IT IS rather astonishing to discover that New York vegetable markets, which lay under tribute the farthest comers of the earth, wholly lack two things as familiar as they are toothsome to folk brought up in the South, namely, turnip greens and black-eyed peas. Both are of the easiest culture, yield abundantly, and are stays to six appetite troubles that fail not in the seventh. The reason perhaps is that they do not bear shipment well. More likely it is lack of demand. Winter turnips, which furnish the very best greens, may not be hardy north of 36 degrees, yet the ordinary field turnip supplies a more than palatable green — one so excellent that it is well worth while to sow seed thickly, pulling them up when the tops are of edible size.
The turnip patch, which is a necessary part of equipment on any well regulated plantation, must be rich and clean. Clay soil is best, and it can not well be too highly manured. Make the surface fine, and sow seed broadcast, as evenly as possible. The countryside saying is that for a perfect patch the sower should begin with just half enough seed, give away half what he has, then fall and spill half the remainder. Then he must mix the seed well through fine earth, and sow the patch twice, going both ways. Tramping or rolling the surface helps to a sure stand. Sow any time between the middle of June and the end of July. There will be salad for cutting from mid-September until almost Christmas, espec ially if you have sown the famous Seven-Top turnips, which send up a great mass of the ten- derest herbage. Winter turnips make no edible roots, but send long, woody, well-fibered radicals deep into the earth. With scant protection or none, the tops put up again by the first of Feb ruary. Mild winters one may cut a mess of greens almost any time. From February for ward to mid-April or even. May the yield is constant. Further, turnip salad encourages to generosity — the closer it is kept cropped the longer its season. A seed plot should be marked off early, and stalks there allowed to grow tall and lusty. Seed from them will be much more vital than those ripening at haphazard after the salad-cutting ends. Moreover, the seed plot saves waiting to displace a ragged turnip patch with something else.
Greens from summer turnips — otherwise the flat white ones — are very, very good, much beyond spinach, corn salad, or kale, even though they do not reach the full measure of excellence. Seed sown thick in early spring will give greens by the end of May. Sow in rows, thin as the plants develop, and there will be turnips, no less greens. To cook the greens, pick over carefully, rejecting yellow or bruised leaves, wash very clean, and boil tender, along with a bit of bacon or salt pork. Smoked jowl is the thing to cook with the greens, but it is so rarely obtainable that one must not insist on it.
There are a dozen varieties of black-eyed peas. Red or gray Crowders and the big Whip-poor-will are among the hardiest and most prolific. Plant them in mid-May, in checks, so as to be plowed both ways. Cultivate until the vines cover the ground — say the end of June. There will be young peas before that time. Pick when the hulls begin to show color — red or whitey yellow — along the outside seam. The peas may be full enough to eat somewhat earlier, but shelling them is tedious beyond words. Boil the shelled peas until tender in salted water — the time will depend something upon the size of the peas. As soon as they will mash easily, drain them, and put into hot bacon fat, stirring them back and forth, and mashing lightly until they absorb the grease. Serve with the crisp bacon laid on top. They are nearly as good cold as hot, and moreover can be warmed up without loss of flavor. A double handful put into vegetable soup will improve it very much. A pea patch of good size, besides furnishing peas throughout the summer, will also supply enough dry ones to help out wonderfully the winter menu. The soil must not be too rich, or there will be more vines than peas. But where the vines are over luxuriant they need not go to waste. Cattle eat them greedily green or dry, and as soil-renovators they are in the very first class.
Martha McCulloch Williams.
— The New Country Life, 1917