Burnt-onion Collard Greens from Jimmy Williams, Hayground Organic Gardening

Photo: Eric StaudenmaierMany an L.A. vegetable garden got their start at Hayground Organic Gardening, a Silver Lake-based organic nursery that brings seedlings and saplings to shoppers at the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets. Offering everything from blueberry bushes to Goose Creek, Jimmy's family heirloom tomato brought to the U.S. on a slave ship by his great-grandmother, Hayground Organic Gardening's booth is the go-to spot gives would-be urban farmers a jumpstart on their edible gardens.

And Jimmy Williams is the go-to guy for all your local gardening questions. Jimmy -- along with his son and business partner Logan -- are regular faces at the local farmers markets, giving out gardening advice, explaining the difference between tomato varieties, and sometimes, even suggesting recipes.

Now, that homegrown advice is available in book-form: "From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love." Co-written by gardening writer Susan Heeger, "From Seed to Skillet" hit bookstores last month with much fanfare, including jacket quotes from eco-foodie Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") and environmental activist Bill McKibben. The book tells Jimmy's own story, serves as a how-to guide for edible gardeners -- and offers farm-to-fork recipes from Jimmy's own kitchen.

What can farmers market fans and urban gardeners enjoy now? Jimmy recommends the Burnt-onion Collard Greens -- since now's a great time both to find collard greens at the farmers markets to cook for tonight's dinner -- and to plant collard greens in your home garden to enjoy later.

Burnt-onion Collard Greens

Collards, among the most nutritious greens, were once planted between cotton rows so that hungry insects would attack them and not the cotton. At harvest time, they were picked to feed slaves and (along with other foods like sweet potatoes, grown for the same purpose) became part of the Gullah tradition.... For variety, substitute kale, chard, or cabbage for a portion of the collards and add a half pound of whole okra to the pot ten minutes before the greens finish cooking. When the okra pods are on the verge of popping open, the dish is ready to eat.

¼ cup olive or coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup dry white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 bunches of collard greens (about 1½ pounds), leaves only, washed well and chopped

In a heavy skillet, heat the oil slowly over medium-high heat and fry the onion until well browned and blackened a bit around the edges.

Stir in the broth, wine, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well before adding the chopped greens.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6.

For more of Jimmy's recipes, look for "From Seed to Skillet" at a bookstore near you (We suggest calling first, as some bookstores have been selling out of copies). And for a taste of Jimmy's own collard greens, stop by the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sundays or the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Arizona on Wenesdays and Saturdays to pick up a seedling of your own to grow this winter.

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Come meet Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger in person at the LA Arboretum on Saturday, Feb. 26! Register online at www.gardenconservancy.org. And read another testimonial on Jimmy's recipe for collard greens in our description of the event. Must be quite a recipe!

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