Latest, greatest experiment in vegetables: Collard greens and how to make them without ham!

I told you I am experimenting with all sorts of new vegetables. Well, the new veg of this week is ... wait for it ... erm, you’ve already read the headline haven’t you? ... well, okay ... collard greens.

The only thing is, they are not really new. To me. As in, I’ve had them before. But it was very, very different. Let me explain ...

I had collard greens in a restaurant in the south. They were great. But they were also boiled beyond any hint of recognition (I can only assume that every drop of nutrient that ever resided in those bold greens was leeched into the water long before they ever got to my plate) and, even worse, boiled with a hunk of ham hock.

I’m not sure what a ham hock is, exactly, but I have enough of an idea that I don’t want to know more. Nor do I, almost vegetarian person that I now am, want to eat it again. Ever.

Now do you understand why I had to approach collard greens as a new veg?

What are collard greens?
Interestingly (and I didn’t know this until after I ate them) collards are a type of cabbage. Just like kale. Which was the last great experiment in veg (an experiment that turned out really well).

Just like the kale, collards are hearty little fellows, resistant to cold and frost. And they are pretty nutritious, too, loaded with calcium (see, milk is not the only source), beta-carotene, a bunch of the B vitamins, and even some C. And, of course, they are naturally low in calories.

Buying your collards
As with kale, look for firm, dark leaves. Avoid yellow leaves or wilted leaves. Then store them in the fridge. They last quite well — life interfered and we didn’t cook ours until four days after we had bought them. You could not tell they were not really fresh.

Cooking your greens
I washed, then boiled, my bunch of greens for ten minutes. In the meantime, I sautéed a chopped onion with 4 cloves of crushed garlic cloves, a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil, and a good pinch of red pepper flakes.

When the greens were cooked, I blanched them (immediately dunked them in the bowl of ice water I had waiting) to keep that nice, strong, vibrant green color. Then I cut them into smallish bite-size chunks and threw them into the sauté pan with the onions for a few minutes.

It was quite tasty, but next time I will take the greens straight to the sauté stage without boiling, first. I know it will take longer, but I suspect this will be both more nutritious and more flavorful.

Tasting your greens
The leaves are slightly (very slightly) bitter. Certainly I found them to be far less bitter than dandelion. Like kale, however, collard greens are supposed to be better (tastier) in the colder months. So let’s make a mental note to try them in the fall.