What’s in Season: Collards

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

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.

History:
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.

Selecting:
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.

Storing/Freezing:
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.

Yield:
One pound chopped collard leaves will yield about 6 – 7 cups raw and about 1 1/2 cups cooked.

Substitutions:
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.

Now that you know all about collards, we hope you’ll enjoy recipes right from our very own collard patch!
Stewed Collard Greens
Quick Spicy Collards
Collard Green Pizza
Fried Collard Green Wontons

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My daughter got me your calendar for Christmas, I love it

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I enjoy seeing your show

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I was watching your cooking show and you were baking the Volcano Cake and I can't get the thought of that cake out of my mind. So, I really appreciate the receipe! Linda

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Pls. Give me ideas how to cook a low calorie veggies recipes. anything that is healthy eating recipes. Thank you. I love to watch Paula Dean in Food Network. she rocks.

By Naomi T.Carroll on January 08, 2011

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By Anonymous on January 07, 2011

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Really enjoyed the wealth of knowledge regarding the history of Collard Greens. I have enjoyed them ever since I was child. I too am a Southern girl...born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee until the age of 13. Keep the knowledge comin!!! Thanks Paula Debbie

By Deborah Chopra on January 07, 2011

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm