For many African American slaves, their garden patch often signified their most important possession. It gave them an opportunity to supplement the small food rations distributed by their master, who often encouraged his slaves to produce their own food. But after tortorous workday from sun up to sun down, a personal garden could easily be over-looked for a night's rest. Katie Brown, a former slave recollected "Oh yes, de slaves had dey own garden dat de work at night en especially moonlight nights coarse de had to work in de fields all day till sundown. Mamma had a big garden en plant collards en everything like dat you want to eat."
Alice R. Smith
|Slaves transported okra and yams, the staples of West African gardens, across the Atlantic and planted directly into slave garden patches. These included black-eyed peas, sesame seed, collard greens, watermelon seeds, peanuts, bananas, berries, yams and pumpkins. Other vegetables commonly found in slave gardens were corn, potatoes, peas, kidney beans, lima beans, turnips, rice, and especially greens. The garden sizes averaged less than one acre, but ranged up to two acres. In Haiti slaves were encouraged to grow their own food and were given forty-square-foot-plots. The Haitian slaves grew yams, potatoes, pigeon peas, beans, peppers, sugarcane, bananas, coconut, mangoes, avocados, and squash.|
|The knowledge of these crops and their cultivation related to African roots and served as an integral part of the African American tradition. African American parents taught their parents taught their children "the way of the garden," and in doing so preserved its African heritage. Peter wood asserted that patterns of cultivation in garden plot did not change significantly from African practices. A nineteenth century planter described a slave's garden as a "small patch where arrowroot, collard, sugarcane, ground nuts, benne, gourds, and watermelon grew in commingled luxuriance. The technique of a "commingled" garden was inherited from West Africa. By layering different plants at different heights next to each other, the insect population can be reduced, and weeds decreased by shading them out.||
Soul food vegetables are never just boiled, steamed, or crisp-cooked·They are mashed, creamed, and candied÷simmered for ages with ham hock, "cat bits," or salt pork, or they are coated with cornmeal and deep fried.
Clean and wash 1 mess collard greens. Chop leaves into thirds. Put collards in a 4 quart boiler. Add 4 cups water, 1-½ teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1-½ pounds ham hocks. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to slow boil and cook until tender.
Collard Greens and Neckbones
1 pound pork neckbones
2 bunches collard greens
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
Dash of Tabasco. Bring to a boil over high heat, skim off foam, and lower the heat. Simmer briskly, partially covered, for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Add water if necessary; you should have about six cups of broth. Remove the bones. Trim off the tough stems and large midribs of the collard greens. Rinse well and drain in a colander. Chop or break into bite-size pieces. Add the greens to the broth and cook covered over low heat for 1 hour or until tender. Add the bacon drippings, Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste.
[SOUL FOOD] [RELATIONSHIP TO THE LAND]