It’s easy to pass by collard greens in the market. If you didn’t grow up eating them, you likely don’t know how to cook them…and if you did grow up with them, you might have eaten them only cooked for a long time in a pot with ham hocks. That classic dish is great, but the truth is, collard greens are much more versatile than that. And they are, truly, a superfood—they are very nutritious.

To bring collard greens to your kitchen in some exciting ways, we turned to cookbook author Debby Maugans, who in turn got pickling tips from restaurateur and cookbook author Cathy Cleary (see below)…

In most areas, you can find fresh, local collards in the grocery store all year long. These greens actually like frost, making them an ideal cooler weather crop, but they also grow well in spring and summer.

When you see bunches of collards with shorter stems and leaves that are smaller and rounder, grab them. Collards are a sturdy green, but they should be just as tender as fresh kale and similar in taste. (If greens taste bitter, they have likely been stored for a long period of time or they were picked too late.) Tip: Collards at a farmer’s market are likely to be smaller bunches than you’ll find in supermarkets. These cook faster and are sweeter.

How to slice collards: Trim the stems from a bunch and make stacks of four or five leaves together. Take a stack, roll it up tightly and slice thinly for slaw, wider for salads. Repeat with the other stacks.

Here are five easy, delicious ways to prepare collards…

Super Collards Salad

With small, young bunches, you can even eat them raw. Slice leaves and tender stems very thinly and add them raw to slaw and salads—like you might kale.

Makes two to three servings.

  • 1 small bunch collards (10 to 12 ounces, about six to eight full leaves), tough stems trimmed, sliced (see tip above)
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Combine the collards, walnuts and cranberries in a large bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with blue cheese and serve right away or cover and refrigerate until serving time. When you serve, toss well and serve with freshly ground pepper.

Basic Sautéed Collards

Collard greens will retain their natural sweetness and maintain their deep green color if you cook them until just wilted.

Makes two to three servings.

  • 1 small bunch collards (10 to 12 ounces, about six to eight full leaves)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Trim, stack and cut the collards into one-inch-wide ribbons. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Add the sliced collards and sauté, using tongs to help lift and redistribute the collards in the skillet until they are just wilted and evenly cooked, about three minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ethiopian Sautéed Collards

This recipe will knock your guests’ socks off—especially if they’ve never cooked with collards themselves.    

Makes two to three servings.

  • 1 small bunch collards (10 to 12 ounces, about six to eight full leaves), sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Slice the greens as above and let the oil heat up in the pan. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the heated oil for 15 seconds and stir constantly. Add the collards and raisins, and use tongs to help you sauté until the greens are just tender, about three to four minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Coconut Curry Collards  

Sturdy ribbons of wilted collards are moistened and bound with a little coconut cream that smooths out the ginger and curry spices in this sauté.  

Makes two or three servings.

  • 1 small bunch collards (10 to 12 ounces, about six to eight full leaves), tough stems trimmed, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut cream (similar to coconut milk but a little thicker and available in many supermarkets)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted

Prepare collards for sautéing as above, and let the oil heat up in the pan. Next, add the ginger, curry powder and sugar to the heated oil for 10 seconds, stirring. After adding the collards, toss them well to coat, then sauté until just tender, four to five minutes. Add salt and pepper. Pour in coconut cream and stir well. Sprinkle each serving with one tablespoon toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes.

Cathy Cleary’s Pickled Collards

This is one of Cathy Cleary’s favorite ways to prepare collards and will not be forgotten by anyone you serve it to. She often brings some to her book signings, and usually leaves collard converts in her wake. You can add these “pickles” to sandwiches, tacos or burgers…or serve as a side dish with, say, grilled pork.

Makes three or four cups. Keeps in the fridge for up to six months.

  • 2 small bunches of collards, sliced (about eight cups)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion (about one large onion)
  • 1 cup diced carrot or red bell pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds

Measure eight cups of sliced collard greens into a large pot, pressing the sliced collards into a measuring cup to measure packed cups. Add the onion and carrots, then pour in the water and vinegar and stir in the salt, mustard seeds, coriander and caraway seeds. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, for three to five minutes. Pack in sterilized jars.

Tip: For a robust salad dressing to drizzle on any kind of grilled vegetables, whisk one-quarter cup of the pickle juice from the recipe above with three tablespoons olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic.

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