Collard greens

Why Eat It
Nutrition Chart

Why Eat It

A cruciferous vegetable with disease-fighting potential, collards, along with kale, are among the oldest members of the cabbage family to be cultivated. Like other cruciferous vegetables, collards are a good source of vitamin C and are rich in phytochemicals, including sulforaphane and indoles, that may protect against cancer. Levels of beta-carotene, and other nutrients, in leafy greens appear to be linked to the presence of chlorophyll, the green pigment produced by photosynthesis. So the deep color of these greens signals that collards (unlike their paler cabbage-family cousins) are also rich in beta-carotene.

Collards supply a good amount of folate (folic acid)--a disease-fighting B vitamin--and a substantial amount of calcium.

Their large, smooth leaves, deep green in color, don’t form a head, but grow outward from a central axis. Each leaf is attached to a long, heavy stalk (which is inedible). Collards are one of the milder greens; their pleasantly bitter flavor is somewhere between cabbage and kale.


Collard greens are at their best when grown and stored at cool temperatures, so they're available well into the winter.


Collard greens should be kept in a chilled display case or on ice in the market, as they will wilt and become bitter if left in a warm environment. Choose smaller-leaved plants for tenderness and mild flavor, especially if the collards are to be eaten raw; coarse, oversized leaves are likely to be tough. Look for a fresh green color--leaves should not be yellowed or browned--and purchase only moist, crisp, unwilted greens, unblemished by tiny holes, which indicate insect damage.


Wrap unwashed collard greens in damp paper towels, then place them in a plastic bag; store them in the refrigerator crisper for three to five days. Their sturdy greens make collards better keepers than delicate greens such as sorrel.


Collard greens, like other "cooking greens" should be well washed before using. Trim tough stems ends, soak greens in tepid water, letting dirt and grit settle to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the greens out, leaving the sand and grit behind; repeat if necessary.

If collards are very young, their stems can be removed and the greens can be cooked like spinach. While young tender collards may be available to the home gardener or at local farmers' markets, the collards that are generally available are more mature. Braising is the preferred method of cooking mature collards. Chop washed greens into 1" pieces. Saute an onion and some garlic in a little olive oil until tender, then add collards stirring until coated. Add water or broth to cover and a little salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour until the greens are tender. Serve the greens with their cooking liquid or "pot liquor" as it is known in the South and a portion of just baked cornbread.

While in the South, collards are typically cooked with bacon, a vegetarian version can be made utilizing a touch of liquid smoke and a chipotle (smoked jalapeno) pepper to mimic the smoky flavor of bacon. Saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil, add collards, pepper, liquid smoke, and water or vegetable broth and proceed as above.

Nutrition Chart

Collard Greens/1 cup cooked

Total fat (g)
Saturated fat (g)
Monounsaturated fat (g)
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
Dietary fiber (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Cholesterol (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Beta-carotene (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Folate (mcg)
Calcium (mg)
Manganese (mg)

Date Published: 04/20/2005
Previous  |  Next
> Printer-friendly Version Return to Top