I am sure lots of gardeners will agree with me that we never really get over the amazement that something as tiny as a little round black seed no more than 1mm across can turn into a beautiful big vegetable like this. If you're not sure what it is exactly, but can see the cabbage family resemblance, your hunch is a good one.
Its botanical name is the same as ordinary cabbage, Brassica oleracea, and its origins as a vegetable aren't known for sure, which is a story common to the many and amazingly varied types of Brassica oleracea out there, including cabbage, wombok, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli… and this lovely thing, collard greens.
Collard greens are a staple green vegie not only of the Southern USA, but also of countries such as Brazil and Portugal. It's the Southern USA connection which got me interested in them, as I ate and enjoyed some while driving across the USA in 2011. When I bought a copy of the Soulicious eBook by Awia Markey, she included a packet of collard greens seed with the CD she mailed out. So around late August I planted them, they came up in around 10 days, and they've been growing well ever since.
|One irresistibly charming thing about the plant is the way that|
raindrops sit up on it like big jewels, in much the same way
raindrops do on nasturtiums and the leaves of broccoli.
As for cooking it, I gave it a try last Saturday night and was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting it to be a bit like spinach and silver beet, in that a whole lot of uncooked leaves shrink and wilt their way into a tiny puddle of shapeless green veg.
Not so with collard greens. In terms of texture and form (but not flavour), they remind me mostly closely of broad-leafed seaweed that I encounter in Japanese restaurants sometimes. In terms of flavour it's mild and pleasant, but given a boost with the traditional additives of onions, garlic, a touch of chilli and smoked meat. So, what follows is my Saturday night collard greens experiment, which worked out well.
|Step one, harvest all the outer large leaves from the larger of|
the two plants. This bowl full weighed about 1lb, or 500g.
|Drain in colander, set aside.|
|After 20 minutes of cooking the broth, I added all the leaves|
to the pot, and popped a lid on to let the simmering continue
for another 30 minutes.
|It'd take a much better photographer/stylist than me to make|
a plate of collard greens look exciting, but they did taste very
nice indeed, much milder in flavour than silver beet. As I mentioned
earlier, the leaves hold their original texture very well.
|And, it being a birthday weekend for this new|
member of the 60-year-old gardeners club, we
washed down our new culinary discovery with a
glass or two of very non-traditional but eminently
|The thing I really like about Awia's Soulicious eCookbook is that|
you can print out the page you want, instead of having a whole
book cluttering up your bench space. You can spill spices,
liquid, garlic etc on it then toss it into the compost at the end.
You can order the eBook from Awia's Facebook page, and that's
the best way to get the recipe, but the basic proportions I used
were: 500g leaves (enough to serve 4-6 as a side dish); 250g
smoked meat (Awia uses turkey legs or thighs – red meat, not white
breast meat; I used Polish kielbasa garlic sausage); 2 minced
garlic cloves (if you're using smoked turkey, but omit if you are
going for garlic sausage); 1 onion, chopped; chilli flakes to
taste (about 1 teaspoon is a fair bit); pinch of salt; pinch of
sugar; pinch of bicarb soda (baking soda). The method is
explained in the photos above.