Season for Collard Greens January - April
Collard Greens Described
As folklore would have it, this leafy-green cousin to kale and broccoli brings auspicious rewards if: served with black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year's Day; freshly hung over one's door to ward off evil; or placed on the forehead to cure a headache. We don't know about all that, but this longtime cornerstone of "soul food," collard greens deserve a spot on any a healthy table. While technically a variety of cabbage, collards are unique in that they don't form a head but grow instead in a loose rosette at the top of a tall stem. You'll find that collards tastes like a cross between cabbage and kale - not surprisingly so.
How to Buy and Store Collard Greens
Look for richly-colored leaves that seem crisp and fresh with no signs of yellowing, wilting or insect damage. Smaller leaves will have a more mild, tender flavor, so choose accordingly to suit your preference. Remember to load up, as once cooked, your collards will lose much of their bulk. Keep your collards cold in the refrigerator - wrapped as airtight as you can - and they should keep for 3 to 5 days. Don't wash them until you are ready to use them, as that will ensure they spoil much quicker.
How to Cook Collard Greens
Of chief importance, do not overcook your collards! While traditionally, the greens are cooked by boiling or simmering slowly with a piece of salt pork or ham hock for a long time, you end up losing much of their nutrition and inducing the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with cruciferous veggies. Rinse your greens under cold water, slicing the leaves into ½-inch slices and the stems into 1/4-inch pieces. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to release all their healthy goodness, and for garnering as much of those nutrients and flavor as possible, we recommend lightly steaming them (about 5 minutes). You can still serve 'em with black eyed peas and cornbread!
Health Benefits of Collard Greens
Like other cruciferous vegetables, we get unique health benefits from collard greens in the form of cancer protection, largely related to four glucosinolates they contain that support the human detox and anti-inflammatory systems (thus helping us to stave off cancer). In a recent study, steamed collard greens outshined steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage in terms of its cholesterol-lowering mechanisms. Collards are also an exceptional source of folate which is a critical B-vitamin for support of cardiovascular health.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Collard Greens
The USDA's Pesticide Data Program reported 46 pesticide residues found on conventionally-grown collard greens, six of which are known or probable carcinogens. So, while collards have a reputation of staving off cancer, why negate their inherent goodness by eating those sprayed with cancer-causing (among other harmful potentialities) chemicals. Buy your collards organically and you'll know you're getting the most you can from your food, while supporting the work of organic farmers (and local if you buy at the farmers market).