Come January, those wanting to eat local are deep into a diet of greens and roots. Of the winter greens, none has more fans and detractors than collards. Seems you either love them or you don’t.
These tough sturdy greens are a mainstay of many local gardens and farms. Brennan Washington of Phoenix Gardens in Lawrenceville says one reason is that collards are very hardy and farmers and gardeners are assured of getting a good crop. Washington grows two varieties, ‘Vates’ and “Georgia,’ because he finds his customers are of two minds about how they want their collard greens.
“For the customer who wants their collards on the stalk, ‘Vates’ is the one to grow. Some customers like to get just the leaves and for them we grow ‘Georgia’ and harvest just the leaves, leaving the stalk to continue bearing through the season. It ends up looking sort of like a mop with a long stalk and leaves at the top,” said Washington.
He began planting collards in late August and early September, and while the collard leaves can be harvested at any time he says any good farmer knows the greens are best after a few frosts. “The frost seems to do something to the tissue structure of the plant, making it sweeter,” said Washington. He expects to be harvesting collards through the end of March.
While many of his customers cook their collards with the traditional Southern preparation using fatback or pork neck bones, he says there are lots of good recipes using collards sauteed in olive oil or served in a stir fry and he finds those healthy and delicious.
Throughout the year Phoenix Gardens offers a community supported agriculture box with pickup points at the Brookhaven and Norcross farmers markets. For the winter, they’ll have greens like collards and kale and lots of eggs available for pickup at the farm. Call to see what’s been harvested.
And if you’d like to visit the farm, it will be on tour during the Georgia Organics annual conference February 22-23. Check out http://georgiaorganics.org/conference/2013-farm-food-tours/ for more information.
At local farmers markets
Many local farmers markets have closed for the season. However, the Marietta Square, Decatur and Morningside farmers markets continue all year round.
Vegetables and nuts: arugula, Asian greens, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collards, cucumbers, dandelion, endive, escarole, fennel, frisee, green garlic, green onions, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peanuts, pecans, peppers, popping corn, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potatoes, turnips and turnip greens, winter squash
From local reports
Sweet Auburn BBQ Jamaican Jerk Collard Greens
Hands on: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Makes: 9 cups cooked greens
Sweet Auburn Barbecue offers these collards at its location in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market or from its food truck that travels the city. If you wish, spice up your collards with a garnish of red pepper flakes as they have been for this photo.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste
1 large bunch of fresh collards, washed and chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 quarts water
In a very large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, jerk seasoning, sugar, salt and Sriracha. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add collards and water and simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook 90 minutes or until collards are very tender. Extra collards will keep for up to one week.
Per 1/2-cup serving: 47 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 1 gram protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 453 milligrams sodium.