Collard Greens 101

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Tired of salads? Enliven your intake with collard greens! These offer all the health properties of other greens, but are best served cooked. In fact, the hearty leaves of collard greens, a member of the cabbage family, can stand up to spices and high temperatures better than lettuce or spinach, making them a staple of soul food recipes. One favorite dish is collard greens paired with bacon or ham hocks, then braised for hours. As a result, the collard greens reduce to a smoky, succulent delicacy, with a tasty broth tailor-made for dipping with corn bread. Alternately, collard greens can be steamed or sautéed. If you want them raw, chiffonade and use as a garnish! Abundant with health-supportive vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, K, manganese, and folate, collard greens pack a nutritious punch.

Identification

Collard greens have broad, light green, paddle-like leaves with a pale green stem. You’ll find them fastened together in a bunch of four to eight stems, or prewashed and chopped in packages, in the lettuce section.

Taste

Raw collard greens have an astringent, almost bitter bite to them, so they aren’t the first choice to add to a salad unless they are chopped very fine. Steamed, boiled, or braised collard greens present a robust flavor similar to cooked kale or cabbage.

Availability

Fresh or packaged collard greens are readily available in supermarkets throughout the year. You’ll also find them at most farmers’ markets in early spring and late fall.

Season

Peak season for collard greens is between January and April. In Europe, you’ll find them from October through April.

Selection

Look for collards with sturdy, bright green leaves and smooth edges. Collards should smell slightly earthy. Avoid greens with yellowing tips or those that wilt when you hold them, as this indicates they have gone by.

Organic Benefits

When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen”. These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) indicates that non-organic collard greens are “contaminated with concentrations of organophosphate insecticides,” and are part of a new EWG designation category called the “Dirty Dozen Plus.” Therefore, choose organic whenever possible, or purchase from local farms that may not be organic, but that grow produce with minimal agricultural chemicals.

However, The Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.

Storage

Store collard greens in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To use them the same day of purchase, soak them in a tub of cool, clean water for a few minutes and shake off the excess dirt and water. Wrap them in paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper until ready to use.

Preparation

Soak collard greens in a tub of cool, clean water for a few minutes. Then rinse and shake them to remove dirt particles. Some chefs recommend letting collards rest after this process for a few minutes and sprinkling them with lemon juice to activate helpful digestive enzymes.

No matter the preparation, the collards’ tough stalks/stems should be removed. To do so, fold the leaf in half and hold it in one hand with the stalk pointing toward you. Cut off the stalk at the base of the leaf. The leaf’s smaller, interior stem usually breaks down well when the leaf is sliced into ribbons, but you can remove it if you like by cutting it out of the leaf.

When braising or boiling, slice greens in ¼-inch strips. For other dishes, a coarse chop should be fine.

Nutrition Summary

Vitamin K

Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bones. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.

Vitamin A

A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.

Vitamin C

This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure and heart disease risk.

Manganese

The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.

B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)

An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.

Health Benefits & Medical Claims

Collards are a noted superfood because of their long list of vitamins and minerals, including almost four times your daily requirement of vitamin K. They also assist your body’s detoxification process and reduce inflammation.

A side note: Collard greens, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and soy are considered by dieticians to be goitrogenic foods because of a certain combination of chemical compounds. If you have a thyroid condition, these chemical compounds can interfere with healthy gland function. Rather than eat them raw, make sure to cook collard greens and other goitrogenic foods to ensure optimum gland function

Little Known Facts
  1. Collard greens are a variety of wild cabbage, a plant that dates back to the prehistoric era.
  2. A classic Southern New Year’s Day tradition includes a meal of black-eyed peas, collards, and ham. Folklore suggests the combination represents luck, money, and a promising future with loved ones.
  3.  Ancient Romans and Greeks grew collard greens.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.