Cleaning and Cooking Collard Greens
A Staple of the Southern Diet
It seems that cleaning and cooking collard greens is a Southern girl’s transition from childhood to womanhood in the South! Collards have been part of the Southern diet for centuries now. When I hear the word “collards,” I think of the days before the mega marts. These were the days when life was simpler, when every Southern family farmed the land. It is too bad that these wonderful greens are now only prepared at barbecue restaurants. With a little motivation and a spot of fertile land (you don’t need a lot, maybe a 4’x8′ section) you can easily grow your own “mess of greens.”
The first step in growing collards is, of course, buying the seed. I plant the variety Green Glaze, an old heirloom from the 1820’s, but other varieties such as Georgia Green are great as well. Plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep around 8 weeks before the first frost (Nov. 15 for central Alabama).
After the seedlings are about 4 weeks old, start thinning, spacing the collards first to about 4 inches, then to 6 inches. Don’t throw away the outcast; this can be your first harvest of collards. After you thin, you can continue to harvest the collards by snapping off the larger outside leaves and allowing the head to continue to grow. Once you have your collards inside, you are ready to start the cooking process.
How to Clean Your Collard Greens
Many people are scared to cook fresh collards for the hassle of having to wash away the grit and fearing the texture to be mushy and grainy (I know, I’ve had it too many times). It doesn’t have to be this way.
When you prepare to cook your collards, the first step you need to take is not to reach for the spices, but for the sink. This is the hardest step, but is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, or you will be taking a visit to the dentist. The easiest way to do this is to fill the largest pot you have up with water and place the collards in the tub. Give them a stir and let them bathe for about a minute.
Now remove the collards, pour out the dirty water, and replace with new water. When you see that pile of sand at the bottom of the pot, you will be glad you took the trouble.
Repeat at least 2 more times or until the collards release no more sand.
Enjoy delicious, clean collards–or any kind of greens, for that matter.
Note: Collard greens are loaded with Vitamin K, which is essential for health. It helps increase bone mass and may decrease the effects of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal damage.
Hint: If you do not want to go through the cleaning process above, soak the entire bunch of leaves in salt water for about 30 minutes then rinse the greens in running water for about 3 minutes before cooking fresh collards.
Cooking Your Collard Greens
Follow the easy recipe below for delicious, nutritious collard greens.
Southern Collard Greens
- Olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic
- 2 pounds collards washed and pulled from the stem
- 2 cups dry white wine such as a Chardonnay
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ¼ tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- Sweat the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds longer.
- Placed washed collards into sauté pan. You may have to add half of the greens to the pan and let them shrink and then add the other half. Add wine, broth, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and lower to simmer for 1 hour. Serve with Southern Fried Corn Bread crumbled up in your tasty collard greens!