Collard, or collard greens, is one of the several common vegetables categorized under Brassica oleracea. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprout, and kale are also members of the same species but are different types. Collard is distinguished as Brassica oleracea, variety acephala. Collards have held a special place in Southern cuisine since forever.
Precisely, what is the collard plant, and why would you want to grow it or add it to your diet? Let’s read on and find out everything about this healthy vegetable.
Collard greens are like kale, but the leaves are broader and not frilly. They’re milder in taste and an essential source of a wide range of nutrients. They’re packed with Vitamins A and C and calcium and are also a good source of Vitamin K and iron.
You can add it to soups, stir-fry, and serve with meat dishes, puree it into pesto or add it raw to salads. There are plenty of health benefits to reap no matter how you serve it.
|Common Name||Collard, Collard Greens, Borekale, Tree Cabbage|
|Botanical Name||Brassica Oleracea, Variety Acephala|
|Plant Type||Biennial, But Grown As An Annual|
|Size (Fully Grown)||20 – 36 Inches (50 – 91 cm) High, 24 – 36 Inches (60 – 91 cm) Wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun To Partial Shade|
|Soil Type||One That Is Deep, Fertile, And Drains Well|
|Soil pH||From 6.5 To 6.8|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11|
|Native Area||Eastern Mediterranean And Asia Minor|
How Many Collard Green Varieties Are There?
This dark green leafy vegetable comes in many different varieties. You can either choose heirlooms for the same traditional taste that your ancestors have enjoyed or the newer hybrids bred for higher yields and bolt resistance. Here are some of the top favorite collard greens among vegetable gardeners:
- Top Pick
- Georgia LS
- Green Glaze
- Tiger Hybrid
- Morris Heading
- Old-Timey Blue
- Ellen Felton Dark
- Heirloom Collards
History Of Collards – Consumed Since Prehistoric Times!
Because collard is one of the oldest members of the cabbage family, people have consumed them for thousands of years. Though they’re quite popular in Southern cuisine, collards aren’t native to the United States. They have often been associated with the African slave trade and that the vegetable originated from Africa, but that’s not true either.
Historians have found evidence of wild cabbages, predecessors of collards, in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. They believe that these vegetables have existed here since before recorded history.
From Asia, collard greens eventually spread to Europe, where Romans and Greeks started to cultivate it over 2000 years ago. Ultimately, the humble vegetable spread to other parts of the world.
How Did It Infuse Into The Southern Culture?
So when did the Americans get a taste of these greens? With the first African slaves arriving in Jamestown, Virginia, in the 1600s, collards appeared in the Americas to become a staple, as we know it today.
The African-American community introduced collards to the states and defined how they were used in recipes. The culture of cooking collards in gravy and drinking its juices, called “pot likker,” is African.
Collards In Other Cultures
Today, collards are cultivated and consumed in many countries. Depending on the culinary culture of the region, they’re cooked and served differently in different areas. In East Africa, collards are called “Sukuma” and are lightly sauteed in oil to go with meat dishes. In Europe, they’re called “raštika” or “raštan” and are stewed with mutton, root vegetables, and potatoes in winters.
Collards are the main ingredient of a famous Portuguese soup, “Caldo Verde.” In Brazilian cuisine, they often go with fish and meat dishes. In India, Kashmiris often include haakh (local name for collards) in many recipes.
What Does Collard Look Like?
Collard is a non-heading Brassica oleracea crop that grows as a biennial or annual. The vegetable is grown for its leaves, which are harvested and consumed just like kale. They’re upright, branched plants that can grow up to 20 to 36 inches high (about 50 To 91 cm) and 24 to 36 inches (about 60 to 91 cm) wide.
They produce thick stems with broad leaves arranged in a loose bouquet. Unlike cabbage, collard doesn’t form a tight head. Like other cut-and-come-again crops, you can harvest collards many times.
