Appalachia Appalachian Food Gardening

Green Onions and Salt

early spring lettuce

Ethelene Dyer Jones sent me the following piece about her memories of eating from the spring garden as a child:

A palatable memory from my childhood is the first taste of spring lettuce fresh from the garden and early spring onions, tender and juicy, cut over it. Then, to top off that treat after very few greens through the long winter (especially after the cabbage we’d “buried” in the keeping pit had run out), hot grease from freshly-fried side meat (bacon) was the salad dressing, poured over the greens until they wilted. It was indeed, “Kill Lettuce,” a taste to kill for! And we all rooted to have our share, so delectable and fresh and tasty.

And the treat didn’t end with the salad bowl being passed around at our table. After the lettuce started bearing, we children would often slip into the garden and “rob” Mother’s lettuce bed. We’d pick the tender leaves fresh on site and eat them. Nowadays, we would frown at this repast not being washed and clean, but we could always find leaves fresh-washed with dew, and never gave a thought to it’s otherwise having to be washed before consumption. After all, we were hungry, growing kids, and here was something delightful to eat, right in the garden. These “messes” of lettuce, whether served on our table or straight out of the lettuce bed in the garden, were benefits of having grown up on an Appalachian farm.

eating green onions with salt

Ethelene’s wonderful memories reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day. We were talking about the goodness of eating the first fresh veggies from the garden in the spring of the year. She said her father was so crazy about green onions that he kept a spare salt shaker in the barn so he could eat onions right from the garden. She went on to tell me that at the super table her father sprinkled salt in a little mound and dipped his green onion in it as he eat it. She asked me if I had ever seen anyone else eat their onions with salt in the same way and I said yes-ME!

Granny eats her green onions by dipping every bite or so in salt. I’m sure that’s why I eat mine the same way.

Tipper

 

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Max
    June 23, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Great to find this. We would always put green onions in a glass of water and have a pile of salt on our plate. We are having that with dinner tonight. My wife thinks I’m nuts. I’m not alone!

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    May 3, 2017 at 6:16 am

    i remember the killed lettuce ,poke sallet , green onions , jeruslem atrichokes were things we looked forward to back when we were growing up. we didn,t worry about getting sick from what we ate like we have to today. all of the so-called preservatives they put in canned foods now days are what is making us sick today. I had much rather eat green onions straight out of the garden that I grew ,peeled and ate without washing them than I had store bought ones that are sprayed with only who knows what.

  • Reply
    RB
    May 2, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    I remember eating many things fresh from the garden. From what I recall, it was the only between-meal-snack we were allowed to have as children. I remember eating tomatoes, warm from the sun, and carrots and radishes wiped clean of dirt on the seat of one’s pants. I remember eating green beans and peas still young and sweet. And yes, I remember green onions too, with nothing more than a sprinkle or dip of salt.
    In fact, the other day Bro Tom and I were talking about our paternal Grandfather eating green onion sandwiches. He’d take a single slice of bread, slather it with butter (real), stick a green onion in the middle of it, sprinkle it with salt, then fold over the slice and eat it. I remember him sitting at the kitchen table with a loaf of bread, the butter dish, a salt shaker and a mess of green onions eating them. He loved them that way.
    They’re also wonderful chopped fine, sauteed in a bit of butter, then folded into eggs while you’re scrambling them. I had that many times for lunch as a teen during the summertime. Yum!!!
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    My daddy sprinkled a little pile of salt right on the tablecloth by his plate and dipped green onions
    in that!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    My daddy sprinkled a little pile of salt right on the tablecloth by his plate and dipped green onions
    in that!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    My daddy sprinkled a little pile of salt right on the tablecloth by his plate and dipped green onions
    in that!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    My daddy sprinkled a little pile of salt right on the tablecloth by his plate and dipped green onions
    in that!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 1, 2017 at 11:16 am

    I love fresh green onions! The wilted lettuce & onions were a great treat to us as kids and I still love it. I can’t seem to get the garden ready early enough anymore though.
    We used to have a lot of fried fatback and Jim is right–fried crispy it is absolutely delicious. When I was little pigs were fatter and the slices were substantial. Occasionally I find some at the grocery but the slices are pitiful. Mama always bought the fattest bacon she could find. It has the best flavor and cooks up crispy without being tough.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 1, 2017 at 11:11 am

