In our garden this week we have lots collard greens.
Collard greens are one of my favorite things to grow each year. They have a reputation for being southern, but greens can be grown almost everywhere because they are resistant to heat and cold. Collard Greens are more heat-resistant so they have a stronger southern cuisine reputation. Whereas cold weather greens like kale don’t have much of a southern connection. Collard greens are actually distant cousins to wild cabbages grown in Europe. Maybe we should call them Europeans greens instead?
Collard greens, like cabbage and other greens are very good for us. Collard greens have the ability to lower cholesterol, fight off cancer, and are especially high in carotenoids. Carotenoids protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, they help our reproductive systems function properly, and they enhance our immune systems.
So you can grow collard greens in your backyard garden and they are good for you, but I still hear gardeners and foodies complain about collard greens! I often get told that collards take too long to cook, or that they get tired of eating them since there is only one way to prepare them. Well let me tell you more about these lovely greens and maybe I can change a mind or two.
- Collard greens are good for beginners since they are relatively easy to grow and harvest. Our family of four generally grows six plants each winter to assure that we will have a fair serving of greens each week for many months.
- There are many varieties of greens so do your research based on your gardening zone. The Vates variety of collard greens are frost resistant and popular in the mid-Atlantic states. The Morris Heading variety can be up to thirty inches tall and is great for fall gardening. This year we grew Georgia Southern, a variety that can stand cool weather and holds its nutrients the best when it is cooked or frozen.
- Collard greens like deeply tilled soil and need their space. I grow my plants about 1 1/2 feet apart. Some gardeners recommend up to three feet apart.
- Collard greens love water. The perfect amount of moisture is the key to a good crop. Occasionally mixing the water with a little fish emulsion or manure tea keeps the leaves from turning weak and pale during growing season.
- It is actually best to harvest collard greens the moment you see that they have real leaves.
- Harvest the plant by cutting the outside leaves while leaving the layers of the center leaves to propagate.
- When you harvest from the plants regularly, they will provide you with continuous produce!
- For gardeners who have short season types, harvest the whole crop all at once and put it in the freezer for preservation. I have found that fresh collard greens can be stored in the refrigerator for at least seven days.
Yes it is true that collard greens require a longer cooking time compared to other leafy vegetables, but not that much longer! Start your greens first and they will be ready with the rest of your food.
When I am short on time I remove all of the stems and chop the greens into ribbons. Then I throw them in a large pot of sea salted water and bring to a boil.
Many recipes tell you to wait to add the greens to boiling water, but I never do. Just bring the water to a slow boil with the greens in the pot and stir occasionally. Boil for a few minutes and then turn down to a simmer. The greens become soft and buttery as they cook and they easily take on a smoky flavor. Most use pork or turkey to get this smoky flavor, but it is recommended for vegans and vegetarians to use smoked sea salt to achieve the same results. You can also add garlic, lemon, onions, or red pepper flakes for a little extra flavor while cooking greens.
I have yet to get tired of eating collard greens! I put them in my smoothies, use steamed leaves for sandwich wraps, and add them to black bean soup. I stir fry chopped collards with garlic and onions, and sometimes I served them over a bed of mashed potatoes. About 45 minutes before dinner I have been known to throw them in the crock-pot on high with some broth, garlic and red onions. I could go on and on! Check your favorite cookbooks and websites. I’m sure you can put a new twist on classic collard greens. They are so versatile and so good for us!
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