Collard Greens!!

fresh-collard-greensWell, well, well—who knew? I knew—about the “lowly” collard greens– eaten by po black folks—kind of like po, turnip eating, white folks during the Depression—except black folks of every economic status know about eating collard greens. Now the new super food is—guess what?– collard greens. High falutin’ food experts are now telling folks to eat collard greens. Well, well, well how the mighty have fallen.

And just what are collard greens? I don’t need a fancy definition. I have known what collard greens are since I was 2. We grew collard greens in the garden in the back yard but we knew better than to eat them in the summer time—something about them giving you a strange fever. I grew up around good cooks who knew that collard greens weren’t worth eating until the frost hit them in the fall to tenderize and gave them flavor. My grandmother knew what foods not to eat “out of season.” Collards were one of them. Collards greens literally snap off when you pick them after the first frost so you know they are tender. You can eat collards all year long now. I learned a trick to avoid “collard fever.” I would put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes—just like frost hitting them.

Folks, including me, now eat collard greens all year long. I lived in Los Angeles and there is a collard green tree that can grow 10 feet tall. I picked collard greens in Los Angeles using a ladder. But the typical “Southern” collard greens grow to about a foot high with several leaves on one stalk. I have grown collards with leaves so wide you could fan yourself and keep cool. I’ve grown collards in such abundance that I gave them away by the bag full. Even here in Amarillo I have grown collards that I gave away. This year was an exception. Collards prefer cooler weather and don’t do well in hot dry climates. I’ve grown my best Amarillo collards in the fall, but for some reason this year, my East Texas seeds, did not germinate in September—too hot and dry. But now I can see collards coming up after the recent rain. We’ll see if I get a decent harvest.

So where did collards come from—from God! From a God who already knew what keeps us healthy. I grew up watching black women feed their puny babies collard green “pot likker” and mashed up corn bread to fatten them up. Some of these once-puny babies went on the play football in the NFL. Wikipedia says that collards are part of the “Acephala group” that also contains cabbage and broccoli. It says that the word “collard” is a “corrupted” form of the word “colewort” meaning “wild cabbage plant.” This spring I grew broccoli in my garden and noticed that the leaves under the broccoli crowns looked just like collard greens—so I picked them and cooked them. Cooked and tasted just like collards. So why do stores sell the broccoli crown and throw away the very nutritional green leaves—go figure—what a waste. Wikipedia also says that collards are grown all over the world, Brazil where it is called “couve”, Portugal, where it is called “couve galega,” Africa, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Spain, where it is called “berza” India, where it is called “haakn” Tanzani and Kenya, where it is called “sukuma wiki,” New Zealand, where it is called “Dalmatian cabbage,” and of course the good old USA. According to Wikipedia, “Collard greens have been eaten for at least 2000 years, with evidence showing that the ancient Greeks cultivated several forms of both collard greens and kale.”

So why should we eat collard greens? According to Wikipedia, “Collard greens are widely considered to be a healthy food, collards are good sources of vitamin C and soluble fiber, and contain multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties, such as diindolymethane sulforaphane. Roughly a quarter pound (approx. 100 g) of cooked collards contains 46 calories. Collard greens are also a high source of vitamin K and are recommended to be eaten in moderation by individuals taking blood thinners. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have recently discovered that 3,3′-diindolylmethane in Brassica vegetables such as collard greens is a modulator of the innate immune response system with potent antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer activity.”

So how do you cook collards? Folks cook collards “every which-a-way.” My grandmother cooked them “all day.” But the quickest way to cook collards is to wash them first in soapy water, then cut them in 1-inch strips. Don’t throw away the stems—that’s where your best fiber is. Add olive oil to a skillet, add cut up onion or garlic, then toss in the collards and stir fry until they are tender—keep tossing until tender. You don’t need to cook collards half a day. There are so many recipes for collards you can have a hard time choosing which one. Sometimes I put them in my pressure cooker and as soon as the pressure regulator start to jiggle I turn off the heat and let the pressure drop. They are cooked to perfect tenderness in about 5 minutes.

Eat collards instead of donuts and you will lose lots of weight. Eat collards first thing in the morning and avoid all the other fatty stuff that is making you fat and sick. And you don’t need “pork fat back” to cook collards. If you must, add a little chicken broth for flavor. Bon appétit eating a big old plate of collard greens.

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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