When Pleasant Henderson was appointed steward at the University of North Carolina in 1797, he was tasked with providing each student “a Dish or Cover of Bacon and Greens” for supper each night. Henderson did a fine job supplying greens, but when he started cutting corners on meat, students stoned his house in 1801 and he skipped town.

Collard greens have been a part of Southern foodways and folklore for centuries. Not only are they tasty, they are said to bring good luck if eaten on New Year’s Day or tacked to the ceiling. Putting a leaf over the door wards away the Evil Eye, and putting a leaf damp with dew on the forhead is a sure cure for headaches, according to many elderly Southerners.

Collards were among the first crops brought to the South by the English. Native Americans called collards “Quelites” and adapted them to their agriculture, and enslaved Africans brought their tradition of simmering them slowly over low heat until the collards are tender and the water has boiled down to a nutrient-rich liquid called pot liquor.

The virtue of pot liquor is even part of the Congressional Record; Huey P. Long, senator from Louisiana during the Great Depression, included a tretis on the benifits of sopping up pot liquor with cornbread in a 15 1/2 hour filabuster on the floor of the United States Senate.

An excellent source of vitamins A and C  and fiber, collards are also high in calciom and antioxidants

At the market, look for collards that have firm, deep green leaves with no yellowing or browning. If it’s before the first frost, pick smaller leaves—they’ll be more tender and less bitter. After first frost, they’re much sweeter.

Store unwashed collards in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. They’ll keep for three to five days.

Since collards grow close to the ground, they must be thoroughly washed in several changes of water before cookin to revove grit and dirt.

The traditional Southern way of cooking collards is to simmer them slowly in a stewpot with pork.

Collard Greens on Foodista

Traditional Southern Collard Greens

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