Southerners sure love their greens. In fact, a big pot of collards or kale is what’s known as a ‘mess o’ greens’ at the Southern table.
Collards, non-heading, loose-leafed greens, are one of the oldest members of the cabbage family. The name comes from the word colewort, meaning cabbage plant. It has an upright stalk, often growing up to two feet tall. Collards are a cool-season plant, and a standard winter green in home gardens of the South. Collards do not thrive well in hot weather as the heat imparts a strong bitter flavor to the plant. Cool weather and light autumn frosts actually sweeten their flavor.
Collards are available year-round but their peak season is from January to April. Collards are extremely nutritious and are an excellent source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
When African slaves were brought from their homeland to the South to work on plantations, greens were just one of a few select vegetables they were allowed to grow and harvest. They learned to make satisfying meals with humble ingredients to provide food for their families. Ham hocks or pig’s feet were added to collards or other greens and slowly cooked. This method of cooking resulted in a rich and flavorful broth which is known as ‘pot-likker. Though collards did not originate in Africa, according to Jessica B. Harris, author of the cookbook Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gift to New World Cooking, “It’s the drinking of the potlikker that is African in origin.” Pot likker is delicious and full of nutrients. It is often spooned over wedges of cornbread or dumplings and is what makes this dish the ultimate in comfort food.
On New Year’s Day, Southerner’s serve up collards with black-eyed peas and ham hocks to bring them good luck throughout the year. And since cooked green leaves resemble folded money, they are thought to be a symbol of financial reward.
Collards descended from wild cabbages – and while historians are unsure of the exact origin, they are thought to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean. Agriculture in the South didn’t take off until the arrival of African slaves. With them, they brought seeds of collard greens as well as other seeds including okra, peas, yams, peanuts, and watermelons. Their farming techniques were the same as they learned in Africa, which resulted in a surplus of crops. Thus, the genus of traditional Southern cooking had begun.
Look for collards that are deep green in color and with plump fresh leaves. Avoid leaves that are yellow, wilted, or brown around the edges.
Wrap unwashed greens in a damp paper towel and place in a large food storage bag. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Before using, collards must be rinsed thoroughly to remove any dirt and grit. To do this, fill the sink with lukewarm water. Coarsely chop the collards and add them to the sink. Let stand, without stirring, to allow any grit to fall to the bottom. Gently lift the collards from the water and drain.
To freeze collards, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes then drain and blot dry with paper towels. Place them in freezer bags and freeze for up to 6 months.
One pound chopped collard leaves will yield about 6 – 7 cups raw and about 1 1/2 cups cooked.
Kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and spinach
Most Common Varieties:
Two main collard varieties are Vates and Georgia. The Vates varieties are more resistant to bolting (over growth) and insect damage during the winter. Vates varieties can be identified by their wavy leaves. The Georgia variety has flat leaves and white stems.
My Recipe Box | Log in to view
Join Paula, Bobby and Jamie for a book signing at the Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah from 2 to 4 pm. Only 350 tickets will be given out starting 1 hour before the book signing. No cameras permitted; a professional photographer will be on site to take your photo.
Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea to the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maarten - roundtrip from Miami) aboard the Celebrity Reflection presented by Alice Travel. Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel. We are running out of space, so book as soon as possible!
Paula Deen is coming to Buffalo, NY to perform a live cooking show and let VIP ticket holders enjoy a delicious Southern feast with a menu created by Paula herself! Both events will be held at Samuel’s Grand Manner in Williamsville, NY which offers a refined elegance in a classically modern setting. The VIP lunch will be held at 12:00pm on February 8th and will go until approximately 2:00pm (doors will open at 11:30am). The lunch will include a hearty helping of Southern style cuisine which is personally selected by Paula, a Southern Cooking Bible cookbook, a photo op with Paula where she will also be signing autographs, a gift package, and preferred seating at that evenings cooking show! The cooking show will begin at 3:00pm on February 8th and run about 60 minutes long (doors will open at 2:15pm). Paula will be cooking up some of her favorite meals live for you at Samuel’s Grand Manor! Seating is unreserved and is “first come, first served”.
Click here for tickets.
Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas to Labadee, Jamaica, and Cozumel (roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale) presented by Alice Travel. We will be having special, separate events for kids on this one with Jack Deen hosting the kids program! Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel Book now before the prices start going up on the cruise and air!