Collard Greens
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Collard Greens, (Brassica oleracea var. acephala), also known more simply as just “Collards,” or sometimes even just “Greens,” are an underappreciated Leafy Green vegetable. Collard Greens are a member of the Brassica Family that includes Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage and Kale, which is Collard’s closest plant cousin. The cultivar group name “acephala” means "without a head" in Greek and describes Cabbage-like vegetables that do not form a head (a close-knit core of denser leaves). Because Collards should be cooked for consumption, they are also a Boiled Green Vegetable. 

Collard Greens, with their large, dark-colored, edible leaves, have been a part of the human diet in the Mediterranean and Africa as far back as prehistoric times. The ancient Greeks and ancient Romans also grew Collard Greens and Kale but they did not distinguish between the two. The Romans may have even introduced Collard Greens to Europe and Britain around the 4th Century B.C. The name "Collard" is a corrupted form of the British word "colewort" another name for a Cabbage plant.

The explorers most likely brought Collard Greens to the new world where they are popular in Brazil (called Couve) and the southern U.S. where Collard Greens are the official State Vegetable in South Carolina and a “mess ‘o greens” most often means a large batch of Collard Greens.

Season

Although Collard Greens are available year-round, they are at their best from January through April.

Availability

Collard Greeens are available year round.

Cultivation

Collard Greens are grown, sometimes as high as two feet, for their slightly bitter, thick, edible leaves. They are a perennial plant in very cold regions (and a biennial where it just frosts) making Collards technically available year round, but they are tastier and more nutritious in the cooler months, especially after the first frost.

Pick the leaves before they reach their full growth when they will be thickest, tougher and harder to cook.  The age of the plant will not impact their flavor.

Production

Varieties

Popular cultivars of Collard Greens include “Morris Heading, “Butter Collards (couve-manteiga),” “Georgia Southern,” and Couve Tronchuda.

Purchasing

When buying Collards, look for specimens with dark green leaves that have no wilting or yellowness. Remember, Collard Greens decrease in volume some as they are cooked. Our rule of thumb is about 4 to 6 ounces (113 to 170 g) per person.

Storage

In the typical home refrigerator, fresh Collard Green leaves, in a plastic bag, can be stored for about three days. Once cooked, they can be frozen and stored for greater lengths of time. In a commercial refrigerator with higher humidity (>95%) fresh collard leaves can be stored for up to 10 days, if they are held refrigerated just above freezing. Once cooked, they can be frozen and stored for greater lengths of time.

Also, if you have separated the leaves from the stalks, you can freeze the stems like you might freeze Green Beans. Freeze the stalks loose on a cookie sheet for a few hours, then remove them and bag them for storage in the freezer.

Culinary Uses

Collard Greens have a taste that is similar to Kale, but with a stronger cabbage flavor and a heartier, chewier texture. The leaves are pretty tough (almost leathery) and need cooking to become Tender. Collard Greens can cook a long time though before becoming mushy, so they are a good choice to accompany longer cooking items. They will give off the Cabbage stink of a Cruciferous Vegetable though, so open some windows.

Because the stems are very tough, conventional wisdom dictates that we cook with, and eat, the leaves of Collard Greens and avoid or discard the stems, but the stems can be used like Broccoli stems, by stripping out the ribs before Mincing them pretty fine to make them more palatable and a Good Chew. Sauté them maybe with some Caraway Seeds and Minced Onion for flavor and they can make a good Side Dish. Using the stems also improves your Yield. Before cooking with Collard Greens, swish them in a water-filled sink, draining the sink, then repeating the rinsing until the leaves are dirt-free.

Collard Greens, which came to the South with the arrival of African Slaves, are, today, a staple vegetable of Southern U.S. cuisine. Collards can be eaten year round. The classic preparation is inspired by the ingenuity of the Slaves who were given meager leftovers with which to make a meal. Typically, they Stewed the Collards slowly with Smoked and fatty Salted Meats (like Ham Hocks, Pork Neck, or Turkey Drumsticks), Onions, and Vinegar.

In the South “Mixed Greens” are a mess ‘o greens including Kale, Turnip Greens, Spinach, Mustard Greens and Collard Greens. Because the leaves of Collard Greens resemble cash, they are frequently eaten on New Year’s Day, along with Black-Eyed Peas & Cornbread to ensure wealth in the New Year.  The Cornbread is used to absorb the nutrient-rich, green, Collard broth or “Pot Liquor,” left over after cooking. Smart Kitchen has a Stewing Collard Greens Recipe, which is a good way to slowly cook this leaf vegetable and a Sautéing Collard Greens Recipe, which is a good way to quickly cook Collards.

Collard Greens can also be Sliced thin and then fermented to make a Collard Green Sauerkraut.

In the Portuguese speaking world, Collared Greens, or “Couve,” are popular as accompaniments for Fish and Meat dishes such as Feijoada (a Pork and Beans Stew). Collards are also popular in Caldo Verde (green broth), a Portuguese Soup made with thinly sliced Collard Greens.

Collard Greens, which have large leaves that are good for wrapping other ingredients, are also one of the “tortillas” of the Raw Food movement.

Portion Size

Allow 4-6 oz of Collard Greens per person.

Nutritional Value

Nutritional Value USDA
COLLARDS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 32
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 17mg
4%
Potassium 213mg
1%
Total Carbohydrate 5g
16%
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Collard Greens are considered to be the second Healthiest of the Leafy Greens according to Cari Nierenberg writing on Web MD. The link goes to Web MD. 

Collard Greens are low calorie (46 calories per 100g or 25 calories per half cup), a good source of Vitamin C, and Vitamin K (Vitamin K helps clotting so eat Collard Greens in moderation if you are on blood thinners). Collard Greens also have a good amount of soluble fiber and some compounds that are thought to be potent anticancer agents such as diindolylmethane (UC Berkeley researchers believe it also has antiviral and antibacterial potential) and sulforaphane.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes