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Kilt (Killed) Lettuce: A Recipe From My Kentucky Childhood

Mountain dialect is unique. Creek becomes crick, killed becomes kilt. Therefore kilt lettuce is killed or wilted lettuce.

Mountain dialect is unique. Creek becomes crick, killed becomes kilt. Therefore kilt lettuce is killed or wilted lettuce.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

5 min

15 min

4 servings

Your ingredients

Your ingredients


  • 1 mess (about 6 cups) leaf lettuce, cleaned
  • 1 mess (about 1 cup) green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter, just for flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar, optional
Time to kill the lettuce--humanely, of course.

Time to kill the lettuce--humanely, of course.

How to Humanely Kill Lettuce (Instructions)

  1. In a large bowl, mix lettuce and onions.
  2. Heat oil in a small pan until very hot, almost smoking.
  3. Heat butter in a large skillet. Cast iron works best.
  4. Fill the skillet to overflow with the lettuce and onion mixture.
  5. Carefully pour hot oil over the greens in the skillet, stirring constantly for 2 or 3 minutes. CAUTION: This is hot and will spatter if greens are wet.
  6. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Transfer back to the bowl.
  8. The lettuce will be killed (kilt), and the onions will be softened but crunchy.
  9. Sprinkle with vinegar if desired.
  10. Serve immediately while hot.

Kilt greens are great served with pinto beans, black-eyed peas or other savory foods.

Kilt (or Killed) Lettuce and Green Onions

I grew up in the beautiful and majestic Kentucky mountains, where life was simple and safe. My brothers and I played all day long and only came home when called by the cowbell that Granny rang. She and Mama had been working hard in the house, cleaning, mending, cooking and praying that we would live to adulthood.

Sometimes it was doubtful because we got into all sorts of mischief, trouble and danger. Yet, it seemed we got more loving attention and our favorite meals when we had just escaped death. So, we made certain to tell the ladies of our escapades in the most forlorn hope of receiving a handmade fried apple pie or Mama's incredible homemade doughnuts. Usually, we just received a swat on the rear for lying though, so I quickly learned to keep silent and waited for the fallout to recede so we could eat supper.

We always had a large garden that contained rows and rows of leaf lettuce, green onions and many other summer delicacies. That garden yielded tomatoes the size of a dinner plate, but the onions were thin as a pencil and sweet as honey. I believe chefs on television shows call them scallions now, but they were just green onions to us. We kids kept a salt shaker wrapped in foil at the edge of the garden and would eat them fresh with the dirt just shaken off the best we could. It was a great life and growing up there was like living in a fairy tale.

But though we kids ate food straight from the garden, Mama and Granny had garden produce recipes fit for a king. Some would take hours to prepare while others were table ready in minutes. Kilt lettuce is one of those mouthwatering delicacies that we loved. This little-known dish is an old Appalachian favorite that we adored. It uses up the overflow from the garden "truck" patch and works well with kale, turnip greens, mustard, etc. We usually sprinkle on a few drops of vinegar, and that adds a light tartness to relieve the heaviness of the oil.

Our supper table always had a huge pan of cornbread made from Granny's home-churned buttermilk and dripping with fresh, sweet butter. We used the bread to sop up the leftover juices and grease from the kilt lettuce. It makes my mouth water to even remember that amazing taste.

When the season and time were just right, we all met at the creek (crick) and gathered a mess of branch lettuce, but usually, lettuce from the garden was the main ingredient for this dish.

Back then, we ate bacon almost every day, and the grease was saved and used in other dishes. Mama always used bacon grease to kill lettuce, but nowadays, I am a modern vegetarian, so I use oil. Olive oil works well on this. Just don't tell my Granny if you meet her in Heaven before I get there. She may get the angel Gabriel to smite me. That was always her greatest threat when we were naughty, and I still believe she had contact up there.

I miss you, Granny and Mama. This recipe is being shared in honor of you both—the best cooks who ever fed a passel of hungry kids, seven dogs, eleven cats, a peacock and anything else that was hungry.

Hey, ya snooze, ya lose!

Hey, ya snooze, ya lose!

Kilt Lettuce and Green Onions

© 2012 Brenda Barnes