Often considered staple greens in the Deep South, collards are one of the few greens that are at their best between January and April, and have become more available across the country due to their growing popularity. Just when you thought you couldn't have anything other than root vegetables!
Collard greens belong to the same family of vegetables as broccoli and cauliflower, but do not form "heads." Instead, collard greens have broad, flat, dark green leaves that are high in fiber and packed full of nutrients. One cup of these greens provides more than 100% of the daily recommended intake for Vitamins K and A, and 50% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C and folate. We get unique health benefits from collard greens in the form of cancer protection. The cancer-preventive properties of collard greens may be largely related to 4 specific glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: glucoraphanin, sinigrin, gluconasturtiian, and glucotropaeolin. Each of these glucosinolates can be converted into an isothiocyanate (ITC) that helps lower our cancer risk by supporting our detox and anti-inflammatory systems.
Because collard greens withstand more intense cooking than many vegetables, traditional Southern recipes for collard greens often involve braising or slow-cooking the leaves in a broth infused with smoked bacon or ham hocks (the more health-conscious cooks nowadays substitute smoked turkey meats). When preparing collard greens for cooking, wash the leaves well because they tend to collect soil.
Steaming collard greens means you get the maximum nutrition and flavor. Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil chop greens. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with dressing and top with your favorite optional ingredients.
- Rinse collard greens under cold running water. Chop leaf portion into 1/2-inch slices and the stems into 1/4-inch pieces for quick and even cooking.
- To get the most health benefits from collard greens, we recommend letting them sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking.
- Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit may be able to help activate their myrosinase enzymes and increase formation of beneficial isothiocyanates in the greens.
- Use steamed chopped collard greens as a filling for sushi.
- Toss them into your favorite soups to hike up the nutritional quotient.
- Stir-fry thin strips with garlic and serve with a dash of cider vinegar or lemon juice and hot pepper flakes.
Handling & Storage:
- Look for collard greens that have firm, unwilted leaves that are vividly deep green in color with no signs of yellowing or browning. Leaves that are smaller in size will be more tender and have a milder flavor.
- They should be displayed in a chilled section in the refrigerator case to prevent them from wilting and becoming bitter.
- Place collard greens in a plastic bag, removing as much of the air from the bag as possible.
- Store in the refrigerator where they should keep fresh for about three to five days.