Collard greens were a complete mystery to me until about 3 years ago. The only time I’d ever encountered them was in a soul food restaurant that opened in our town, Kailua, Hawaii. It was a few blocks from our house and we’d go there from time to time for the delicious pulled pork. One of the side dish choices was collard greens, which were no longer anywhere near green. I figured that they were cooked to oblivion and camouflaged by pork because they pretty much tasted terrible on their own.
How wrong I was. My collard green education continued when my friend and food mentor Skya, of Ola Loa Wellness, showed me how to use their big sturdy leaves in place of taco shells. That prompted me to buy a baby collard green plant from the nursery. Little did I know that, 3 years later, I’d have a collard green forest. Those things never quit. You pick the bottom leaves and they just keep growing taller and making new leaves. You cut off a branch and 2 new ones sprout. They sturdy stems grow along the ground, take root, and then all of a sudden you have a whole new plant.
Having more collards than I knew what to do with, I gave them a shot. I’m so glad I did! It turns out that they’re tasty, and very versatile. They’re not watery at all when cooked. So when sliced thin, they hold up as a rice or noodle substitute base for saucy things. Chopped fine, they add delicious leafy green vegetable matter to stuffing type things and mixtures for meatballs and turkey burgers. I’ve found that they’re best cooked until just tender. Overcooking them causes them to emit a sulfur smell and actually taste a little bitter.
And of course collard greens are ridiculously good for you. To quote from Wikipedia, “Widely considered to be a healthy food, collards are good sources of vitamin C and soluble fiber, and contain multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties.”
I realize I’m fortunate enough to be able to go to the front yard and pick a bunch. But if you do have access to some that are reasonably priced, I recommend giving them a try.
- Collard Greens - 3 large leaves per person
- Butter - about 1 tablespoon per 3 collard greens
- Salt to taste
- Rinse and stem collard greens: hold a collard green by the stem with one hand. With the other hand pull up the stem.
- Put the collard greens in a steamer basket. Bring water to boil and steam collards green until they feel tender when you taste a little piece. About 10 minutes or so. Cooking times differ depending on the size and age of the collard greens, so taste them to check for doneness.
- Remove steamer basket from pot and let collards get cool enough to handle. Stack 3-4 leaves on top of each other on a cutting board. Cut across the leaf the short way with a large chef's knife, into slivers.
- Place slivered collards in a bowl that can be put into the oven to warm. Add butter and salt to taste and toss. Put into a 200° oven for 10 minutes to warm, just before serving.