Bricolins. I've bought these greens, or something like them, from a local veg box scheme, and they can, it seems, still be had on the markets in this part of France, though I don't remember seeing them. They are the spring shoots of field or feed cabbages, loose small leaves and sometimes the start of a flowering head.
The name is a curiosity, a hybrid false analogy perhaps, from the Italian-derived broccoli (sometimes they're called bricoli), and the French verb bricoler. Bricolage now is a fairly respectable activity, and large retail outlets bear the word in their names, it's DIY, home improvements. But it also has had the sense of rather desultory pottering, of cobbling something together from what's to hand, of making do perhaps in a rather shoddy way. The grasping peasant family in Georges Sand's Miller of Angibault is called Bricolin, and it carries the sense of shabbiness and skimping, although perhaps there's a cabbage stalk connection too, and casual farm labourers were also sometimes called bricolins.
And as a foodstuff, these greens really are much to do with making do, with using what meagre resources come to hand in a lean time, even to resorting to raiding the cows' fodder to supplement one's winter diet. One of the few recipes I've found for them comprises not much more than the chopped greens, potatoes, water and some butter, if you're lucky, or else lard.
They're also known, in Gallo anyway, which is the old dialect of these parts, Breton wasn't spoken here, as guernissons, I can't find much out about that, except Gallo seems to contain a lot of words beginning gue-.
The local farmers are planting more feed cabbages these days to supplement the lack of nutrients in the junk-food-for-cows which is maize, since destroying rainforest savannah a mile-a-minute by buying imported soya is getting more expensive. A small step in the right direction I suppose though it doesn't quite constitute reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. So there are plenty to be found; these ones however were even more scarcity food, or playing at it anyway, as I do, since they were foraged not from a planted field but from self-seeded wildings in a fallow field just up the road. I'd picked a few before and they'd been good, usually mixed with other greens, but these proved to be uncomfortably bitter, and even the addition of balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt couldn't offset that enough to make them pleasant on their own, even to me, and I quite like bitter. Tom, who isn't a bitter man, couldn't eat them. I'm afraid I'm something of an intolerant and unreasonable solipsist about people's taste preferences if they aren't the same as mine. I regard Tom's rejection of a number of foodstuffs as being bitter as a wilful refusal to grow up and train his palate (children naturally reject bitter tastes to avoid toxicity, which is why they won't eat their greens), as well as being inconsistent since he enjoys burnt sausages.
This coincided with Rouchswalwe's post about Brussels sprouts (or Rosenköhlchen as they are delightfully called in German) and the comments it raised about taste. Bearing in mind my aforesaid unreasonable solipsism, I am sceptical about the 'supertaster' idea, and I certainly hope no one ever tells my step-grandchildren Benj and Emily about it or they will feel justified in continuing to allow never so much as green pea to pass their lips on the grounds that they are supertasters and anything of vegetable origin is intolerably bitter to them, with the possible exception of garlic and potatoes, in the form of chips that is. One of the best things about Brussels sprouts for me, which fully justifies their place in Christmas dinner, is that they make the best ever bubble-and-squeak, and this is what I did with the bricolins in the end. Our friend the Quiet American once said it was a bafflement to him the things English people call food, either reducing the delicate and appetising such as 'sorbet' to something as dreary and off-putting as 'water ice', or rendering dishes completely opaque and droll by giving them such names as 'spotted dick' or 'bubble-and-squeak'.
So for those who don't know, bubble-and-squeak is a development on the Irish colcannon (a lovely name) or, as I understand it, the Australian champ potato: leftover greens, primarily of the brassica type but can include leeks, onions, and indeed any other veg, even steamed nettles, mixed with mashed potato, then (and this is the point of departure from colcannon and champ) bound with an egg (optional, but a better result) and fried, at which point it presumably makes the sound which gives it its name. The potato reduces the concentration of greensy bitterness, which can also be softened by the inclusion of sweeter elements such as carrot or parsnip - I included some pumpkin and chestnut puree in this instance. Served with bacon (the ideal) the salt and savoury creates a further harmonious balance, and if you then wish for a touch of sour, fry some tomatoes or add a dash of ketchup or brown sauce on the side. In fact acid is the taste group I had to work hardest at getting to like, wouldn't even eat mayo or anything with a taste of vinegar for years, and still regard Worcestershire sauce as a culinary thug. But after long practice of including small amounts of sharp against other contrasting flavours to offset them, I have reached the point where I can eat gherkins straight out of the jar with pleasure, though I still prefer the sweet-and-sour ones to the just plain sour.
I still wouldn't be able to get Tom to eat it, so bubble-and-squeak aux bricolins is portioned out and in the freezer.