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Creasy Greens: A Mountain Secret

Creasy greens, an Appalachian relative of watercress, add peppery heat to winter plates

Illustration: JOHN BURGOYNE

When the chef Travis Milton, a native of Castlewood, Virginia, thinks of creasy greens, he thinks of stories about his
grandfather’s apples. “In the fall, he would plant creasy greens in the orchards,” Milton says. “They would draw in the bees in the early spring, which
would help the apples proliferate. That’s something that’s always stuck with me.” The lure of Appalachia and its bounty also stuck with Milton—so strongly that after stints in New York City and Richmond, he recently came home with plans to open Shovel & Pick in early 2018 in Bristol, which straddles the Virginia/Tennessee state line, where he will spotlight his favorite ingredients, including creasy greens. Not only are the greens helpful in the orchard, they also make for really good eating. “It’s similar to a mustard green,” Milton says. “That black-pepper flavor is a huge part of Appalachian cuisine.” The spoon-shaped leaves are beautiful stuffed in tea sandwiches or plated as a salad with a drizzle of sweet vinaigrette. And their flavor works well in hearty stews and soups or sautéed with pork fat. While the cold-hardy plants grow wild throughout Appalachia, where in days past they were often the only fresh greens available in the depths of winter, creasies are easy planters in nearly any Southern garden and ready for picking in January (the season lasts through early spring). You’ll likely only find wild creasy greens—sometimes labeled as upland cress—at farmers’ markets in Southern mountain towns. If you take some home, they will keep well for a few days in the fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel. But if you strike out and are green with envy, well, it’s time to get planting. 


Creasy Greens Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings

¼ lb. creasy greens
1 sprig tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp. whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
6 tbsp. apple butter
6 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. finely chopped shallot
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
2 tbsp. goat cheese
1–2 small candy-stripe beets, roasted and thinly sliced

Place greens, tarragon, and parsley in a mixing bowl. Set aside while you make the vinaigrette. In a separate bowl, mix together next 5 ingredients, then slowly whisk in olive oil. Toss greens in dressing to taste and season with salt. Top each serving with bacon, goat cheese, and a few slices of beet.