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Forage for Wild Creasy Greens

Close up of creasy greens growing in raised bed garden.

Creasy greens are cold-hardy edible plants that grow wild throughout Appalachia. The traditional telltale sign of spring in the Appalachian Mountains is when greasy greens start emerging from the soil. 

For many decades, creasy greens have been hunted by foragers and grown by homesteaders, due to their ability to grow in nearly any type of soil and with limited maintenance.  

If you decide to forage for creasy greens, they can be found during the same time as ramps appear. While foraging for greens is a fun tradition or hobby, it is extremely easy to grow creasy greens in your backyard garden. 

These biennial plants are also known as early winter cress or upland cress. They can be grown nearly year-round and simple to get a crop started. Sow seeds by broadcasting and slightly tamping or raking in. You also may direct seed into rows seven inches apart. Although creasy greens need very little care once planted and established, they do need plenty of sunshine and regular watering.

Creasy greens are packed full of nutrition and known for their black peppery taste, giving a pop to your favorite foods, such as soups and stews, eggs, salads and sandwiches. Creasy greens can be eaten raw or cooked. When cooked, the black pepper taste will lessen. Greens taste the best when snipped and eaten before going to seed. 

In late spring, the plant will produce yellow flowers and attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Be sure to allow a few plants to go to seed and flower to provide greens year after year.  

By Natasha Harris, former WVU Extension Agent – Upshur County