Enjoying Summer’s Bounty – Gumbo Z’Herbes

One joy of summer is the many farmer’s markets that appear throughout the city. Seeing so many varieties of fresh, green produce, I was inspired to make a dish found in one of my favorite cookbooks, “Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons”, by Jessica Harris called Gumbo Z’Herbes.

Summer’s Bounty

I love to read cookbooks. Particularly those focused on a specific place or ethnic group. “Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons” is one of the early cookbooks by Jessica Harris and is the quintessential cookbook covering the African Diaspora.

Gumbo Z’Herbes is a combination of a “mess of greens” cooked the “old school” way, low and slow. In her cookbook, Ms Harris introduces this dish as a New Orleans specialty, with many variations based on who’s cooking it and what greens are available.  Following is my version, Chicago style.

Gumbo Z’Herbes


  • 2 bunches of collard greens
  • 1 bunch each of the following:
  • mustard greens
  • turnip greens
  • spinach
  • kale
  • scallions (green onions)
  • Green tops from 1 bunch beets, 1 bunch carrots and 1 bunch radishes
  • one medium cabbage
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 TB spoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • bouquet garni:  (2 bay leaves, 4 springs fresh thyme, 2 whole cloves 3 whole allspice berries all tied in cheese cloth to create a small bundle)
  • 1 gallon salt water
  • 3 smoked turkey tails
  • Scotch bonnet pepper(s) to taste*
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Gumbo Z’Herbes


  1. In a large pot add 1 gallon salted water.
  2. Rinse smoked turkey tails, add to pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Remove thick, fibrous stems.
  4. Wash thoroughly and tear into big pieces.
  5. Add all greens to boiling pot of salted water and smoked turkey tails.
  6. Lower heat and simmer for 1-1/2 hour.
  7. Remove greens and smoked turkey tails and chop into bite sized pieces (don’t toss liquid!).
  8. Return chopped greens and smoked turkey tails back into pot with liquid.
  9. Add chopped onion, parsley, bouquet garni, and scotch bonnet pepper(s).
  10. Continue to simmer for 1 hour more.
  11. Remove bouquet garni bundle.
  12. Taste and adjust salt and black ground pepper.
Serves 10 to 12 people
*Scotch bonnets are very hot. Removing seeds before cooking helps reduce some of the heat. Do not touch your face or eyes when handling these peppers.













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