What Are Collard Greens?

Many people know that collard greens are a staple side dish in southern US states, but beyond that, their knowledge is patchy. What exactly is this dark, leafy vegetable? How nutritious is it? And how do you prepare it?

The term “collard” refers to certain loose-leafed plants belonging to the Brassica oleracea family (see also cabbage, kale, and broccoli), and research shows that they’ve been eaten for nearly 2,000 years, starting with the ancient Greeks. Today, collard greens are a significant food crop all across the globe, from Europe to South America, and Africa to as far east as Kashmir.

Grown for their thick, slightly bitter, edible leaves, they can be harvested all year round but tend to be tastier in the colder months – hence their popularity as a side dish around Christmas and New Year. The flavor of collards is a cross between cabbage and hearty kale, similar to Swiss chard; being robust, it can be prepared a number of ways, and served with a wide variety of foods.

Raw collard greens are 90% water – the rest is carbohydrate and protein – and contain virtually no fat. Nutritionally rich, they are an important source of minerals and vitamins such as A, C, and manganese, and, like kale, contain a huge amount of vitamin K (a 100 gram serving will provide 388% of your Daily Value). They’re also a great source of dietary fibre.

Thanks to all this, collard greens have been associated with cancer prevention, detox support, anti-inflammatory properties, heart health, and digestive support, and have now found their way into various health food trends – steamed, shredded raw in salads, and the leaves used as wraps.

Preparing them is easy, although there are a few key issues to watch out for. First, they need washed – let them soak in cold water for ten minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Then remove the stem that runs down the center of each leaf – it’s tough, bitter, and not tasty (smaller, tender, young leaves don't need stripping). Some recipes call for using whole leaves, others for leaves cut into strips. And, as a general rule, remember: if you don't cook them long enough, they’ll be crunchy and tough, and if you don't season them properly, they’ll be bitter and earthy.

They are commonly used in Southern braises and stews, as the hearty leaves can hold up to longer cooking times, but there are numerous recipes which are perfect for them. Try making creamed collard greens, or putting braised collard greens inside your breakfast biscuit. They can be shredded with goat’s cheese and roasted sweet potato for an amazing salad, or added to a classic – Southern black-eyed pea soup. For something a little different, make a pesto with collard greens and sundried tomatoes – this can be added to pasta or risotto – or for a spicier dish, fry with paprika, chilli, allspice, cumin, and cardamom for an Ethiopian slant.

Truly, the possibilities are endless. And of course, there’s always simple braising with onion and garlic, and cooking with just about any smoked meat (and they can be substituted in many recipes that call for green cabbage or spinach). Our collard greens are USDA certified organic, and are grown right here, in the heart of California. Stick some in your cart today and add some hearty, rich goodness to your diet.

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