Collard greens grow best in zone 6. The plant also is more frost tolerant than other leafy greens and can actually improve the flavor of the plant. Plant collard greens in the late summer for a winter harvest. Collard greens grow best in moist, fertile soil, in full sun. Plants should be at least 3 feet apart. For mature leaves, allow 60-75 days until harvest; however the leaves are edible and can be harvested at any time during this growth cycle (1). Collard greens are in the same plant family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, so they should not be planted together. If planted in large quantities together, they will use the same nutrients in the soil, resulting in generally less nutrients that the plants need. Plant collard greens with hysop, thyme, and artemesia. These plants are also known as cabbage moth repellers. Dill is also a beneficial companion plant to collard greens, as it attracts wasps that prey on cabbage worms. Potatoes and onions are also good companion vegetables because they draw different types of nutrients in the soil than collard greens, which prevents the need for additional fertilizer for the collards (2).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Collards can be eaten raw in a salad or as a wrap. These greens can be steamed, sauteed, or cooked in a broth. Cooked in broth, all the nutrients and minerals from the collards' leaves leaches into the broth. Collard greens, known as couve, are popular in many Brazilian dishes, often as a side vegetable for a fish or meat dish. Collards were thought to have been brought to Brazil from Portugal, where it is also a popular ingredient. The plant is a key ingredient in the popular soup, caldo verde (3). In the United States, collard greens are a staple in the southeastern region, particularly in southern African-American Communities. It is believed that methods of cooking collard greens came from practices rooted in African cultures, dating back to the time of slavery in the U.S. A popular dish in Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya is called sukuma wiki, of which collards are a main ingredient. Recent research studies have shown that steamed collards have particularly strong bile acid binding abilities, compared to kale, mustard greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. Since bile acids are made from cholesterol, the net impact of this process ends up lowering cholesterol levels overall. Collards also support the body’s detox, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory systems. Imbalances of these systems increase the risk of developing cancer (4).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Collard greens have strong ties with southern African-American communities in the United States. The practice of cooking collard greens stemmed from the time of slavery in the U.S. and the necessity of providing food for their families. Collard greens used to considered kitchen scraps along with turnip greens, when they are in fact extremely nutrient dense foods. Collard greens were cooked with other leftovers - ham hocks and pig’s feet, and the remaining juices, called pot likker, was also consumed; a traditional practice from Africa. Collard greens have been passed down through the generations as a traditional southern food. One superstition is that cooking and eating collard greens with black eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring a year of good luck and finances (5). In the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, the food culture of the people living there, the Mineiros, is based on a small farmhouse. Many of the dishes are prepared with a style of serving fresh vegetables with meat, one of those vegetables being collard greens, also known as couve. In Kenya, collard greens are a popular ingredient in many dishes, as it is cheap and also plentiful. The popular dish, sukuma wiki translates to “stretch the week” which points to the resourcefulness of the plant (6).
1. Badgett, Becca. “Tips On How To Grow Collard Greens.” Gardening Know How. February 6, 2014. http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/greens/growing-collard-greens.htm
2. Beal, Janet. “Companion Planting With Collards.” Garden Guides. http://www.gardenguides.com/129562-companion-planting-collards.html#ixzz2xVseFuPm
3. Crandall, Russ. “Couve a Mineira Brazilian Collard Greens.” The Domestic Man. August 27, 2013. http://thedomesticman.com/2013/08/27/brazilian-collard-greens-couve-a-mineira/
4. “Collard greens.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=138
6. “Sukuma Wiki (Collard Greens).” Kenya Culture - Recipes. http://www.blissites.com/kenya/culture/recipes/sukuma.html