Tried and True: Collards

Some how I managed to grow up south of the Mason Dixon line without ever once tasting a collard green. In my mind, collard greens are those nasty, overcooked, mushy, stinky, soggy, dark veggies on the school lunch tray that kids managed to somehow further desecrate with a sprinkling of vinegar.

(Yes, we had collard greens on our school lunch trays.  That was back in the day, you know, before french fries counted as a veggie and our tax dollars, not the sales of high-sugar junk food in the cafeteria line, paid for our textbooks.  But I digress.)

Recently I’ve been on a mission to try new vegetables.  Leafy greens are particularly nutritious, and this time of year they are in season, fresh, and locally grown.  It just doesn’t get any better than that, folks.  When I came across this recipe on my friend Heather’s blog, I knew I had to try them.

I didn’t have sausage on hand so I used bacon.  And actually, I’ve used onion with good results.  These are fast becoming a once-a-week vegetable staple in our house.  It took my kids a few tries to warm up to them, but now they actually fight over the last spoonful in the serving bowl.  I KNOW.

Here’s whatcha do.

First, wash your collards thoroughly.  They come looking like this.


Then you chop them, or tear them, into rather largish bite-sized pieces.


Next, you brown some chopped up bacon (or sausage, I s’pose) in a big stock pot over medium heat.  (Heather says it should NOT be aluminum.  Mine is stainless steel.)


And add your collards.  I sprinkled mine with some sea salt.  My bacon is not cured, so it needs salt.  If you’re using cured meat, then perhaps adding salt is overkill.


Cover the pot.  They will wilt quickly.  Lower the heat to medium-low, and be sure to stir them around a few times while they cook.  They take about 20 minutes or so, and they are best when they actually start to brown just a little.  I actually discovered this by mistake the first time I made them.  I thought I’d ruint’em (that was for your southerners out there) but they turned out to be delicious.

I’ve also learned by trial and error not to under-cook them.  When they’re undercooked, they’re a tad on the bitter side and hard to cut.  This is one time you don’t have to be afraid of over-cooking a veggie.  And because you aren’t losing any nutrients in the boiling water, I’m assuming they retain their nutritional value, even after they are cooked near to death.  (Someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)

This is the final product.  They go great with pork chops and mac-and-cheese.  Or fried chicken.  Or, well, the possibilities are endless.


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32 thoughts on “Tried and True: Collards

    1. Now see, I don’t even know what that is. I’ve HEARD of it, of course, but I don’t know what it is or how you buy it. Sad, huh?

  1. Exactly how I cook them too! We have eaten a lot more collard greens this year since I’m trying to expand our veggie horizons too. I’m looking forward to trying (again) beet greens and swiss chard that I’m growing. Oh, and radishes. Never been my favorites but I’m willing to give them another go!

  2. I may have to try this. I’m a Northerner, born & raised, so I’ve never liked collards. I’ll have to see if they have some when I go to the store this morning!

  3. J-L, you should also try Kale — Oh. My. It’s SO good. In my opinion, it’s best not to overcook kale, and let it stay a little fresh/crisp. Get is fresh. It’s best from your own garden.

    And, btw, I do believe the correct pronunciation is “rurnt.” Doncha think? haha!!!

    1. I haven’t tried kale, although I did try broccoli rabe and swiss chard. I like broccoli rabe okay, although it turned out MUCH better the first time than it did the second, and I have no idea why. Swiss chard was okay, but I didn’t like it as much as the collards. Of course, I didn’t cook it in bacon, heh.

      So rurnt it is! 😉

  4. I’ll have to try them. We eat alot of sauteed spinach (like 4 times a week), and these might be a good way to change it up. Will your kids eat them?

    1. We love sauteed spinach too. Yeah, my kids do eat them, but it took a few tries. It was when I switched from cooking them in sauteed onions to bacon that they changed their tune. 😉

  5. My Paw-paw grew a big garden every year (huge) and he always had collards and mustard greens. I have never, ever, never liked them. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried multiple times and I can’t make it work. I also can’t eat baby bok choy (and probably the regular kind too) because it tastes (and smells, eww) exactly like greens. I think I’ll just stick with spinach.

