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It is a common fact, that green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients. Health experts often suggest an increased intake of leafy greens, for improving health. In general, they are found to be very low in fat; but high in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. As far as green leafy vegetables are concerned, the family Brassicaceae is worth mentioning. Some of the highly valued leafy greens, like Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cress, kale, cabbage, and arugula, belong to this family. Collard greens are related to kale, and are mainly grown in Brazil, Portugal, and certain parts of the United States.

Some Interesting Facts

Unlike cabbage and cauliflower, collard greens lack flower heads or close-knit leaves. They are composed of loose leaves that are arranged on a short stem, that can grow up to two feet in height. The plant is a cultivar of Brassica oleracea (wild cabbage), from which most of the cruciferous vegetables are developed. These vegetables are cultivars of Brassica oleracea, and are classified into seven different groups. One of them is Acephala Group, which contains kale and collard greens. In Greek, the name 'Acephala' means 'without a head' and the members of this group have loose leaves only.

Collard greens have bluish-green leaves, that are smooth and veined. Unlike kale that has frilled leaves, collard greens are plain. They have a mild smoky and bitter flavor. These leafy greens are available throughout the year, but those harvested during cold months are found to be the best. Smaller leaves are tender, with a mild flavor. While buying collard greens, choose leaves, that are fresh and green, with no signs of wilting or yellowing. You may store these leaves in the refrigerator for up to five days. In that case, pack them in a zip lock bag. Nowadays, you may also get different collard green cultivars, that may vary slightly in flavor.

Southern Collard Greens Recipe

You may find a whole lot of regional recipes with collards. These leaves are usually cooked with fish, meat, and other leafy greens, like kale and spinach. The following is a simple southern collard greens recipe.

Ingredients
  • Collard greens - 4 pounds
  • Ham hocks - 1½ pounds
  • Crushed red pepper flakes - ½ tsp.
  • Water - 1½ quarts
  • Vegetable oil - ¼ cup
  • Salt and pepper - as per taste
How to Prepare

Trim and rinse the leaves. Keep them aside, and slash the ham hocks lightly. Take a large pot, and boil water in it. Make sure that the pot is having a tight-fitting lid. Add the ham hocks, and cook over low heat with the lid on, for around half an hour. The next step is to add the collard greens, along with the crushed red pepper flakes. Cook the ham hocks and collards for the next two hours. Make sure that the lid is on while cooking. Stir the contents occasionally. After two hours, add the vegetable oil, and cook for another half an hour. You can serve this southern style collard greens with cornbread or hoecakes.

In short, collard greens can be a nutritious as well as delicious addition to your diet. Those who are interested in gardening may plant some collards, and enjoy the goodness of these fresh leafy greens.