Collard roots can grow very deep, usually to a depth of 2 feet (about 61 cm) below the ground. Gardeners who plan on growing collards amend the soil to a good depth to help feeder roots develop more freely. If you’re planting collards in a raised bed, remember to ensure a suitable height.
Collards are grown for the broad, paddle-shaped, dark green leaves available in the cool season. Like kale and lettuce, the leaves are arranged loosely in a rosette rather than an enclosed head. They’re smooth, with a dark green surface and light-colored, succulent veins.
They have a milder bitter flavor as compared to kale. You can enjoy the leaves raw or cook them for a softer texture. The taste turns sweeter after the plant has been exposed to a frost or two.
Gardeners usually harvest the entire plant while it’s still young, and it resprouts for at least one more harvest. As the plant matures, harvest the younger leaves as they’re tender and less bitter.
Generally, gardeners prefer varieties that won’t bolt easily. Bolting is the development of a flower stalk, after which the leaves start losing their flavor and size. Collard bears small yellow flowers on clusters called racemes. They have four yellow petals arranged symmetrically and are edible, just like the leaves.
Gardeners harvest the flower stalks as soon as they appear to save the crop from losing its flavor. The delicate yellow flowers have a cabbage-like taste and can be included in salads or garnished on meals.
In What Conditions Does Collard Grow Best In?
Collards are cool-season vegetables usually planted in late summers to early autumn for harvesting in winters. Northern gardeners plant it a little earlier to harvest in fall or early winters before the ground freezes. Here are some tips to include collards in your fall vegetable garden.
Collards are very cold-hardy. Some light frost will only enhance the flavor of your greens. Though they grow best when temperatures are in the range of 40 to 65°F (about 4 to 18°C), collard greens can tolerate temperatures as low as 15°F (about -9°C).
But, if the weather stays below freezing for long periods, you may lose your harvest. They take about 60 to 85 days to mature from germination. In mild-winter regions, you can also grow them through the winters.
Soil And Sun
In the cool climate, collards will grow best in full sun. But, some light shade will benefit the plants if the weather is hot. Grow them in well-drained fertile soil, amended beforehand with plenty of organic matter. The soil pH should ideally be between 6.5 and 6.8.
Water And Fertilizer
The best collards grow in consistently moist soil. They need about 1 to 1.5 inches (about 2,5 to 4 cm) of water each week to continue growing with full vigor for multiple harvests.
Keep the plants well-watered, especially if you’re growing them through spring for a summer harvest. Moisture will keep the soil cool, preventing the plants from bolting due to higher summer temperatures.
Sidedressing with compost every 4 to 6 weeks pushes the plant to continue growing through multiple harvests. Or, you can also side dress with a 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer at the same frequency.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Collards?
Green vegetables, such as collards, can reduce the risks of many severe health conditions when included in your regular diet. Collard greens are packed with nutrients and offer many health benefits. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals and an excellent source of dietary fibers.
Despite the impressive nutritional profile, are there any health risks that you should know about? Let’s find out:
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Consuming collards in usual food amounts is safe and healthy for pregnant and nursing women. Since there isn’t much information if excessive consumption is suitable, it’s best to avoid overuse.
You can include collards in a child’s diet from 6 months of age. Since they contain nitrates, they can cause a disorder called methemoglobinemia or blue baby syndrome in children younger than six months.
But, collards are entirely safe for kids older than six months and offer a good source of nutrients for healthy development. Since they’re stringy and hard to chew, puree them before serving to make them easier to eat.
People With Allergies
Some individuals have a cruciferous vegetable allergy. Besides collard greens, they’ll also be allergic to kale, cabbage, broccoli, and all other vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family.
People With Diabetes
Green vegetables, including collards, are very beneficial for people with diabetes. They can help manage blood sugar, insulin, and lipids levels.
Collard greens are not toxic to your pets. Consumption in small quantities is harmless, but don’t feed it in large amounts as it might upset their stomach.