Collard greens are a type of large, leafy green vegetable common in southern U.S. cooking but can be found worldwide in recipes. Collards are often cooked with moist heat, making them less tough and bitter. However, they can be used in more ways than you might think.
Collards are in the same family as cabbage (Brassica oleracea), and they are a common side dish in the South. They have dark green leaves and tough stems that you must cut off before eating them. Collards taste like a cross between cabbage, hearty kale, and Swiss chard. They are often used in braises and stews in the South because the tough leaves can handle longer cooking times. Collard greens are becoming more and more popular as wraps for people on plant-based diets.
What are Collard Greens?
Collards have dark green leaves that look like fans and tough stems. They are a type of plant that is related to kale, turnips, and mustard greens. Also, they have many of the same qualities and are often made the same way or with the same ingredients (at least in the South of the United States, where they are most popular).
Collards go well with ham, beans, okra, and other foods that need to be cooked slowly, like simmering, braising, or steaming. They’re not hard to work with, but they need extra care before and during cooking to get the best texture.
Collards are vegetables with big, green leaves and tough stems that need to be cut off before they can be eaten. We call the leaves that we eat “collard greens.” They are related to cabbage, kale, and mustard greens and can be cooked similarly. Collard greens are a common side dish in the South, and they are known for being hearty.
The tough leaves don’t fall apart when cooked for a long time, which is why they are often used in soups and braises. Collard greens are often cooked with smoked and salted meats (like ham hocks and bacon), onions, vinegar, pepper, and salt. You can also put them in salads or wraps where greens are used instead of bread.
How to Cook with Collard Greens?
Before cooking, these greens need to be washed well because they can have a lot of dirt on them. But most people don’t eat the stems, so take them off first. Fold the leaves in half lengthwise, and cut off the stems with a knife. Or you can pull the leaves off the stems. Then put cold water in the sink and add the leaves. Move them around a bit to get the dirt off, and it will fall to the bottom of the sink. Drain the sink, fill it up again, and do this as often as you need to until there is no more grit in the sink. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry the leaves.
This vegetable is often cooked in moist heat, like braising with ham or turkey, in many recipes, especially traditional Southern ones. They can also be fried, steamed, or blanched. Save the tasty cooking liquid when you cook them. It’s called “pot liquor,” and it’s very popular. Homemade cornbread is a great way to soak up the pot liquor.
6 Ways to Prepare Collard Greens
For Salads: Starting with a big bunch, cut the woody center stems in half by slicing along each side of the stem with a knife. Then pull the stem out. Stack the collard halves on top of each other and cut them in half crosswise to make thick ribbons.
For Wraps: To cut off the stems, use a paring knife. Put collard leaves on a flat surface and add the filling you’ve already made. Roll one end of the collard leaf lengthwise over the fillings. Then, fold the short ends in, roll again, and put the wrap seam side down on a serving plate.
Sautéed: Remove the center ribs from 2 1/2 pounds of collard greens and throw them away. Cut the leaves into 1-inch pieces. Simmer collards for 15 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. Drain them in a colander and press out any extra liquid with a wooden spoon. In a large, heavy skillet, heat one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until the foaming stops. Stir in 2 cloves of garlic, the collards, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the collard mixture while sautéing it for about 5 minutes, or until it is fully heated. Sprinkle a wedge of lemon juice over the collards and mix.
Steamed: Remove and throw away the center ribs from 1 pound of collard greens. Cut the leaves into pieces that are 12 inches long. Put 2 inches of water in the bottom of a steamer. Add collard greens and one minced garlic clove to the steamer basket. Steam for 5 minutes.
Blanched: Take out and throw away the middle ribs. Blanch the greens for 2 minutes in a large pot of salted boiling water, then drain. When they are cool enough to handle, squeeze out any extra liquid and spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet with a rim to cool completely. Greens can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days in a container that keeps air out.
Stewed: Remove and throw away the center ribs from 2 pounds of collard greens, and leaves should be cut into 1-inch pieces. Simmer collard greens in 3 and a half cups of chicken broth for about an hour, or until they are soft. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
Collard Greens Substitute
Kale is the best alternative if you want to cook the greens in a soup or stew. They taste and feel the same so you can use them interchangeably in recipes. If you want to wrap a sandwich in something, try butter lettuce. It won’t taste the same, but it will hold the sandwich together.
Other acceptable substitutes are:
- Turnip greens
- Mustard greens
- Swiss chard
Where to Buy Collard Greens?
Collards are easy to find because most grocery stores and markets that serve African-American communities sell them all year long. They are kept in bunches near the kale, Swiss chard, and other leafy green vegetables in the produce section. Because the leaves are so big, you can’t miss them. You can also buy collards at farmer’s markets. No matter where you get them, look for firm stalks and crisp green leaves that are large and sturdy, almost like you could use them as a fan to cool yourself off in the summer. Anything that is turning yellow or wilting is already past its prime.
