Appalachian Food Gardening

That Early Mess Of Lettuce And Onions

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

That Early Mess of Lettuce and Onions

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.

by Ethelene Dyer Jones

————–

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 spring. She said her father was so crazy about green onions he kept a spare salt shaker in the barn-so he could eat onions right from the garden. She went on to tell me-at the super table her father sprinkles salt in a little mound and dips his green onion in it as he eats it. She asked me if I had ever seen anyone else eat their onions with salt in the same way-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. But it got me to thinking-is eating green onions in this manner common across the US or only in Appalachia?

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me if it’s common in your area.

Tipper

 

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Carolyn
    May 24, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Sister B’s boyfriend’s Granny offered us ‘kill lettuce’ when we visited her, but she called it ‘wilted lettuce.’ She cooked hers in bacon grease too and it was SO good! And is there a better way to eat a spring onion than dipped in salt? I haven’t found a better way yet. xxoo

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    May 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Yes that is the only way to eat those little green onions fresh outta the garden is with a little mound of salt on the table nearby your plate, with a big hunk of cornbread and glass of milk nothing no better than that!!!!

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    May 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    My daddy dipped his green onions too in salt….I can just picture him doing that. Amazing how something like this evokes a memory.

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    May 16, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Ill post the recipe tomorrow. Its easy to make, its a healthy snack and its delicious.
    ——-Original Message——-

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 15, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Anastasia-no I’ve never tried the greek olive pie-but I’d like too : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    May 15, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Lettuce and onions? I love them! But no salt please! Personally, I hate salt as much as I hate hot spices. So, I’d rather have some oregano mixed with thyme on a salad. Have you ever tried the greek olive pie with green onions?

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 14, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Always dip onions in a little salt on edge of plate….also radishes….
    Love that kilt lettuce too….got home for a day or two so will gather a some fresh lettuce and onions for a “killin” LOL
    Have tried to cut it back a little by letting my bacon grease (just a tad for flavor) cool then add some water and heat it up again and pour quickly on lettuce and wilt….

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    May 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    This brings back some good memories! Pop always had a pile of salt on his plate and dipped green onions, radishes, and young crook-neck squash in the salt before eating it. Later in the year, he’d only eat squash if they were boiled with onions.
    He was born and raised near Benton, Tennessee.
    It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, but I’m going to do it again, as soon as I get some green onions and radishes.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    David-Granny has oneTexasware bowl. She uses it to make biscuits and cornbread in. Miss Cindy gave me a set of 3 that she had-the biggest one is in the photo.To say I was estatic was an understatement-I LOVE those bowls!!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Linda-I always put salt on my Apples too : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    May 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Nothing like fresh veggies, and that lettuce salad sounds like a “killer” salad I’d live for! 😉
    Have never eaten my green onions that way. Must try, Tipper! :))

  • Reply
    Susie
    May 14, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I like green onions but have never tried dipping them in salt. Maybe I should?!?!?

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    May 14, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Little onions and radishes were always dipped in salt when I was growing up in the mid-west, but I’ve not run across anyone in this area that does that … even my husband gives me strange looks when I do it!

  • Reply
    Linda
    May 14, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Oh the memories that you have invoked. I used to love to watch as my father dipped his green onions in that little pile of salt on the table. He so enjoyed life and eating all the wonderful fresh things that came from our suburban garden. There were also farms stands not far from our home that we frequented. One thing that I haven’t read yet, is sprinkling salt on slices of juicy, crisp apples. Try this it is wonderful.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    May 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    My wife Kasie used to have a Texasware bowl like that.. I’ve seen yours before in your pictures, once when you and the girls were making Christmas cookies, as I recall. Anyway, she had one. I ACCIDENTLY burned its bottom on a hot stove and ruined it. It’s twenty some years ago and she still gets cross about it so I tried to find one in antique stores. Upwards of $50 … as vintage originals they are valuable, but … sometimes … when she is reminding me … sometimes $50 sounds reasonable.
    Yours looks new.

  • Reply
    Osagebluffquilter
    May 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I too like to raise my blood pressure by dipping my onions in salt. But it doesn’t stop there, radishes are so good the same way.

  • Reply
    Mary
    May 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    My grandma always ate her green onions like that, but my mom wouldn’t let us kids eat it that way. I remember eating lettuce fresh on the spot, but it was usually a little bit ‘gritty’ from dirt that had splashed on when it rained. Nowadays, I prefer it washed!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Vicki-I salt my watermelon too : ) But I never heard of putting sugar on tomatoes.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Rick
    May 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Nothing better than a fresh salad with all the fixings right out of the garden.

