Collards are also known as collard greens, and are popular around the world, especially in parts of Europe, the U.S., East Africa, Brazil, Portugal, Zimbabwe, and the Kashmir Valley. Collards grow well in both warm and cold temperatures and are relatively frost hardy. They are also known as “tree-cabbage” and “non-heading cabbage” because they are closely related to cabbage but never form a central head. Rather, they grow upward with leaves growing from a central stalk similarly to kale.
Collard greens contain substantial amounts of vitamin K and are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. They are also a good source of calcium and vitamin B6. As with all greens, boiling will diminish the nutritional value of collards, especially because they tend to require the most cooking time. If boiling collards, save the liquid for soup or later use if you aren’t working it back into the dish.
Buying & Storing
Look for collards that aren’t too large, and have a nice blue-green color and soft, leathery leaves. Holes and other bug damage to the leaves can be easily removed. Wrap unwashed collards in a damp towel or in a plastic bag and refrigerate, preferably in a crisper drawer. Collards are best used fresh but will last for up to a week if stored properly.
For long-term storage, collards can be frozen. Wash, remove the stem below the leaf, cut leaves into thick ribbons, and drop the pieces in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the water and rinse under cold water or put in an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain the collards, and pack into airtight containers or freezer bags.
Preparation – dunk the leaves in a sink filled with cold water, using your hands to swish them around and push them under. Check the underside of each leaf for soil and garden pests. Refill the sink and repeat as necessary. If leaves are large and mature, you may want to remove the stems (midrib) and cook separately, though this is not required. Young tender leaves can be cooked whole. Because the leaves of collards require such long cooking times, you don’t have to remove the center stem from the leaf, but you should remove any remaining stem from below the leaf.
Raw – collards are not typically eaten raw, but you can add them to egg dishes (omelets, quiches, frittatas, etc.), casseroles, lasagnas, and soups. They will just need to be cooked in each manner long enough to soften.
Steam – remove the lower stems, and place leaves in a pot with a steamer basket above an inch or so of boiling salted water. Steam mature leaves for approximately 7-10 minutes, depending on age, size, and amount in the steamer. Collards are ready when they are vibrant green and soft but not mushy. You want them to retain a bit of texture.
Sauté – cut the leaves into thick ribbons, and sauté in a skillet or sauté pan with pork fat, salt, and pepper (or any seasoning you like) until the collards have just started to go limp. Be careful not to overcook collards. Overcooked greens will be mushy, tasteless, and significantly reduced in nutrition.