Sunday, October 21, 2012

Collards 101

Cooking collards 101...who knows how to cook collards? Do you know what a collard even is? Chances are if you are from the South, any where south of Virginia, you are familiar with collards. Well, except maybe Florida as that is the Northern retirement community. Collards are very prominent in NC, SC, GA, LA, AL and MS.

Collards or collard greens are a dark green leafy vegetable that is in the kale family. They have a tough texture and should be cooked long and slow. However, there is that wonderful time of year, Thanksgiving, that we southerners look forward to. That is because the first frost has hit the leaves! This gives a sweetness and tenderness to the otherwise tough leaves. There is also a variety called cabbage-collard, very hard to find that is a light green, smaller bush and the leaves are more tender and sweet.

Now let's talk about picking out good collards. You want healthy leaves, little to no holes, these are the markings of worms, no worms, best when purchased from a local farmer or friend who did not use any pesticides. The smaller leaves are more tender and have a less bitter taste. Buy the whole collard if possible or just tender leaves.

According to collards:

Health benefits of Collard greens

  • 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 healthful foods, collards are rich in invaluable sources of phyto-nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane that have proven benefits against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer cell growth inhibition and cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
  • Di-indolyl-methane 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, provides about 166 mcg or 41.5% of RDA. Folates 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. Provides about 59% of RDA per 100 g.  Vitamin-C 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 (222% of RDA per 100 g) 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 contain amazingly high levels of vitamin-K, provides staggering 426% of recommended daily levels per 100 leaves. Vitamin K 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 good in minerals like iron, calcium, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc.

collards bought and the stems pulled out, they are tough and take longer to cook,they are also stringy and not favorable to eat.

Stems removed

I cut my leaves up so they fit in the pot better and I can move them around during the cooking process with more ease.

Wash them thoroughly with warm water, rub the leaves and drain them well. Repeat twice.

Place the washed, cut collards into a large pot, don't worry they will cook down much smaller than this. Put several cups of water, a spoonful of bacon fat (if you are REAL Southern) or oil, garlic and a piece of cure ham, ham hock, or bacon into the pot. Cover and cook on med. high for 30-60 minutes depending on the toughness of the leaves. Stir every 15- 20 minutes and check the tenderness.

These have been cooked down. I will pull them out and place them into a bowl where I will use a collard chopper or vegetable chopper to make smaller pieces. Reserve the liquid or pot liquor if you want to cure what ales ya, drink it. NOT for the faint of heart :)
Add a dash of salt IF needed ,taste first. We add pepper vinegar to ours before eating.


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