Unless you grew up in the south, collard greens may be at best mysterious and at worst misunderstood. Most people think of them as a southern specialty that involves hours of cooking with a fatty smoked meat. This association has perhaps contributed to collard’s unfortunate reputation as being tough, unappetizing, and unhealthy. But the reality is far from the truth. While long cooked greens in the southern tradition are a highly flavorful dish, quick cooked collards can be equally delicious and may be more nutritious.
Collard leaves need only about ten minutes to cook. Stems, will take longer. Like kale, collards will retain some texture to them due to the amount of fiber in the leaves. Also like kale, they benefit from a liquid to help them soften and to cook all the way before they burn or stick to a pan. There is some suggestion that prolonged cooking can compromise some of the high nutritional quality of collard greens, so if you are a fan of super long cooked collards, it might be time to try some different methods.
Like other cooking greens, collards are highly nutritious. They contain high levels of vitamins K, A, C, B2, B6, folate, manganese and fiber and are also a very good source of calcium, iron and protein. There is growing evidence that regular intake of greens, including collards, can reduce cholesterol, cancer risk, and inflammatory response, due in part to their high level of micronutrients like antioxidants.
I was surprised to learn that compared to kale, collards are significantly lower in calories (only about 50 calories per cooked cup) and have almost double the protein. Also, among the most familiar greens (kale, chard, and spinach) collards have the highest amount of fiber.
When preparing collards, think kale. Like kale, collard leaves can be eaten raw as in thinly sliced collard coleslaw. The broad leaves can even be used as a substitute for bread in wraps or rice paper in summer rolls (see recipe below). For cooked preparations collards can be sautéed, blanched, steamed, or boiled. Cooked collards are a great source for omelets, frittatas, casseroles, soups and stews, burritos/wraps, rice or grain dishes, and pastas. Blanched leaves can also be wrapped around a filling, as with cabbage in stuffed cabbage rolls.
When shopping for collard greens, choose dark green leaves that are not yellowed or wilted. Store in plastic in the refrigerator for up five days. Wash well to remove any dirt clinging to the leaves prior to cooking. Thinner, younger stems will be tenderer than larger, older ones. Rather than throw them away, use the toughest stems in your next batch of homemade vegetable broth!
Fresh vegetables rolls are a great way to enjoy the end of season harvest. Collard leaves make a tasty, low calorie, and healthful substitute for rice paper in these beautiful rolls.
Collard Veggie Rolls with Red Curry Peanut Sauce
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup light or regular coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon coconut aminos, or 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
- 2-3 teaspoons Thai Red Curry Paste, to taste
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 Large collard leaves, washed and patted dry
- 1/2 medium cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 1 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
- 1/4 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 8 sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced lengthwise and cut into 2-3 crosswise pieces
- a few cilantro or basil leaves
- Make Sauce:
In a small saucepan, whisk peanut butter, broth, coconut milk, coconut aminos, curry paste and honey over medium heat until smooth and bubbly. If sauce is too thick, thin with more broth or water. If it is too thin, reduce over low heat until it reaches desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate for later use.
- Make rolls:
Cut the stem off up into about 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the bottom of each leaf (otherwise stem will be too thick and you will have difficulty rolling up the filling). Place leaf on a work surface with stem end facing away from you. On side nearest you, place a stack of the vegetable filling ingredients in the center of the leaf right up to the edge closest to you. Roll leaf up around filling and roll one rotation. Fold in sides and continue to roll, burrito style, until you reach the end of the leaf. Cut roll in half and place on a serving plate. Serve with room temperature or cold sauce.
Other potential Filling Ingredients: sprouts, avocado, shrimp, tofu, jicama, mango
Julie Wern is a psychologist turned stay-at-home-mom turned caterer. She is currently in training at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a nutrition and wellness coach. She is the author of Holcomb Farm CSA’s Simply Fresh blog and currently teaches cooking and cookie decorating classes. Contact Julie at email@example.com for comments and inquiries.