Hearty green heart-throb

Kale gets a lot of press as the go-to for greens lovers. And chard gets all of kale’s sloppy seconds. But where’s the love for collard greens? Why is no one singing the praises of this gentle giant of the brassica family?

Collards are milder than either kale or chard, without the sourness or bitterness that tends to come with other greens. Imagine for a moment how you would expect a leaf to taste – any old leaf. Collards are like that: sturdy to chew, with a pleasant ‘green’ taste. In some respects, it’s not entirely unlike broccoli in leaf form.

They tend to be cheaper, since no one’s going on about how grand they are, or dubbing them a ‘superfood’. It’s nice, on occasion, to dally with a humble vegetable that’s not under all that pressure. That’s not to say collards are any nutritional slouch. Pound for pound, they’re nutritionally similar enough to kale as to make no difference.

And collards are easier to prepare, with nicely broad flat leaves that lend themselves to wrapping or layering. It might just be my aversion to accidentally eating insects, but it takes me absolute ages to rinse out and inspect all the crinkly edges of your average kale. Flat-leaf kale is not readily available near me. Plus, if you can find a bunch of young collards with smaller leaves on, you don’t need to spend all afternoon trimming away tough ribs – the ribs are fine enough to be eaten with the leaves.

What do I do with collards? Just about what I’d do with any hearty green. In colder months, if I don’t saute them as a side dish, I chuck a bunch into a pot of soup or chili. They’re tough enough to withstand a fair amount of cooking, which makes them ideal for braises or stews. In warmer months, I prepare the leaves by blanching or salting them just to break down some of the toughness and mellow out that punch of raw green taste. I set aside larger leaves for wrapping, then chiffonade smaller leaves to be used as a side salad or to get a brief saute with some peppers and onions.

I’ve not yet tried to bake them into chips, but I feel they’d be up to the task. Anything kale can do, collards do better.