Food for Thought: Collard Greens

A field of collard greens.

What are collard greens?

Collard greens are a staple vegetable in authentic Southern cooking. A member of the cabbage family, they are similar in flavor and texture to kale.

Collards are more resistant to frost than any other cabbage variety, making them easy to grow and harvest in mild Appalachian winters. They are incredibly nutrient-dense and, when prepared correctly, delicious to boot!

A Southern Tradition

If you grew up in the South, chances are you are very familiar with collard greens. You would be hard pressed to find a true Southern restaurant that doesn’t have the vegetable on their menu.

Legend has it that eating collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will help ensure a prosperous year. The tradition has many possible roots (like one that says collards represent paper money and peas represent coins), but the most probable origin? Collards and black-eyed peas are hearty and healthy!

Fun fact: in 2011, South Carolina made collard greens their official state vegetable!

Health Benefits

Collards are bursting with vitamins and minerals! They’re also a solid source of protein, fiber, calcium and iron. This leafy vegetable is known to lower blood cholesterol levels, aid in digestion, and reduce cardiovascular inflammation.

A serving of cooked collard greens contains:

  • Vitamin A, which plays an essential role in the health of your eyes, skin, and teeth. It can also decrease your risk of cancer!
  • Vitamin K, which helps your blood clot when you get a scratch or cut. It’s also a huge helper for your bone health and can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Folate, a vitamin that helps to make new cells. Folate is particularly important to pregnant women and can reduce the chance of birth defects!

Sustainable catfish with pork belly collards and mac & cheese.

How to Cook Collards

While there are many ways to prepare collard greens, only one of them is considered “correct” by Southerners. The tried-and-true method is to braise them with a smoked or cured meat, like a ham hock or turkey wing.

When preparing collards, be sure to rinse them well first. Then, chop them into pieces and simmer in water with your cured meat and seasonings of choice (we like garlic and onion). After the collards are cooked, remove the meat, chop it up, and add it back to the pot.

Make sure to keep the cooking liquid, called “pot liquor” or “pot likker” to sop up with your cornbread!

Visit Tupelo Honey

We prepare our collards with delicious pork belly! Make a reservation to come try this scratch-made Southern side dish at one of our multiple locations today.