troops, to plant big, lipstick kisses on their cheeks. I think they’re a little surprised when they realize that Paula Deen is puckerin’ up, but they’re good sports. That’s what this season is all about. Celebrating. Having fun. Appreciating our blessings in all their many forms, especially the green ones.
Get the look! Paula Deen Apron, available at retailers soon. Paula Deen Signature Wood Salad Bowls, available at Wal-Mart.