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Collard Greens



Lacinato  (left) with Collard Greens (right)

Collard greens
Scientific classification
Species:B. oleracea
Cultivar Group

Brassica oleracea Acephala Group

Collard greens (also called collards or borekale) are a group of loose-leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea Acephala Group, grown for their large, dark-colored greens and as a garden ornamental, mainly in Brazil, Portugal, the Southern United States, and in many parts of Africa. They are classified in the same Cultivar Group as kale and spring greens, to which they are extremely similar genetically.

The plant is also called couve in Brazil, couve-galega in Portugal, (col) berza in Spanish-speaking countries. The name "collard" is said to derive from Anglo-Saxon coleworts or colewyrts ("cabbage plants").

The plant

The Cultivar Group name Acephala Group ("without a head" in Latin) refers to the fact that this kind of cabbage does not have the usual close-knit core of leaves ("head") of regular cabbage. The plant is a biennial in cooler climates, perennial in warmer regions. It has a stout upright or twisted stalk, up to 60 cm tall. Compared to other cabbage cultivars, it is relatively resistant to cold and frost.

Collards originate from the Mediterranean region, and was a regular food item in Ancient Greece and Rome.

The plant is very similar to kale (col crespa in Spanish), but kale has smaller and crinklier leaves, with tougher stems and veins.


Collard dishes

The plant is commercially cultivated for its thick, slightly bitter edible leaves. They are available year-round, but many people believe that they are tastier and more nutritious in the cold months, after the first frosts. For best flavor and texture, the leaves should be picked before they reach their maximum size. Flavor and texture also depend on the cultivar; the couve-manteiga and couve tronchuda are especially appreciated in Brazil and Portugal.

Only firm, dark green leaves are fit for consumption; any wilted or yellowish leaves must be discarded. Fresh collard leaves can be stored up to 10 days if refrigerated to just above freezing (1 °C) at high humidity (>95%). In domestic refrigerators, fresh collard can be stored for about three days. Once cooked, it can be frozen and stored indefinitely.

Collard leaves have little food value and are poorly digestible when raw. They are usually consumed cooked, as meal fillers and as a source of dietary fiber, especially as a balance to fish and meat dishes. They are also rich in vitamins A, C (which however is destroyed by cooking), B1, and B2. Each 100 g of leaves provides 46 calories (190 kilojoules) of food energy and contains 4 g of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, 7 g of carbohydrates.

Collard greens in US cuisine

Collard greens are a basic "soul food" of the Southern United States cuisine. They may actually be prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard leaves in "mixed greens". They are generally a "winter" dish in the South, as the plants tend to run to seed during warmer weather. Traditionally, collards are eaten on New Year's Day (along with black-eyed peas and hog jowls) to insure wealth in the coming year, as the leaves resemble folding money.

Collard greens in Brazil and Portugal

In Brazil and Portugal, collard greens are common accompaniments of fish and meat dishes. In Brazil, they are a standard side dish for feijoada (a popular pork-and-beans stew). The leaves are sliced into strips, 1 to 3 mm wide (sometimes by the grocer or market vendor, with a special hand-cranked slicer) and sautéed with oil or butter, flavored with garlic, onion, and salt.

Thinly sliced collard greens are also the main ingredient of a popular soup, caldo verde ("green broth").

The juice pressed from fresh leaves and leaf stalks, taken regularly, is popularly believed to be a remedy for gout, bronchitis, and blood circulation problems.

See also

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