Eat Your… Collard Greens

Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)

If I had to pick a single item that represents “The South” more than anything else, it would have to be collard greens. Unfortunately the rest of the country hasn’t yet caught on to these delicious greens because they are near impossible to find up north or on the west coast (where they could easily be grown).

Even if you can’t find them at your local market, hopefully this article will pique your curiosity and encourage you to give collard greens a try if you ever have the opportunity.

History and Culture

Collard greens have been cultivated for at least 2,000 years and were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Because of the long history of collards, their exact origin is unknown but it is probably somewhere near the Mediterranean. Loose-leaf collards are one of the oldest types of cultivated cabbage; the variety “acephala” literally means “headless” in Latin.

Collards are best when grown in the fall, just as the cool weather starts to set in and about 70 days before the average first frost date. Pick them a few days after the frost when they reach the best full flavor. In a mild winter climate like the South, collards can be grown throughout the winter.

Health-wise, collard greens (like many brassicas) are high in vitamins A, C, and K as well as manganese, calcium, folate, and fiber. Yum!

Uses

Here in the South, we cook our collards to death. Traditional recipes call for ham hock, but this being a vegetarian article, here’s how I do them.

1) Take a bunch of collards, separate the leaves, and wash well. Tear the leaves off of the central vein (which can be discarded) and roughly chop. If you want to get fancy, you can chiffonade.

2) Mince 2 Tbsp garlic and 2 Tbsp onions. Put these into a pot with 3 Tbsp butter, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (suit to taste). Sauté until golden brown.

3) Throw in the greens, mix well, and sauté for 5 minutes more.

4) Pour in 2-3 cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Serve with a slotted spoon and top with hot sauce.

Here are a few more delicious recipes…

Tasty Palettes: Collard Greens Poricha Kootu — Collard greens aren’t just for Southern food! Check out this tasty Indian dish.

FatFree Vegan Kitchen: Collard Greens and White Bean Soup — This would make a great meal on a cold winter night.

VegCooking: Slow-Cooked Collards Over Polenta Cakes — Just in case you’re wondering, in the South we have a different word for polenta — GRITS. This recipe has two southern staples in one!

Thanks to Flickr user ambernussbaum for the photo below.

collard chiffonade

See you next week!

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Ben is a graduate student at NCSU studying Crop Science with an emphasis on Sustainable Agriculture. Official foodie credentials are non-existent, other than the fact that he has been cooking for himself since he was 12 years old. You can find his personal blog at bengarland.com, photos and videos at bengarland’s Flickr photostream, and his plans for a self-constructed cob house and organic farm over at Our Farm Adventure (still a very new work in progress).