Growing Collards

This mainstay of the Southern dining table is an excellent element to any garden.

Soul food isn’t only for people living who live in the South. True collard greens (Brassica Oleracea Acephala) are a common staple for Southern gardens and food and are typically consumed during New Year’s Day to help bring luck to the next year. However, the extremely nutritious, extremely cold-resistant plants have been grown for more than two millennia in northern African and in the Middle East, and southern Europe. Did I mention that they are a superfood that is loaded with vitamins?

Collards, an upright , slender plant that has just a single stem that may grow many feet tall, with the vast and thick leaves, takes it’s name by referring to “colewort” which is an ancient wild cabbage. Acephala is a Latin word meaning “without a head” and can be applied to all loose-leaf types of the cole family , which includes broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and the kale.

Since collards thrive in cooler weather It is usually planted in late season, either in the fall or even in late winter for harvest prior to hot weather turning the leaves to be bitter. Similar to other members of the cole family, it’s easy to start from seeds during the mid- to late summer , or even in the winter months however transplants are available in the latter part of winter and summer, around the time that broccoli and cabbage plants appear in the garden centers.

Popular varieties include cold-resistant Vates and warm-weather-tolerant Georgia LS (long-standing), Blue Max with its blue-green foliage along with Morris Heading; there are several others that have varying degrees of heat or cold tolerance, and with silky or savoy (ruffled) leaves. Collards that are planted in the fall typically “bolt” (start to flower) during warm late spring temperatures, whereas spring-planted collards are able to be harvested throughout summer provided they are kept well-watered and free of pests.

Similar to its cabbage relatives collards do best in full sunlight and with an occasional feeding prior to the time of planting, and then again after they are about a foot tall. If you mix in plenty of compost to the soil prior to planting, this drought-resistant plant will require no watering once it is established. They are not susceptible to serious diseases, but are extremely attractive to caterpillars that are green and have”cabbage looper” and the white “cabbage looper” which are easily removed or spray with toxic BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).

Collard leaves can be picked all through the year, however they become less bitter following a frost, or during winter, making them popular in warm winter conditions. The leaves can be cooked as similar kale that is thick and thick, typically in soups or stir-fried along alongside other leafy vegetables. The leaves “cook down” quite a little, so make certain to collect at least a pound prior to making. Cut or tear large leaves off stems, then chop them into small or medium pieces, then cook in olive oil along with cooked chopped onions, garlic, along with chicken broth. Affionados typically cook using a bit of bacon or ham, and grease. Add salt pepper, salt, and an optional splash or hot chili sauce. To give it an REAL Southern flavor you can add a little sugar.

Join the global food revolution and give collards this season in your kitchen or in your garden and discover yourself why we Southerners should not keep something this simple, easy to make and yet so healthy to us!

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