Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Collards - A New Favorite

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” ~Siddhartha Gautamav

First and foremost I want to thank all of you who still have my blog feed coming to you. I’ve been absent for many months and so appreciate you for hanging in there, waiting for me to get my stuff together and resume writing. Thank you so much.

It has been an interesting year since my last post; filled with sorrow and emotional soul searching while settling dad’s estate and clearing my parents’ house to prepare it for sale. However, peppered amongst all that was much joy and new beginnings for me.

I went back to work, this time at a nursery, doing what I love most…working with plants, helping people with their gardens and spending lots of time with people who love gardening like me. Thus far it’s the most rewarding job I think I’ve ever had.

In late August, one of my customers came in specifically to buy collard seeds. I remembered her as I’d helped her a few times throughout the summer but hadn’t really got to know who she is as a gardener. Turns out she is a weight trainer, and we got to talking about growing greens for a healthy diet. I’d sold lots of collard plant starts in the spring and knew it was very popular in Southern USA cooking. Now, I love greens… kale, beets, mustards, chard, etc but many greens contain oxalic acid which is fine for some folks but not for those concerned with calcium issues. I had never eaten collard greens nor paid much attention to them. So as she was extolling all the virtues of collard greens I asked her if she knew if it was high or low in oxalic acid. She didn’t know so I made a mental note to do research on it when I got home. Then she gave me one tidbit that sold me on growing collards myself. That it grows all winter in our climate, which means you can have fresh greens all winter and even snowfall doesn’t faze it. She said you simply knock off the snow, pick the leaves and cook them up. Wow, I want to grow some of that! I did some research and found them to be low in oxalic acid. Then I bought a bunch from my green grocer to try them. Yum! So I bought some seeds and got a few starts going. Today I have about 8 plants in various sunny places around the perennial garden to see which locations are best. 

Collards are cool weather plants. They are best grown in spring and fall, like spinach and some kales. I say some kales because I grew a new (new to me) variety of kale this year that wasn’t fazed by hot days in the 90’s F (32+C). But that’s fodder for another post. Today we’re talking collards. Collards can grow between 40-75F (5-23C) with optimum growing temps of 60-65F (16-19C) degrees, and as with many fall weather crops they taste sweeter after a frost. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals and rich in carotenoids. Naturally, as with many greens, they are high in vitamin K so if you have blood disorders they may not be right for you.

Collards are from the Brassica family therefore the cabbage moth is something to guard against. The minute mine were in the ground that little white rascal of a moth was flitting around laying her eggs on the undersides of the leaves. We still had warm, sunny days at planting time and the moths were persistent, so I mixed up some BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) in my 1 gallon sprayer. BT is an organic pesticide that is used to kill leaf eating larvae and caterpillars. It degrades in the sunlight so spray it in the evening hours and re-apply every few days or once weekly, depending on your level of pest control needed. That’s why I mix it up in a gallon sprayer. I just keep it mixed and use the gallon over a period of several weeks. It makes it easy to do a quick spray when I get home from work or after dinner. Frankly the cabbage moths were making a mess of my kale too so every few days I’d spray the whole lot, concentrating on the underneath of the leaves.  And I’ll say this about the collards…the cabbage moths seemed to like the kale more than the collards. Way more egg laying going on with the kale. Now that the weather has turned cold and wet, the moths are gone, so the spray isn’t needed any more.

Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer like seaweed extract organic liquid or a fish fertilizer since it’s the leaves you want and not flowers. I’m excited to see the plants getting bigger. And it is interesting to see which locations are growing bigger plants. Do you ever do that? Plant veggies in more than one location throughout your perennial garden areas? I’ve often done that when my veggie space fills up and am surprised to see some grow better where I least expected them to.

As far as cooking collards, I’ve seen many recipes and only a few ways to cook them. Thus far I have only chopped the de-stemmed leaves and sautéed them in olive oil and spices, just like I do kale greens. Quite delicious I must say. The flavor is hard to describe but for sure nothing like kale. Collard greens have an earthy flavor to me.

Our winter is forecasted to be warmer and drier than normal so I may not get the fun of knocking off the snow before I harvest them but I can’t wait to cook my fresh winter harvest.

Since I’m new to this beautiful green I’d love any and all thoughts on cooking and even your favorite recipe if you care to share.

Thanks ever so much for reading!

In Bloom In My Garden Today: Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop),
Alyssum, Cyclamen hederifolium (fall),Daisy(white double,) Daphne caucasica, Echinacea, Eupatorium rugosum ‘chocolate’ (joe pye weed),
Fuchsia, Heath (Erica carnea ‘springwood white’), Kirengeshoma palmata, Nepeta, Rose, old English ‘reine des violettes’, Salvia

Author’s photo