How to Cook Mustard & Turnip Greens in the Soul Food Style

by Lucy Burns

Spicy greens like turnip and mustard are delicious cooked soul-food style.

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Cooked greens are classic soul food: rich, hearty, and comforting, made with ingredients local to the American South. Turnip and mustard greens are a flavorful alternative to the more traditional collards. Cruciferous vegetables, such as greens, contain glucosinolates, a phytonutrient that can help prevent cancer. They also offer healthy doses of vitamins A and C, and turnip greens are notably high in calcium. Slightly bitter when eaten raw, these greens mellow nicely when cooked Southern style.

Check your local farmers market or organic butcher for hormone-free, organic bacon and pork fatback. If available, they will make this dish even more delicious -- and healthier for you and the environment.

Fry bacon slices in your skillet until they are crisp, then set them aside to cool, reserving the bacon grease in the skillet.

Trim the stems and chop the greens; rinse them three times in cold water to make sure that they are completely clean.

Boil greens in 4 qt. of water with the slice of fatback until they are just tender.

Remove the greens from the water and drain. Do not rinse them.

Reheat bacon grease in the skillet.

Place greens carefully into hot fat. They should sizzle. Stir until they are completely coated.

Crumble cooked bacon slices and fold them gently into the greens.

Add salt and pepper flakes to taste.

Serve the greens with cornbread and tomato slices.


  • For a lighter or vegetarian alternative, omit the fatback and bacon, and cook the greens in olive oil and garlic after boiling them.

    Boil a ham hock and add the greens, salt and pepper to the water once the meat is tender. Stir the meat into the greens and drain the mixture. This delivers much softer greens and a higher meat content.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Lucy Burns has been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she teaches writing. Burns is a certified yoga teacher and is also licensed to teach the Gyrokinesis movement system.