Everything You Need To Know About Collard Greens
Available year round, collard greens are a type of cruciferous vegetable (same family as broccoli and cabbage) that pack a ton of nutrition and fibre. These greens are often used in East African cuisine, Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine, Southern American-style cooking, and some regions of Indian cuisine.
The broad green leaves are easy to clean, easy to prepare, and offer a variety of different uses to incorporate more greens into your diet.
For the most part, collard greens are not labeled in grocery stores as different varieties (like apples or potatoes often are). You’ll typically see collard greens in their large form with leaves about a foot long and 6-9 inch wide. You may see some baby varieties of collard greens in the boxed salad green section. These baby greens are much more tender and are less bitter than their fully-grown counterparts.
Baby collard greens often are enjoyed fresh or in smoothies, while fully-grown collard green leaves are typically eaten cooked.
How to Select and Store
When selecting collard greens in the grocery store, look for bunches with firm, even coloured leaves. Avoid bunches of greens that have wilted edges or yellowing. Smaller leaves tend to be more tender, while the large leaves may be slightly bitter and tough. Choose accordingly, based on your cooking method (for example, picking the smaller leaves might be better if you’re using the leaves as a wrap).
Store collard greens in a plastic produce bag with as little air as possible in the vegetable crisper in the fridge. They should keep for 4-5 days.
How to Freeze
You can blanch chopped collard greens and freeze for later much like you would with kale. Wash greens and chop or ribbon the leaves. Chop the stems. Blanch in boiling water for about 3 minutes until the greens turn a vibrant green. Remove and shock greens in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain well, and package into airtight containers or freezer bags and freeze immediately. Use within 10-12 months in soups or stews!
How to Prepare
Both the stem and the leaves of collard greens are edible—the stems are tougher and take longer to cook. Wash them well in cool water and drain before using.
You can cut the greens into ribbons, chop the stems, or roughly chop the entire leaf + stem together. Some like to separate the stems to cook a bit before the rest of the leaves as overcooking collard greens may lead to an unpleasant texture and flavour.
Many like to blanch, braise, sauté or stew their collard greens and flavour with garlic, onion, broth, bacon, or more. It depends on the style of cooking you like.
If preparing collard greens for a wrap, simply chop off the stem (reserve for making broth or adding to soups), and shave off or remove the tougher ribbing of the leaf to make eating it raw a bit easier. You can even cut the stem and ribbing out completely, cut the wrap in half lengthwise and layer them to make one wrap together. This step by step tutorial from The Full Helping shows you how to shave off the ribs like a pro!
- Use collards much like you would use kale. They both have a similar texture, while collard greens tend to have a slightly sweeter flavour than kale.
- Try using raw or lightly steamed collard greens as a wrap instead of a flour tortilla! It’s a great way of incorporating more nutrition in your favourite everyday meals.
- If you dislike the bitterness of collard greens, blanch them or cook them just until that flavour is mellower. Overcooking collard greens can also impact flavour and texture, so keep an eye on them and taste as you go to ensure it is the way you like.
- You can also use fresh collard greens as the wraps for spring rolls instead of rice paper! They’re a little messier than the rice wraps but are a great way of adding more greens to your diet! Try to pick the smaller
What Goes Well With Collard Greens?
Produce: avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, garlic, kale, lime, mushrooms, onion, potato, radish, shallot, spinach, squash, sweet potato and tomatoes
Savoury: almonds, bacon, beans, cashews, cheese, chicken, chickpeas, egg, fish, pasta, pork, rice, sausage and seafood
Herbs & Spices: allspice, cinnamon, salt and vinegar
Other: maple syrup, cream, gravy and olive oil
You can stuff collard greens like you would when you prepare cabbage rolls. This plant-based version by Fat-Free Vegan looks very hearty and is PACKED with veggies! However, if you’re a carnivore, you might enjoy this version too.
Gluten-free? Try making your favourite burritos with collard leaves instead! This recipe from Love & Lemons looks pretty spectacular.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, 100g of cooked collard greens (about ½ cup) contains over 100% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A, over 400% of Vitamin K, 30% of Vitamin C, 15% of fibre (4 g), 13% of calcium, 8% of iron, 8% of magnesium, 7% of folate, and 6197µg of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Collard greens are an amazing source of nutrition!