What Are Collard Greens?

Explains where and how this popular vegetable is grown, its health benefits, and common uses for it in cooking.

Collards, also called collard greens, are vegetables that are members of the cabbage family. Because of this, they have a taste that is similar to cabbage and kale. Although collards are related to cabbage, they are also closely associated with the following vegetable types: broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Collards are grown in the southern United States, for example, in Mississippi, and in Europe. An example of a European country that uses collards quite often in their cooking is Portugal. Popular uses for collards throughout the world are to steam, boil, and microwave the vegetable or, to add it to soups and stews. While you can also add collards to cold salads, the collards should be cooked first prior to using them in a salad.

You can purchase collards year-round in many supermarket chains and in some specialty vegetable stores. Additionally, you can purchase collards seeds at many garden centers and through seed catalogs. You can identify fresh collards at a store by their fine, round, green-colored leaves. When purchasing collards, make sure that the collards have leaves that are bright green in color and that the leaves are fresh and are not wilted. Additionally, if smaller collards are available, select them, because they will provide a milder taste and will be softer in texture when cooked. Once you have purchased the collards, you can store them in your home for up to one week as long you place them in a plastic container and store them in your refrigerator.

If you would like to grow your own collards at home, note that collards grow well when planted during the summer months. Once developed, to harvest freshly grown collards, remove a few leaves from the plant making sure that each plant that you harvest has at least 3/4 of its leaves left intact after removing your selection. Allowing leaves to remain on the plants ensures a continuous growth for the plant.

When you are ready to use the collards for cooking, if necessary, you must first remove the leaves from their stems. In typical recipes, you use only the leaves of the collards. Next, wash the leaves thoroughly and cook according to your recipe. Some good uses for collards include combining them with black-eyed peas as a side dish, chopping cooked collards and adding them as an ingredient to stuffing or, sautéing them with ham, garlic, and onions to serve as an entrée.

Collards are also a healthy addition to your daily diet. They contain no fat or cholesterol and are low in sodium. They are also a good source of the vitamins A and C as well as iron and ascorbic acid. Additionally, collards offer dieters a healthy vegetable alternative because they are low in calories and are tasty and filling as well.

Collards present an interesting, flavorful, and nutritious alternative to dishes that call for cabbage, kale or a similar type of vegetable. Because of this, they are popularly used in many regions currently and will continue to be for many years to come.

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