Collard Greens vs. Kale
Kale and collard greens are in the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea). Even though they are often used the same way, they are not the same. People often think kale is the healthiest food, full of vitamins and minerals, but collard greens have 18% more calcium. Even though they have similar amounts of vitamins, kale has more vitamin K.
Both are bitter, but collard greens are slightly less so (especially when cooked). Because of how they look and how tough they are, collard greens may be more useful than kale. Their large, tough, fan-shaped leaves can be used in place of bread to make sandwich wraps.
How to Store Collard Greens?
To freeze them, you must first blanch them. This sounds fancy, but all it means is that you put the greens in boiling water for 3 minutes. Then, please put them in water that is as cold as ice to stop the cooking. Drain and dry off. Chop the greens and put them in a plastic bag that you can seal and put in the freezer for up to a year. Nothing says you can’t freeze raw collards, but blanching them will keep their quality and nutrition because it stops the enzymes that could cause them to go bad after they’re frozen.
Health Benefits of Collard Greens
Even though all greens are healthy, dark greens are better for you because they have more chlorophyll, making fresh collard greens one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Chlorophyll is good for your health because it has vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Collard greens have a lot of fiber and vitamins A, C, E, and K, which are good for bones. It also has a lot of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Getting too little vitamin K can make it more likely for Osteoporosis and broken bones: Vitamin K changes the way bone matrix proteins work, makes it easier for the body to absorb calcium, and may make less calcium leave the body through urine. There are 770 micrograms of vitamin K in one cup of boiled collard greens. The 2015-2020 United States Dietary Guidelines say that a woman between the ages of 19 and 30 should get 90 mcg of vitamin K every day, while a man of the same age should get 120 mcg. This much vitamin K can be found in a cup of collard greens several times.
Studies show that people who eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables are less likely to get cancer, such as cancer of the upper digestive tract, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and cancer of the kidneys. Glucosinolates are chemicals that contain sulfur and are found in cruciferous vegetables.
These chemicals may help stop the growth of lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, and possibly melanoma, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers at different stages of their growth. In 2017, the results of a study that involved nearly 3,000 people were made public, and they were trying to find out if there was a link between eating cruciferous vegetables and getting breast cancer.
The results showed that eating cruciferous vegetables may lower the risk of breast cancer, especially in women who have not yet reached menopause. They say that the way cruciferous vegetables are cooked may make a difference because cooking some of them can lower the number of glucosinolates. This study didn’t say this is true of collard greens since most people don’t eat collard greens raw. There is evidence that collard greens and other green vegetables with a lot of chlorophyll can help stop heterocyclic amines from causing cancer. When you grill food at a high temperature, these things are made.
Healthy Skin and Hair
There is a lot of vitamin A in collard greens. Vitamin A is needed for the body to make sebum, which keeps hair moist.
Vitamin A is important for the growth of all tissues in the body, including the skin and hair. It also helps keep the eyes and immune system healthy and the body’s organs in good shape. Vitamin C helps the body make and keep collagen levels, which gives skin and hair their shape.
A woman who is an adult needs 75 mg of vitamin C every day, while a man needs 90 mg. Nearly 35 mg of vitamin C can be found in a cup of boiled collard greens. Iron stops anemia, which is a common reason for hair loss. If you don’t get enough iron in your diet, it can change how well your body uses energy. Iron-rich foods include collard greens, spinach, lentils, tuna, and eggs. Adults need 8 mg of iron a day and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant need 18 mg. The amount of iron in one cup of boiled collard greens is 2.5 mg.
Sleep and Mood
Collard greens contain choline, an important neurotransmitter. Choline is good for mood, sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps keep the structure of cell membranes, the transmission of nerve impulses, the absorption of fat, and the reduction of chronic inflammation.
Folate, also found in choline, may help with depression because it keeps the body from making too much homocysteine. Scientists have found that people with bipolar disorder and depression caused by alcohol use disorder have a lot of homocysteine in their bodies. Some people may be less likely to have depressive symptoms if they get enough folate.
Collard greens are in the family of vegetables called “cruciferous.” They are full of nutrients that are important for a healthy diet. Collards are a great source of calcium, folate, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B2, B6, and C, just like other leafy greens. Collard greens are a great way to get vitamin K, which is important for healthy bones and blood. When thinking about the health benefits of any food, you need to think about the other things in it. Do you eat simple greens that are lightly seasoned and cooked with little fat, or do you make collard greens with a lot of butter, salt, and ham?