|New Veggie #69 - Collard Greens|
Collard Greens are a large leafy green belonging to the Cruciferous group of vegetables, the same family as cabbage, broccoli and kale. Collards are a headless-cabbage, with taste and texture similar to kale. The leaves are large, rowing paddle-shaped. Dark green in the fleshy parts, the vein stems are often contrasting in white. Most Americans associate Collards greens with Southern Soul cooking. However, these are commonly used in Asian, Green and Italian cooking as well. In Indian cooking, Collard greens are considered a staple part of the diet in Kashmir - where both the young and mature leaves as well as the roots are consumed (Haak). Historically, cultivation of Collard greens has been dated back to 5000 BC and are believed to have arrive in Africa and Europe via the Asia Minor trade routes around 400 BC. It is believed that by 1600 AD, collards were cultivated globally as a food.
Collard greens are packed with nutrients and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, beta carotene (Vit. A) and other anti-inflammatory Vitamins (C, E and K) are pretty well packed in there as well. In addition, collards have cholesterol-lowering properties common to other members of the family but they leave the other members (kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) in the dust. Collards surpass all of these vegetables in their ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract, allowing for the bile acids to be excreted from the body, thereby lowering overall cholesterol levels. Steamed collards show much greater bile acid binding ability than raw collards.
Due to their somewhat tough leaves, Collard greens are often cooked really slow (often with ham hocks in the American South). Quick braising allows for full nutritional retention and maximum flavor. Most people don't like collards raw, but some folks do use them in green salads to add flavor and texture. Traditional complimentary ingredients include garlic, various meats, mushrooms, potatoes, apple cider vinegar, lemon, bay leaves, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, tomatoes and various kinds of hot peppers. According to my research, late winter and early spring provide the sweetest and most tender Collard greens.
Fun Fact: Collard greens contain a chemical called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) which ascribes a slight bitterness. The fun fact is that only certain people, who are genetically predisposed to PTC, can taste this bitterness (about 70% of the human population).