Beet greens, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, chard and spinach are among your choices for soul food greens. If you can find them, add callaloo, a leafy green similar to collards, dandelion greens and watercress, all greens with an African-American heritage. Whether you turn those greens into a flavorful soup, a vegetable star of the meal, an omelet or part of a hearty stew, their flavors will be even more outstanding with soul food seasonings.
Flavoring for soul food greens begins with salt and pepper, but soon moves on to stronger seasonings. Paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder or pepper pods add spiciness and a layer of flavor to soups and stews with greens. You'll also see these spices in soul food dishes with ingredients such as okra, shrimp or beans. Other spices for greens include bay leaves, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and garlic powder.
Soul food cooks toss in herbs at the end of cooking for soups, stews and pots of greens. Add chopped cilantro, parsley, sage, basil or borage into cooked dishes. For salads, add commonplace herbs such as chives, dill, mint or parsley, or try more unusual varieties such as salad burnet, with a fragrance similar to cucumber, chervil, an herb that resembles a mild form of parsley, or hyssop, an herb from the mint family.
Whether you leave condiments on the table for others to add or add them to greens yourself, they are soul food staples. Hot pepper sauce, in any style you want, and vinegar, typically apple cider, add a kick to greens. Use coconut milk as the base in a creamy sauce for a bowl of greens to reflect African heritage, or cook the greens in coconut milk and add a splash of hot sauce.
Greens cooked with a few bacon slices, a bit of salt pork or a ham hock gain lots of flavor from the salty meats. Similar flavors come from adding a pinch or two of chicken bouillon or smoked paprika to the pot instead of the meats. Onion and garlic are also mainstays of soul food greens, chopped, cooked and added to green-filled soups and stews.