Last year, on a whim I purchased a small packet of collard green seeds. It was late in the season but I started a few transplants anyway, then got busy, forgot about them, remembered them, and set them out into the garden without properly hardening them off. Since they weren’t very high on my priority list, neither did I give them any sufficient protection from the cold. I just tossed them into the bed in very much of a sink or swim fashion and went about my business.
They swam (so to speak) and, in spite of my neglect, proved to be so hardy they are now on my list of “must~grow” staples in the garden.
What I observed about my amazing collards:
*My 4″ seedlings survived the cold and went on to produce in the spring, early spring, before we had any other greens available by way of lettuces, Swiss chard, or beet greens.
*The collards that we didn’t eat were allowed to go to seed. (I use the word “allow” loosely as I didn’t allow it, as much as I got busy with other things and sort of neglected them.)
*The seeds sprouted again, on their own, in mid summer, and went on to produce in temperatures as high as 106 and higher, again when no other greens were available. Now, three weeks into September, they are still producing. Given protection from the frost they’ll most likely keep in the garden bed almost making them a crop that can be grown year ’round.
Needless to say collards are a lovely, virtually maintenance free crop and no garden in zone 6b should be without them.
As you can see from above, they do just fine on their own but for those who would like more detail:
*Collards belong to the brassica oleracea family: the same family as broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.
*If you want to collect your own seed I recommend purchasing an heirloom variety (although the seeds I collected from the crop grown from the generic packet I got from the hardware store did just fine).
*In my area (zone 6b): Fall planting dates run from August 1 – September 1 (or later even) while the spring time frame would be February 15 – March 10. If you want to start transplants indoors from seed in order to get a head start, set your planting date back by six weeks.
*Space your plants about 12″ apart and use mulch to conserve moisture. I feed mine every two weeks or so with fish emulsion fertilizer (if I remember).
*Pests to watch out for would include the imported cabbage worm that looks like this:
*Planting your collards (or any of the brassicas) amongst aromatic herbs such as dill and mint will help deter the moth that produces the worm, but if you have a small crop and discover this pest they can easily be picked off. You can read more about pest control here.
Collard greens do have a sharp, somewhat peppery flavor and can have a tough texture. Don’t allow that to discourage you from serving them often. Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as Vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. I try to include leafy greens in our menu in some way or another several times a week. Following is my favorite way to prepare collards:
Start with a large colander full of clean collard greens. Greens of any sort will cook down considerably so gather and prepare about 3x more than what you think you will need.
Finely chop about six slices of nitrate free bacon, and slowly render the fat with a chopped white onion. Drain off part of the grease if you wish.
Deglaze the pan with 1c of chicken broth or a combination of broth and vermouth wine. Scrape up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add your collard greens and toss to combine with the bacon and the broth. Cover and allow to cook down for about 20-30 minutes or to desired doneness.
~Serve as an entree with cornbread. Combine with red or white beans for more protein if you’d like.
~Serve as a side with pork chops (fried chicken, fried fish, ham, etc.) and angel biscuits as shown here. The recipe for angel biscuits can be found on our Facebook Page.
~This same technique can be used to prepare other greens or a mixture of greens such as Swiss chard or kale.
What sort of greens do you like to grow?