April 25th, 2012
Collards are one of the oldest members of the cabbage family, and are closely related to kale. Collards are grown for their large, dark-coloured, edible leaves and as a garden ornamental. They are part of the cultivar group named
, meaning "without a head" in Greek, a reference to the fact that collards do not have a central close-knit core of leaves, like a head of cabbage. The name "collard" is a shortened form of
, from the old English word "wort" meaning plant and the Latin "cole" meaning stem or cabbage. In Brazil, it’s called
; in Cape Verde,
; in Spanish-speaking countries it goes by
, and in East Africa,
The ancient Greeks and Romans both grew collards before the common era. It was either the Romans or the Celts who introduced the vegetable to Britain and France in the 4th century BCE. Collard greens were brought to the United States during the early 1600s as they were one of the few vegetables that African-Americans were allowed to grow and harvest for their families throughout times of slavery. Even after emancipation, collard greens remained popular and recipes were handed down generation after generation.
Though collard greens did not originate in Africa, the habit of eating collard greens that have been cooked down into a low gravy, and drinking the juices from the greens (known as "
" or "pot liquor") is of African origin.
is nutritious and delicious, and contributes to the comfort-food aspects of the dish.
Collard plants have thick, dark blue-green coloured, slightly bitter tasting leaves. Smooth in texture and broad in shape, they lack frilled edges common to their cousin, kale. Collards produce a slight odour during cooking. But don’t let this scare you! Like other cruciferous vegetables, overcooked collard greens will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooking. To help collard greens to cook more quickly, evenly slice the leaves into 1/2-inch slices and the stems into 1/4-inch pieces. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities and steam for 5 minutes. We’ve included some fantastic recipes in this week’s newsletter that will get you hooked on this healthy, hearty green.
Widely considered to be a healthy food, collards are good sources of vitamin C and soluble fiber, and contain multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties. The cholesterol-lowering ability of collard greens may be the greatest of all commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. In a recent study, steamed collard greens outshined steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage in terms of its ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract.
Fresh collards can be stored for 3-5 days. To extend the life of your collards, trim the ends off by a centimeter and wrap in wet paper towel; store in the vegetable drawer. Once cooked, collards can be frozen and stored for a few months.