A bum rap

Party planning recently took over both my brain and this blog. I neglected to talk about last week's CSA box, which included... collard greens!

Collard greens are assertive, but I think they get a bum rap. People assume they don't like collards based on reputation, without ever tasting them. It doesn't get much worse than that, does it?

Sadly, my parents are anti-collards. Hailing from the Deep South, one might expect them to embrace this green. They don't. Turnip and mustard greens are welcome in their home, but my father's face wrinkles when he describes collards. These are very serious wrinkles — everything furrows and folds. Even his tone of voice changes. The smell of long-cooked collards seems to be a major stumbling block for my father. I think their scent betrays wholesomeness and the earthy flavor to come.

Ronnie's Country Store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina supplied the country ham for this week's recipe. Ronnie's is my mother's favorite stop when she's downtown. Joy swings by and checks out the fresh produce, which is displayed in boxes on the street and inside. She often picks up candy for her grandsons. And she keeps an eye on the country ham scraps. There's rarely a need for a full country ham in our family, but Ronnie's sells trimmings for a reasonable price, and I'm often the beneficiary of her outings. I keep the scraps wrapped in plastic and frozen, pulling them out to flavor — you got it — collards.

I love collard greens cut into ribbons and sauteed with garlic (this takes 3 minutes, tops), but something about slow-cooked greens sits with me in a way that's tough to describe. Redolent of pork and chile pepper, these collards beg for a bottle of hot pepper vinegar and a warm piece of cornbread. 

Whichever cooking method you choose, be sure to remove the tough, woody stalks from the collard leaves before proceeding.

The following is my go-to, slow-cooked, collard recipe. Adjust according to taste. Substitute chicken stock for water if you want a more substantive dish.

Slow-Cooked Collard Greens
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 piece of country ham, about 2 x 2 inches
  • 1 pound collard greens
  • about 4 cups of water or chicken stock

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add country ham scraps and cook for a few minutes more. Add collards and wilt. Sprinkle with hot red pepper flakes. Add a very small pinch of salt, water or chicken stock, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 1 hour, maybe a little more, until the greens are tender. Taste for seasoning and serve.


  1. I share in the collard love!

  2. I came to collards late in life, but this sounds like maybe I might have to hit the Farmer's Market soon. I'd ask how your parents could possibly not like them, but I'm not sure that my peeps to either.

  3. Cathy - Hoping for more collards tomorrow.

    Caroline - Hit the market, toute de suite!

  4. What do you recommend substituting for the ham if someone wants to cook veggie or no-pork collards? Also, I love how your family are becoming characters in your blog.

  5. EQ - For those avoiding pork, I'd just leave the country ham out entirely and not worry with a substitute. It would still be good!

    And thanks for the compliment. I wonder if my parents would be pleased that I'm writing about them?