A fresh 60-degree breeze blowing through my open living room windows always puts me in mind of the warmer temps coming to the eastern United States – and I can’t wait! I live in an apartment with no real space to grow much but I’m determined to attempt to pot-grow one of my favorite edible greens: collards.
I guess I should probably mention that my only experience with collard greens is eating them. If you’ve never had them, you are missing a delicious addition to your nutritional arsenal – and a versatile one as well.
What are collards?
Collards, a member of the cruciferous family that includes cabbage, broccoli and bok choy, are chocked full of vitamins C, K and headline the list of healthy superfoods. The visual beauty of the collard is etched in the lighter green of the veins patterned across the dark green color of the large distinctively-formed leaf. The almost perfect rounded shape of one leaf always reminds me of how all of the limbs of an African tree reach up and stop at the same length to round out the top of the tree. You can find collard greens in any grocery store or market throughout the year. Here in Baltimore, Maryland, I like to get my collard greens from Lexington Market during the warmer months when the greens are the freshest and display the deepest green color.
Historically, collard greens have graced the tables of the Greeks and Romans but I relate most intimately with the deep southern tradition of collard greens dating back to slavery days when collard greens became a staple in the African-American diet. Then, collard greens were part of the scraps of leftovers along with pigs’ feet, ham hocks, pig ears that slaves were given to make meals out of. Centuries later, the African-American community kept that tradition. After washing each leaf thoroughly, My Dad would simmer a big pot of collard green leaves seasoned with neck bone or fat back. In later years, as healthier options became a focus, Dad chose turkey necks as seasoning along with onions, curry, smoke seasonings and hot sauce.
A clean-eating favorite
These days, instead of following my Dad’s way of cooking collard greens, I prefer stir-frying or juicing them. In my efforts to eat foods in their most natural state, collards fit the bill. In my juices, one large leaf will do mixed with two thumbnail-sized chunks of fresh ginger, a banana and a cup of orange juice. Strong flavors work best with the collard green so that its own strong flavor doesn’t overpower the juice or stir-fry. In a pot of simmering water, it can take hours to tenderize a collard leaf, but rolling a stack of cleaned leaves and slicing them into strips and then stir-frying in a pan coated with three tablespoons of oil for about 20 minutes on medium heat gives them a great flavor. I like to flavor the stir-fry with curry, oregano, and sometimes red pepper flakes. Indian seasons work very well with a collard-green stir fry, particularly guaram masala because of its strong flavor.
Is it possible to grow collards in a pot?
Well, I found a pretty good step-by-step plan here so the answer is yes! Will it bloom as well as an outdoor-grown collard? I’m thinking no. Anything pot-bound is going to be constrained. I’ll just have to make sure my pot is deep enough. What I really want to know about is the flavor and color: will they be as rich without direct, outdoor sunlight and all of Mother Nature’s benefits? I guess I will definitely find out. March is a good time to get started on all my growing ambitions and I’m excited! The only thing green I’ve ever had any luck with are my pothos plants. But I can’t eat them.