  • Reply
    Donna
    May 13, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    My mom grew up in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area and in 1957 when she married my Dad, moved west to San Diego County, California, where he was living (he grew up in Washington State, but settled here after getting home from the Korean War).
    My mom always dipped her green onions, radishes and tomatoes in salt when she ate them. All 5 of us kids learned to do the same. We all still live in San Diego County and still dip our fresh veggies in salt. My kids do, too.
    I love this blog with all of it’s history and old fashioned ways of life, cooking, gardening and remedies. You make me so envious of the way you got to grow up… I was stuck here on the Left Coast. I do have my wonderful Southern California childhood memories, but as I read your blog I am finding I missed out on so much more!
    Thank you for so many links I can follow to read more about the way of life I wish I’d had. I am trying to implement some of it now into my life.
    Donna

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    May 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I think I remember my grandparents from Alabama dipping radishes in salt. They always liked salt on watermelon too. And I had an uncle who sprinkled sugar on sliced tomatoes — but he was a Yankee from Michigan.

  • Reply
    lynn
    May 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    mmmm i think your daddy had it right.. thats the way i love to eat my onions and radishes.. guess its something i learned from my grandmother.. she didnt grow up in the mountains. but was a romanian gypsy .. i have so wished that i had known her ( she passed away when i was young ) so i could have listened to her many stories and travels.. im thankful that i can hear your wonderful stories tipper.. thanks so much for sharing 🙂
    big ladybug hugs
    lynn

  • Reply
    Dorothy
    May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I grew up eating little green onions dipped in salt on a Kansas farm in the 40’s. Can’t eat salt today.

  • Reply
    Lanny
    May 13, 2010 at 11:06 am

    My dad ate onions and radishes that way, cherry tomatoes too. At home we always had a relish tray at the supper table, in the spring and summer it was fresh tid bits in the winter it was assorted pickles.

  • Reply
    betsyfromtennessee
    May 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Oh Yum, that picture made me YEARN for some “wilted lettuce” my mother used to make. I love little green onions –but never put salt on them, or dipped them in salt.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Yes, my dad ate green onions dipped in salt. I have eaten them this way also….preferably with cornbread.
    My dad also cleaned the spring onions then stood them up in a glass of ice water with a little vinegar. The glass went on the table at meal time. This kept them crisp and damp so the salt would stick better.
    Love these old stories about the country ways of eating!!

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    May 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Up on the mountain in West Virginia, we like to eat onions (and ramps)by dipping them in salt. I never gave it any thought until now, it is just how things are done. I can’t imagine that the rest of the country doesn’t eat onions like this. Of course, outside of the mountains, people tend to be both strange and peculiar. 😉

  • Reply
    Becky
    May 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

    My Dad always dipped his onion in a pile of salt with each bite.
    And I have a friend who grew up in VA that does this also.
    I’ve never tried it. Maybe I will this year.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Stacey-you have to replant lettuce each year. Lettuce doesn’t like hot sun. But since you’re farther north than I am-I think you could still get some planted. I plant the Black Seeded Simpson variety of leaf lettuce and it does well for me.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Sandra
    May 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

    daddy always had green onions but I have never seen him or anyone dip it is salt. I tried the killed lettuce yesterday for lunch, it was delish. the salt photo is great. I saw cucumbers in one of your photos and we used to keep salt on the back porch for tomatos and cucumbers. we picked them and salted and ate between meals. fresh lettuce on fresh tomatos with bacon and bread WOW what a BLT

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    May 13, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Oh my! That did bring back memories of my daddy. He would put alittle pile of salt on the table and dip his green onions in. I love them that way too.
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    Stacey
    May 13, 2010 at 8:13 am

    One thing that we’ve never planted in our garden is lettuce. Is it something that comes up every year or do you have to plant it in early spring? Is it too late to get some going now? I am assuming that the reason for such early planting is because lettuce doesn’t like hot sun.
    I’ve planted onions several times & never had much luck, seems that the onions are the same size when I harvest as they are when I plant them. I have a “mess” planted right now that have been in for about 3 weeks but don’t seem to be growing in size at all. I’m about ready to give up growing my own onions & just eat the wild ones….no salt please 🙂
    Stacey

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    May 13, 2010 at 8:01 am

    When I was a child, we never bought vegetables and fruit. We just picked them from mum’s garden: carrots, celery, aubergines(eggplants), cabbage, tomatoes, onions, green beans…Nowadays, as I live in a flat, I have to go to the supermarket to get them…how sad!!!

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