Marion’s Favorites: Collard Greens

“Boy, you better eat those greens! In this house…if I cook it, then you will eat it.”

I remembered my mother telling me those words when I was either eight or nine years old. It was first time I came across collard greens and it was one of the few vegetables that has remained in my diet as an adult.  I had no idea something that looked like collard greens could taste so good. My mother cooked those collards with ham hocks and it was the first vegetable I enjoyed eating.

The American South love their greens. A tradition throughout this region of America, greens have held an important place on the table for well over a century, and there is not another vegetable that comes close to its importance. Greens are any sort of cabbage in which the green leaves do not form a compact head. They are mostly kale, collards, turnip, spinach, and mustard greens. Collard greens are vegetables that are members of the cabbage family, but are also close relatives to kale. They are boiled or simmered slowly with a piece of salt pork or ham hock for a long time (this softens their rough texture and smooths out the bitterness) until they are chewable.

The style of cooking greens in the American South came with the arrival of African slaves to the southern colonies. However, collard greens did not originate in Africa. The ancient Greeks and Romans grew collards and kale. This vegetable has a long history and was a favorite for many people around the world.

Here are some facts about Collard Greens:

1) Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium. In addition, collard greens are a very good source of vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.

2) The health benefits of collard greens include detoxifying the body, supplying needed nutrients, preventing cancer, strengthening bone, supporting digestion, preventing anemia, lowering cholesterol level and supporting hair growth. Other benefits includes slowing down aging process, managing diabetes and improving mood.

3) In Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine, collard greens (or couve) is a common accompaniment to fish and meat dishes.

4) In Kashmir Valley (India), collard greens (haakh) are included in most of the meals, and both the leaves and roots are consumed.

5) Fresh collard leaves can be stored for up to 10 days if refrigerated to just above freezing (1 °C).

Collard Greens are not only a food that I grew up eating.  It is a food that has a lot of health benefits too. I’m so glad my mother forced me to eat those greens as a child and it is a vegetable I look forward to eating as often as possible.

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