With the arrival of the African slaves to the southern U.S. colonies came the Southern style of collard green cooking. Like many foods that originated at the time, this way of cooking greens grew out of a need to provide food for their families and satisfy their hunger with the scraps that were thrown their way from the master’s kitchen. Slaves were given ham hocks, pig’s feet, and the tops of greens and would turn these leftovers into a meal that created the famous southern greens. But they would keep at least one tradition from Africa – drinking the juice, called pot likker, left over from cooking the greens.
There are some superstitious traditions associated with collard greens as well. Every New Year’s Day those who believe in the tradition, or just like to play along, will serve up collard greens with black-eyed peas and hog jowl for a year of good luck and good finances. Others might hang a fresh collard leaf over their door to keep bad spirits away, and a fresh leaf on the forehead is said to promise a cure for a headache.
Collards’ unique appearance features dark blue green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively large. They lack the frilled edges that are so distinctive to their cousin kale. Collard greens, unlike their cousins kale and mustard greens, have a very mild, almost smoky flavor. Although they are available year-round they are at their best from January through April.
Collard Green Facts
1. In a recent study, steamed collard greens outshined steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage in terms of its ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract.
2. Collard greens are a cruciferous vegetable (leafy green)
3. We get unique health benefits from collard greens in the form of cancer protection. The cancer-preventive properties of collard greens helps lower cancer risk, and contain nutrients that help three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body’s detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system.
4. Over 80 nutrients are found in collard greens
5. Collard greens contain a sulfur ingredient that helps detox the body
6. Collard greens contain antioxidants that help fight cell stress
7. Collard greens contain anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin K that help to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease
8. Collard greens contain Folate which is a critical B-vitamin for support of cardiovascular health, including its key role in prevention of homocysteine build-up.
Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey Wings
2 bunches of Collard greens
1 bunch of Mustard greens
1 fully-cooked, smoked turkey leg or wing
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 of white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 cups of chicken broth
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Remove the collard green leaf from the steams. Discard the stems.
Wash the collard greens several times in cold, salted water to remove the dirt and grit. Tear collard greens into bite size pieces. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat a Tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the chopped onions & garlic and saute until tender.
Pour in the chicken broth, red pepper flakes and smoked turkey wing. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for about 10-20 minutes.
Add in the collard greens. Cook on med-low heat for about 45-60 minutes or until tender. Do not boil the collard greens, let them steam cook.
When done, season with pepper and hot sauce if desired.
Serve the meat right along side the collard greens and don’t forget that you can drink the juice!