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Collard greens facts for kids

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Collards in container
Young collard plants growing in a container

Collard greens (or collards) are loose leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea. Collard greens are part of the acephala group of the species, which includes kale and spring greens.

Collard greens are known for their large, dark colored and edible leaves. They are also known as a garden ornamental.

Collard greens are available year round. They are tastier and more nutritious in cold months, after the first frost.

Description

The cultivar group name Acephala ("without a head" in Greek) refers to the fact that this variety of B. oleracea does not have the close-knit core of leaves (a "head") like cabbage does. The plant is a biennial where winter frost occurs, and a perennial in colder regions. It is also moderately sensitive to salinity. It has an upright stalk, often growing up to two feet tall. The plant is very similar to kale. Popular cultivars of collard greens include 'Georgia Southern', 'Morris Heading', 'Butter Collard' (couve manteiga), couve tronchuda, and Groninger Blauw.

Cultivation and storage

Collard green field in North Centre Township, Columbia County, Pennsylvania
A collard green field in Pennsylvania

The plant is commercially cultivated for its thick, slightly bitter, edible leaves. They are available year-round, but are tastier and more nutritious in the cold months, after the first frost. For best texture, the leaves are picked before they reach their maximum size, at which stage they are thicker and are cooked differently from the new leaves. Age does not affect flavor. Flavor and texture also depend on the cultivar; the couve manteiga and couve tronchuda are especially appreciated in Brazil and Portugal.

Fresh collard leaves can be stored for up to 10 days if refrigerated to just above freezing (1°C) at high humidity (>95%). In domestic refrigerators, fresh collard leaves can be stored for about three days. Once cooked, they can be frozen and stored for greater lengths of time.

Nutritional information

Collards, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 137 kJ (33 kcal)
Carbohydrates 5.6 g
- Sugars 0.4 g
- Dietary fiber 4 g
Fat 0.7
Protein 2.7 g
Vitamin A equiv. 380 μg (42%)
- beta-carotene 4513 μg (42%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin 6197 μg
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.04 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.11 mg (7%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.58 mg (4%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.22 mg (4%)
Vitamin B6 0.13 mg (10%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 16 μg (4%)
Vitamin C 18 mg (30%)
Vitamin E 0.9 mg (6%)
Vitamin K 407 μg (388%)
Calcium 141 mg (14%)
Iron 1.13 mg (9%)
Magnesium 21 mg (6%)
Manganese 0.51 mg (26%)
Phosphorus 32 mg (5%)
Potassium 117 mg (2%)
Sodium 15 mg (1%)
Zinc 0.23 mg (2%)
Water 90.2 g
Full Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Like kale, collard greens contain substantial amounts of vitamin K (388% of the Daily Value, DV) in a 100 gram serving (table). Collard greens are rich sources (20% or more of DV) of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese, and moderate sources of calcium and vitamin B6 (table). A 100 gram serving of cooked collard greens provides 33 calories, is 90% water, 3% protein, 6% carbohydrates and less than 1% fat.

Culinary use

Collard greens have been eaten for at least 2000 years, with evidence showing that the ancient Greeks cultivated several types of collard greens, as well as kale.

Southern United States

Collard greens are a staple vegetable in Southern U.S. cuisine. They are often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens in the dish called "mixed greens". Typical seasonings when cooking collards are smoked and salted meats (ham hocks, smoked turkey drumsticks, pork neckbones, fatback or other fatty meat), diced onions, vinegar, salt, and black pepper, white pepper, or crushed red pepper, and some cooks add a small amount of sugar. Traditionally, collards are eaten on New Year's Day, along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, to ensure wealth in the coming year. Cornbread is used to soak up the "pot liquor", a nutrient-rich collard broth. Collard greens may also be thinly sliced and fermented to make a collard sauerkraut that is often cooked with flat dumplings.

Tanzania and Kenya (East Africa)

Collard greens are known as sukuma wiki in Tanzania and Kenya. Sukuma wiki is mainly lightly sauteed in oil until tender, flavoured with onions and seasoned with salt, and served either as the main accompaniment or as a side dish with the preferred meat (fish, chicken, beef, or pork). In Congo, Tanzania and Kenya (East Africa), thinly sliced collard greens are the main accompaniments of a popular dish known as sima or ugali (a maize flour cake).

Brazil and Portugal

Caldo verde
Caldo verde, a popular Portuguese soup made with collard greens

In Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine, collard greens (or couve) is a common accompaniment to fish and meat dishes. They make up a standard side dish for feijoada, a popular pork and beans-style stew.

Thinly sliced collard greens are also a main part of the popular Portuguese soup, caldo verde ("green broth"). For this broth, the leaves are sliced into strips, 2–3 millimetres (0.079–0.118 in) wide (sometimes by a grocer or market vendor using a special hand-cranked slicer) and added to the other ingredients 15 minutes (900 s) before it is served.

Kashmir

In Kashmir Valley, collard greens (haak) are included in almost every meal, and both the leaves and roots are consumed. Leaves in the bud are harvested by pinching in early spring when the dormant buds sprout and give out tender leaves. Also, seedlings after 35–40 days (3,000–3,500 ks), as well as mature plants, are pulled out along with roots from thickly sown beds. When the extending stem bears alternate leaves in quick succession during the growing season, older leaves are harvested periodically. Before autumn, the apical portion of the stem is removed along with the whorled leaves.

The roots and leaves may be cooked together or separately. A common dish is haak rus, a soup of whole collard leaves cooked in water, salt and oil along with many other spices, and usually eaten with rice. Collard leaves are also cooked with meat, fish or cheese and in the winter, collard leaves and roots are fermented to form a very popular pickle called haak-e-aanchaar.

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