Garden to Kitchen: Cook with Home Grown Greens
I have a thing for homegrown greens. It started several years back, on Mother’s Day, when my daughters and I helped my mother plant a garden in her backyard.
All summer, we shared in the harvest of fresh herbs, tomatoes, collard greens ... oh, the collards! They grew higher than my then-toddler. Mom taught me to cook them Southern-style—flavored with vinegar and sugar and bacon grease—as her mother had taught her. I was hooked.
Soon after, I planted a garden of my own, crammed into my small suburban backyard. Each season it grows a bit larger (it spread to the front yard this year) and a bit more diversified. But there are always collards! Every spring, every fall, seeds or starts go in the ground. And with little effort, they mass produce. One summer I grew so many collards, I was giving them away in bunches, swearing I’d never plant them again.
But I do. In the fall and winter garden, they grow among many other leafy greens, including kale, a wide variety of lettuce, and various mustard greens. All make their way into my kitchen, where they are simmered, chopped, or massaged into something delicious and nutritious!
IN THE GARDEN: As I’ve mentioned, this dark-green, leafy vegetable grows well here nearly year-round. Plant collards in the fall for a high-quality crop, and again in the spring for a high-yield crop. The standard variety for our area is Georgia, which can be grown from seed or transplanted right into your garden. When your plants’ leaves are full, harvest them from the bottom up, and the greens will keep on giving (growing new leaves from the center) all season long!
IN THE KITCHEN: A member of the cabbage family, collards are loaded with disease-fighting beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, as well as decent amounts of calcium and fiber. Aside from simmering them in a pot Southern-style (my recipe follows), try using the leaves raw as a wrap, or blanch them and roll them up, stuffed with a rice and meat mixture (think stuffed pepper filling), then bake at 350° for about an hour.