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DSCN2244Collards are greens, greens are collards. (But there are other kinds of greens, too.) They are fundamental to Southern food, because they are nutritious and pretty convenient to grow.

In Georgia, you can harvest or buy local collards every month but July, August, and September. And you’ll want to plant collards in February, March, August, September, October, and November. Consult our Planting Calendar for more details.

Fibrous with a mild earthy flavor, they are excellent sources of beta carotene and good sources of vitamin C and calcium. The darker the leaf the more beta carotene.

The antioxidants and phytochemicals in collards may help to reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease. Collards contain very small amounts of fat and sodium.

Important note: Unfortunately, nutrients are leached out into the cooking liquid that many people pour down the drain. This cooking liquid or “pot liquor,” as it is called in Southern states, is full on valuable nutrients. Save it to add to soups or soak it up with a piece of hot cornbread.

Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup cooked collard greens)

  • Calories 56
  • Protein 1 gram
  • Dietary fiber 2.9 grams
  • Carbohydrates 2.5 mg 
  • Calcium 74 mg
  • Vitamin A 2,109 IU
  • Vitamin C 9 mg

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have recently discovered that 3,3′-Diindolylmethane in Brassica vegetables such as collard greens have  potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity traits.

Recipes

To Buy Collard Seeds

http://www.localharvest.org/collards.jsp

Planting Collards

Plant in early spring for summer harvest and again in midsummer for fall and early winter harvest. For more details, view our planting calendar.

Sow the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Thin the seedlings to 6 inches apart, allow them to grow until they begin to touch, then harvest whole plants to give 18 inches between plants. This allows enough space for plants to mature. Thinned plants may be eaten. Allow at least 3 feet between rows because plants become large.

If you maintain ample soil moisture during hot periods in the summer and control insect and disease pests, collards produce an abundant harvest.

Harvesting

All green parts of the plant are edible and may be harvested at any time during the growing season. Plants grown 6 inches apart can be cut at ground level when they reach 6 to 10 inches in height. Plants left at wider spacing should be harvested by picking the larger leaves when the plants are 10 to 12 inches tall. This harvesting method allows the younger leaves to continually develop for later use.

Some gardeners prefer the young, tender leaves and cut the inner rosette of young growth. This “loose head” may be blanched by tying the outer leaves together to keep out the sun. As with other cole crops, frost improves the flavor in the fall.

Common Problems

  • Aphids: Watch for buildup of colonies of aphids on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Cabbage worms: Three species of cabbage worms commonly attack the leaves and heads of cabbage, collards, and related cole crops. Imported cabbage worms are velvety green caterpillars. The moth is white and commonly is seen during the day hovering over plants in the garden. Cabbage loopers (“measuring worms”) are smooth, light green caterpillars. The cabbage looper crawls by doubling up (to form a loop) and then moving the front of its body forward. The moth is brown and is most active at night. Diamondback worms are small, pale, green caterpillars that are pointed on both ends. The moth is gray, with diamond-shaped markings when the wings are closed. The damage caused by diamondback larvae looks like shot holes in the leaf.The larval or worm stages of these insects cause damage by eating holes in the leaves and cabbage head. The adult moths or butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves but otherwise do not damage the plants. The worms are not easy to see because they are fairly small and blend with the cabbage leaves. Cabbage worms are quite destructive and can ruin the crop if not controlled. They are even worse in fall plantings than in spring gardens because the population has had several months to increase. About the time of the first frost in the fall, moth and caterpillar numbers finally begin to decline drastically.

Sources: University of Illinois Extension, Wikipedia, Local Harvest.