The greener things in life

This is the first of three food memos about collard greens.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-2-37-10-pmAlthough it may need a little loving in the kitchen, collard greens provide vitamins and nutrients and have been doing so since prehistoric times.

Collard greens are members of the Brassicaceae family and it originated in Asia Minor. It was later spread throughout Europe and Africa. Kale and collards are cabbages that don’t grow in a compact head, according Texas A&M’s cooperative extension service.

The Greeks used to cultivate kale and collard greens, not distinguishing between the two.

The cooking style found in the southern parts of the United States, according to the “What’s Cooking America?” article, came from African slaves. Collard greens and ham hocks (pork knuckle) or other parts of animals were given to slaves to cook. Eventually, those low-brow foods entered the mainstream in the Southern U.S.

Although collard greens can be grown year-round in subtropical climates, they are most tender and sweet during the winter and its following months, according to Specialty Produce.

After being cooked down, the broth, called “pot likker,” can be common to drink as a home remedy, according to “What’s Cooking America?”

Collard greens are rich in Vitamin K. It’s an anti-inflammatory and can prevent cancer and heart disease, according to Specialty Produce.

Collard greens contain a chemical compound called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), which causes its bitter taste, according to Specialty Produce. But, not everyone can taste the bitterness in food, according to a genetic study from the 1930s by chemist Arthur L. Fox.

Similar to kale, collard greens have a rough texture before cooked. Uncooked green shave a dry taste and can be difficult to chew. It takes time to cook greens well. Traditionally, a ham hock is used in cooking down the greens to add flavor and to help with the bitterness. Collard greens, like other similar leafy plants, wilt — and they do it quickly.

It only takes about ten minutes in a pot to see the plant begin to droop. After the greens have cooked for about an hour, a once-full pot will only be about half-full. According to “What’s Cooking America?” it’s a tradition in some cultures to eat collard greens with black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s for luck in the Southern U.S.


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