[Couve (Brazil), Couve-galega (Portugal), Berza (Spanish); Brassica oleracea group Acephala]
This cabbage, closely related to Kale, may have originated in Western Asia, but was well known and cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Either the Romans or the Celts carried it as far north as Scotland. Scots took it to the American South where it was adopted by slaves because it could be used like African greens they were accustomed to cooking. Collards and Kale are much used in Africa today, but were taken there by European colonists less than 200 years ago. Collard is probably a corruption of the old English "coleworts" (cabbage plants).
Collards are also a popular side dish for fish and meat in Portugal and Brazil. These greens are very tough and rather indigestible raw, but are quite nutritious after cooking until tender. Because they are tough, they are often shredded fine. The photo specimens were were up to 15 inches long.
For more on Cabbage Greens
Buying: Collard greens are still very popular in the US Southeast, and are available in most groceries throughout the USA. Look for intact blue-green leaves without yellow or other discolorations. There are likely to be a few holes in the leaves made by cabbage worms - ignore them, they just show that pesticides were not overused.
Storage: Loosely wrapped Kale will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days, but will soon start to yellow and lose its vitamin content.
Prep: Collards are tough and can take rather long to cook, so they are often shredded fine. Remove the stems. Stack a couple of the leaf halves and roll them up as tight as you can from end to end, then slice the rolls crosswise very thin. The stems can be included in soup or stock for flavor and removed before finishing. In some cases larger leaf stems are peeled to remove fibers and cut into very short pieces included with the leaves for added texture.
Cooking: In Portugal and Brazil, Collards are very popular just shredded very fine, fried with Olive Oil or Butter, and served as a side dish. In the American Southeast collard recipes are often soups or stews, and may be cooked for 55 minutes to 2 hours, or even more. Note that recipe times may need to be adjusted as some countries have collards that are more tender than the ones here in North America.
Health & Nutrition: Collards have much the same nutrition as Kale, considered one of the highest of all vegetables for nutrition per calorie. Collards are very high in Beta Carotene, Vitamin K, manganese and Vitamin C. It is also high in Fiber, Calcium, Choline, Vitamins B2 and B6, Iron, Copper, Vitamin E and magnesium.
When Collards are chopped or chewed, enzymes produce Sulforaphane which is considered a potent anti-cancer substance, and also helps with diabetes. It is antimicrobial, and also thought to help inhibit heart inflammation.
Persons taking warfarin or other anti-coagulants are cautioned against eating Collards due to its high vitamin K content.
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