Move over, kale; the collard greens are coming. Collards are a staple in many Southern dishes and add healthy nutrients to any meal. Traditionally, collards are paired with ham hocks and other pork for flavor and richness, but we have plenty of delicious vegetarian options.
Robust collards, part of the cabbage family, are a culinary staple in the South, where they're traditionally cooked in a long, slow braise. However, with their surprisingly mild taste (there's just a hint of bitterness), these greens also lend themselves to faster recipes and work with hearty and light flavors alike. They're chock-full of vitamins B6, C, and E, and are an excellent source of calcium, folate, and beta-carotene.
Plus, their antioxidants may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Find collard greens year-round in the produce aisle. Choose crisp, dark-green leaves with no discoloration,and look for smaller leaves, which are younger and more tender. Once home, wrap unwashed leaves in damp paper towels, and store them loosely in a plastic bag. Refrigerate up to five days in the crisper. Collards can be gritty, so before cooking, wash them in several changes of cool water until no dirt remains at the bottom of the bowl. Their thick stalks are too tough to eat and should be removed; to do so, simply cut them out with a sharp paring knife.
In Season: The peak season for collard greens is January through April, though many supermarkets carry them year-round.
What to Look For: Choose collards with deep-green leaves. Avoid those that are limp or have yellow spots. The smaller the leaves, the more tender they will be.
How to Store: Wrap unwashed collard greens in damp paper towels and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. Stored like this, your greens will keep for up to five days. Wash thoroughly before cooking.