  6. Thanks for this recipe. My husband came home with all the standard plants for our garden this year, but also got collards and eggplant (gag!). I had no idea how to cook collards, so now I know. Got any good ways to disguise eggplant?

  7. Yum! This reminds me of a recipe my MIL is always reminiscing about, called scalded lettuce. I should try it; I bet Glenn would love it!

  8. Those sound good! I’ve never had collard greens before. And they look like they’d be alot better with the bacon rather than the sausage.

  9. I just got a collard greens recipe from Southern Living. I was under the impression that collards would be bitter if you didn’t add any sugar (the recipe I have calls for a few tablespoons). I’m thrilled to learn that you don’t need the sugar, but is there any bitter taste? Or is it just a matter of cooking them long enough for the natural sugars to come out?

  10. I love your blog! Just a note, I am a southerner and we always cut the stems (the middle) completely out or you’ll be chewing on a hard stock sometimes. Wasn’t sure if you did that or not. Also, you don’t need to know what fatback is. You’re a healthy person! 🙂 Keep it that way! : ) MIchelle, yes, you have to cook the bitter out! Down here in Georgia, you can’t overcook collards. I’ve tried. 🙂

  11. I agree with Anna, definitely cut out the stem. I love collard greens.

    Reading everyone’s posts about school lunches recently makes me even more thankful for my daughters’ school, where they have real, healthy food!

  12. If you weren’t speaking southern I prob’ly wouldn’t even listen to you. I thought I was the only southern girl (okay, woman-girl doesn’t count at 40 does it?) who didn’t like collards. If it weren’t for the fact that I could live on pinto beans and cornbread, my family would think someone switched babies at the hospital. I’ll have to give these a try, though to be honest I haven’t found any green leafy thing yet that I like cooked. I prefer my leafy greens in a salad. Maybe the bacon makes at the difference? And I didn’t hear you say anyting about vinegar (yuck), so I’m assuming they’re eaten right out of the pan as is. At any rate, my hubby would like it if I started cooking collards, so I’ll have to try and get my hands on some soon.

    1. LOL. I always said the same thing b/c I don’t like sweet tea. WHAT SOUTHERNER DOESN’T LIKE SWEET TEA? I guess it’s fittin’ that I moved no’th. 🙂

  13. Never tried collards. I don’t know if I could even pick them out of a crowd of leafy greens. I really want to try new stuff though, so maybe? I also have never had brussel sprouts. Those tiny ones look so cute in the store – how bad could they be? Then again, those little cherry tomatoes look cute too but I am SO icked out by tomatoes!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog – glad you did!

  14. I never ate collard greens until a frien of mine joined a CSA and rec’d more collard greens than she knew what to do with. And what does one do with an over-abundance of collard greens? Give them to all your “friends.” 😉

    Since they were a gift, we felt like we had to eat them. My husband, the chef, cooked them similar to how you described. He rendered some salted pork in a pan. THen he threw in the greens with some butter until the butter melted. Then he filled the pot with chicken stock until the stock covered the greens and boiled it like that until the greens were tender. The taste of the greens was completely disguised by the chicken stock and butter! Yum!

  15. Collard tips:
    1. Rinse, drain, and repeat several times until water is clear. Rinsing is very important.
    2.Bring a pot of water to boil…add greens (turnip or collard) and boil for two minutes.
    3. Drain and discard the original water.
    4. Bring a new pot of water to a boil…add ingredients and cook as directed.

    Boiling the greens for the first two minutes will remove some of their bitter taste.
    Southern trivia: Juice from the greens is called: Pot likker (pronounced like liquor). Many people like this juice pored over corn bread.

  16. Awesome. I have not yet mastered the collard, so I’ll be sure to try throwing them in bacon when they come in the CSA. I think I wasn’t cooking them long enough and so they stayed bitter, like you said. Good to know I should just let ’em cook.

  17. Yes, we Southerners know Collard and Mustard greens, but would you believe that you can cook the leaves from fresh grown broccoli. Yes, you read that correctly. I sometimes mix the leaves of broccoli in with the other two. When I was much younger we found out by mistake just how good they were as the collard green leaves and broccoli leaves look very similar. Now go cook up a pot with some cornbread!!! Loaded with lots of nutrients too….

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