Collard greens are a mild-flavored leafy vegetable and a staple of Southern cooking; Scientifically speaking, they are in the cabbage family though in taste are very similar to kale. They are high in vitamins A, K and C and a good source of calcium, folate, and fiber.
Collard greens' history in the US is closely linked with the growth of slavery. Though collard greens are not native to Africa, the African slaves adapted their traditional style of cooking to them. Slaves were forced to prepare meals for their families using leftovers from the plantation kitchens, which evolved to Southern cooking as we now know it. As slaves moved into the plantation kitchens and began cooking, they introduced these recipes and they gradually became part of mainstream Southern cuisine.
Collard greens play an important role in two celebrations: collard greens cooked with ham and black-eyed peas are a traditional Southern New Year's dish. Many people also serve collard greens on Juneteenth (June 19th), the day commemorating the emancipation of the slaves, to celebrate their African heritage.
Collard greens are traditionally sauteed with bacon or boiled with a hamhock, though they are equally delicious cooked without meat or served raw in salads.
Collards are large, substantial medium green leaves. They are thicker than spinach or chard. They're a soft triangle shape with veining.
Selecting and Buying
Preparation and Use
There are several ways to prepare collard greens. After cleaning and cutting the collard greens into small pieces, boil them with salt, garlic, pepper, ham hock, fat back or other salty foods for flavor. You can also cook them in a slow cooker.
Conserving and Storing
Place unwashed collard greens in a paper towel and then store in a plastic bag. Place in a refrigerator and use within a week or two, depending on freshness of the collards.