    and, Happy Birthday to Matthew Darren Pressley!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 1, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Oh, and by the way! May 1st is the first day of barefoot season!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 1, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Now you listen here! Dirt is not dirty! People are dirty! We don’t get sick from dirt, we get sick from dirty people. Sure there are germs on an onion, even the end that contacts the soil, but they are not the kinds that harm us. The germs that harm us come from the hands, mouths and noses of people who mishandle the food before it gets to us. Ever watch people shopping in the produce section. Poking, mashing and sniffing the onions then putting them back. I soak my fresh storebought vegetables in cold water then rinse them three times. Think that’s overkill? I do watch people “inspecting” vegetables in the supermarket. Now to homegrown vegetables. I have a hose up by the garden to rinse the dirt off them. Not because dirt is dirty but because I need it in the garden.
    Let me tell you a little story about salt. My sister Freda was dying from cancer. She was in a hospice house in Asheville. By her bedside and all over the room were salt shakers. She would put salt on everything she ate. I thought she might be getting too much. I asked, and was told that the type of cancer she had was robbing her body of salt and that at that point the more she could eat, the longer she could live. That changed my notions of salt altogether.
    Salt is an essential nutrient. We have to have it. We use it. We expel the excess through urine and sweat. Most people who exercise enough to sweat and drink enough water will never have a problem with too much, if it is only the salt they add themselves. It’s the salt in packaged, preprocessed preprepared “foods” that are killing us.
    OK, I’ll get off the stump now!
    PS: Ever watch people sampling grapes in a supermarket or produce stand? Ever wonder how many hands have handled them? Turns my stomach to think of it!

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Love all of Ethelene’s writings .
    While growing up we ate green onions and head onions with coarse salt, but now always use regular table salt.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Love all of Ethelene’s writings .
    While growing up we ate green onions and head onions with coarse salt, but now always use regular table salt.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Love all of Ethelene’s writings .
    While growing up we ate green onions and head onions with coarse salt, but now always use regular table salt.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Love all of Ethelene’s writings .
    While growing up we ate green onions and head onions with coarse salt, but now always use regular table salt.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    May 1, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Not only the “little green onions”, but radishes also are especially good fresh pulled, cleaned up, and dipped in salt.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 1, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Somehow that folkway missed my neck of the woods. Nobody I knew, or knew of, ate green onions with salt. I do have the wherewithal to try it though.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    May 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

    I had forgotten that as a kid in Charlotte, Mama and Daddy used to make a small mound of salt on the table right next to their plate, and dip the Spring Onions with every crunchy bite. We kids all did it too. I had forgotten completely about that, but all the relatives did it also. Nowadays, of course, it would not be good manners to dip right off the table. Amazing the little things that we forget. Vann

  • Reply
    Shirl
    May 1, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Mammy used to warn me that eating so much salt was going to dry my blood up. Without snacks as we know them today, kids were known to carry a salt shaker to the garden and eat green onions and tomatoes right there on the spot. I don’t remember Mom owning a salt shaker. I’m sure she must have, but I mostly remember pouring salt in the palm of my hand to dip the veggies in. A raw tater sprinkled with salt was pretty tasty too. A tart apple was the best reason to carry the salt shaker. I still sprinkle my apples with salt, even the sweet ones.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    May 1, 2017 at 8:38 am

    I used to eat green onions by dipping the end in salt when I was a child.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    May 1, 2017 at 8:38 am

    The first ‘greens’ we had was a mess of poke salad. They were great after a Winter of beans and taters until other greens began to be available. Then poke salad wasn’t fit to eat.
    I still ‘graze’ in the garden and along the road side in spite of the pollution and knowing the rabbits, dogs, birds and deer have been through there and left who knows what.

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    May 1, 2017 at 8:17 am

    The best way to eat green onions is to sneak the salt shaker off the table, go into the garden, pull 3 or 4 spring onion stalks, use your pocketknife to cut off the roots, pull off the outermost leaf (the part that’s been in contact with the dirt), hold the onions between your left hand’s thumb and index finger with your palm turned up. Retrieve the salt shaker and put a little pile in the center of your palm, then dip the white of each onion into the salt each time you take a bite. Of course after two or three bites you’re dipping green tops into the salt, but that’s great, too. I enjoyed Mom’s account of the wilted salad…when I was a kid, we once planted a garden in an unused old field near Epworth Baptist’s graveyard (the spot is now covered with graves from the expansion over the last 50+ years.) I well remember waiting until the leaf lettuce was big enough!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 1, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Tipper-What a delightful piece of nostalgia from Ethelene, and I particularly enjoyed her use of palatable in the first sentence. Initially, with my editing background kicking in, I said “Uh oh, she meant palpable.” She didn’t but rather used a first-rate word trick.
    It’s interesting how what she calls “side meat” goes by varying names even in the confines of the southern Appalachians. In our family it was always streaked meat, but I’ve heard streak o’ lean, fatback, cured side, thick bacon, and other terms. Describe it as you will, it’s a cholesterol-laden gift from the culinary gods, especially if fried until it is so crisp it will crumble.
    There’s only one problem with Ethelene’s offering–reading her words has created a mighty hankering in my tummy.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 1, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Thanks, Ethylene, for the story and for the reminder that fresh green vegetables were not always available year round in the grocery store as they are today.
    I have eaten green onions and salt, it’s especially good with cornbread. My dad and is family ate green onions dipped in salt. I haven’t eaten that is years, since the medical community proclaimed salt bad for us I eat less salt.

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