ASK THE HORT AGENT
Question What is the connection between collards and frost?
Answer Collards are one of the most primitive members of the cabbage group. They do not form “heads” like most cabbage. They are also the first forms of cabbage used for food in prehistoric times. Cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans, they were introduced to Britain and France by either the Romans or the Celts. They reached the British Isles in 400 B.C. The first mention of collards in America was in 1669, but they may have existed here much earlier.
The word “collard” is a corruption of "coleworts" or "colewyrts". They are Anglo-Saxon terms meaning "cabbage plants".
Collards are considered cool-season vegetable greens, and they tolerate colder weather than other members of the cabbage family. They also outgrow other greens in warm weather.
Collards require 6-8 weeks after planting before they are ready for harvest. There are two common ways to harvest collards. Either the leaves are "cropped" (like tobacco), leaving the bud to grow new leaves, or the entire plant is harvested with one cut.
The freshly harvested leaves should be washed, cooled immediately to 34-40°F, and stored in the refrigerator crisper until used. Like other cooking greens such as turnips and mustards, collard leaves are cut into thin, chewable pieces and then pot-boiled along with meat or other seasoning until tender.
Collard leaves taste sweeter after a frost, because they protect their leaf tissues from freezing by converting some stored starch into soluble sugars. The presence of the dissolved sugar lowers the temperature at which the plant sap will freeze by several degrees. Most people prefer the flavor of greens with increased sugar content. Mmm, mmm sweet collards!
Collards are also rich in vitamins and minerals – especially vitamin A, K, C, folate, potassium, manganese and calcium. Some researchers rank collards as one of the “World’s healthiest foods.” Mmm, mmm healthy collards! http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=138
For more info on growing collards, visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8012.html If you need a taste tester, call me at 910-893-7533 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org The Romans eating soul food, who would have thought? It is hard to imagine ole Julius sipping wine and munching on fatback and collards.
Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent