Gumbo Z’herbes

For vegetarians, this traditional Lenten meal should prick the appetite and win, according to local legend, as many friends as you put in greens, “z’herbes” in Cajun means les herbes, or greens, the way “z’aricots” or zydeco means les haricots or green beans. The more greens the better, according to the Picayune, which adds equal parts of the leaves of radish, turnip, mustard, spinach, watercress, parsley, young cabbage, and green-onion tops. Other greens you might consider are celery or carrot tops, Swiss chard or collard or beet greens. For nonvegetarians or non-Lentenites, a veal brisket or ham bone would not be amiss.


  • 8 packed cups mixed greens
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon each black and cayenne pepper, thyme, and oregano
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice
  • cup vegetable oil
  • cup (all-purpose) flour
  • 8 cups hot beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • 8 cups cooked rice (2⅔ cups raw)


Wash greens well and parboil them about 5 minutes in water barely to cover. Drain in a colander over a pot to catch the liquid. When the greens are cool enough to handle, chop them fine:

Mix onion with the seasonings before you make the roux. Make the roux by heating oil and adding flour, stirring constantly, until it is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the onions and gradually stir in the liquid. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 1 hour. Serve with or over rice.


For additional flavors, add a garnish of crumbled bacon, diced ham, or cooked and chopped chicken gizzards.