Few things are more Southern than collard greens with some fryin’ salt and fatback, but a meatless collard meal is nothing new either. You can’t have a Seder without matzo balls, and you can’t go vegan without a collard green sauté with some wild rice and fresh marinara in the background.
How to Cook Greens 101 – a collard primer
Collard greens are leaves from the Brassica oleracea plant, in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, and kale. For centuries the leaves (pictured in No. 1) have been a staple in the South, including on Thanksgivings tables all over the country – they’re among the most popular items on Black Friday.
But collard greens are not just a Staple on the Southern agricultural and culinary scene. Population growth and immigration have brought them to spots in the northeast and along the west coast, too. There are dishes in West African, Ethiopian, Indian, and Indonesian cuisine featuring the leaves.
Let’s start at home, with a classic Southern-style meal : collard greens how to cook.
In the big pot. Add sliced onions, thinly sliced garlic, stir in hot sauce, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Once the onions are soft – about five minutes – dice up the fatback, brown in a little cooking oil, add to the pot a bowl, then throw in the collards and stir.
Six to eight hours later, voila! Southtowns soul food straight from the pot.
Collards are also a good, meatless option for family-friendly fall and winter holidays, including Passover.
Collards can be also be used as a side for dishes like fried chicken, dressing, and crusty mashed potatoes. I like to make collard kimchi from Western Massachusetts, which uses the greens along with Napa cabbage, old-fashioned daikon radish, carrots, garlic, green onions, soy sauce, and chesse feta.
“If the leaves – spinach-like in terms of landscape – are prepared correctly, with timing and seasonings impeccable, they’ll be tender rather than chewy,” says author and scientist Gordon Waugh.