What’s in Season: Collards

  • Pin It
  • print
  • email to a friend
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

Read More From What's in Season.

You May Also Like These Blogs:

You May Also Like These Recipes:

Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

54321

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

By Betty Sanderson on January 03, 2012

54321

I enjoy seeing your show

By reecca diggs on December 29, 2011

54321

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

By linda bowling on January 30, 2011

54321

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

54321

By Anonymous on January 07, 2011

54321

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

image
Paula Deen
Paula Deen
The Lady's Blog
The Queen of Southern Cuisine muses about her recipes, life and family. See Posts

Brooke Deen
Brooke Deen
Deen Mother
Advice on raising two boys (three counting Jamie). See Posts

Brandon Branch
Brandon Branch
Southern Style
Decorating Inspiration from Paula's Design Director. See Posts

Julia Sayers
Julia Sayers
Hot off the Press
Step behind the pages and let the Associate Editor of Cooking with Paula Deen fill you in on what goes into creating every issue. See Posts

Lisa Scarbrough
Lisa Scarbrough
Thrift Store Mommy
Mom on a dime advice from Paula's Digital Properties Manager. See Posts

Andrea Goto
Andrea Goto
Mom 2.0
Tips from a real-world mom with comedic tendencies. See Posts

Martha Lee
Martha Lee
Earth Mother
Practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. See Posts

Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Bubbles' Corner
Ideas and advice from a 21st Century young at heart Grandmother. See Posts

Cindy Edwards
Cindy Edwards
Southern Proper
Etiquette advice from a true Southern belle. See Posts

image

Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm