Like kale, cauliflower and broccoli, collards are descendants of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have been consumed as food for thousands of years and to have originated in Asia Minor. From there it spread into Europe, being introduced by groups of Celtic wanderers around 600 B.C. Collards have been cultivated since the times of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Collards are an integral food in traditional southern American cuisine and are a staple in the Latin America cuisine.
Collard greens are a green, leafy vegetable that is a part of the “greens” family. There are several varieties, with collards being the most distinct due to their large, wide leaves. Collard greens have become a part of many Southern-influenced menus and are easy to cook at home.
Wonderfully nutritious collard leaves are very low in calories (provide only 30 cal per 100 g) and contain no cholesterol. However, these green leaves contain very good amount of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber that helps control LDL cholesterol levels and also; offers protection against hemorrhoids, constipation as well as colon cancer diseases.
Widely considered to be a healthful food, collards are rich in invaluable sources of phyto-nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties.
- Di-indolyl-methane found in collards has also found to be effective immune modulator, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties by potentiating Interferon-gamma receptors and production.
- The leaves are also an excellent source of folates which are important in DNA synthesis and when given during peri-conception period can prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- Fresh collard leaves are also rich in vitamin-C, which is a powerful natural anti-oxidant that offers protection against free radical injury and flu-like viral infections.
- Collard greens are also an excellent source of vitamin-A and flavonoid poly-phenolic anti-oxidants such as lutein, carotenes, zea-xanthin, crypto-xanthin etc. These compounds are scientifically found to have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is also essential for vision. Consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- This leafy vegetable contains amazingly high levels of vitamin-K which has potential role in the increase of bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bone. It also has beneficial effect in Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
- Collards are rich in many vital B-complex groups of minerals such as niacin (vitamin B-3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and riboflavin.
- The leaves and stems are rich in minerals like iron, calcium, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Look for collard greens that have firm, un-wilted leaves that are vividly deep green in color with no signs of yellowing or browning. Leaves that are smaller in size will be renderer and have a milder flavor. They should be displayed in a chilled section in the refrigerator case to prevent them from wilting and becoming bitter.
Place collard greens in a plastic bag, removing as much of the air from the bag as possible and store in the refrigerator where they should keep fresh for about three to five days.
TIPS FOR PREPARING AND COOKING
Proper cleaning of collard greens is very important prior to their use. As the stems and leaves tend to collect soil and dirt, it is always advisable to clean them thoroughly.
Before cleaning collard greens; cut the roots and place the leaves in a bowl containing lukewarm water. Clean properly, by using your hands, until and unless all the sand from the leaves have dislodged. After you have done this you can soak them with a little backing soda to disinfect the leaves of anything that might have been on them.
Use only the leafy portion of the vegetable, the stems can be removed easily, by using a sharp knife.
THE HEALTHIEST WAY OF COOKING COLLARD GREENS
A great way to keep all the nutrients in, place the large leaves on a cutting board cut off the hard stems and then roll the leaves up as tight as you can. Cut the roll in small strips like you would coleslaw and place the finely cut up collards in a large frying pan with a minimum amount of water, just enough to get it started. You can also sauté onions and garlic in the frying pan with a little olive or coconut oil before placing the cut up leaves in the pan. Once the onions and garlic are sautéed, place the collards in the pan and cover it with the lid and cook for about 5 minutes. The collards will produce some liquid of their own. Do not overcook.
HOW TO ENJOY
- Serve lightly steamed fried collard as described above with black-eyed peas and brown rice for a Southern-inspired meal.
- Use lightly steamed, cooled, and chopped collard greens as a filling in your sushi vegetable rolls.
- Use whole lightly steamed collard leaves like a burrito wrap and fill them with your favorite filling.
Collard greens contain measurable amount of oxalates for those that are sensitive to oxalates.