Valley Bounty: Collard Greens

We cannot disentangle the foods we eat, and the systems that produce and distribute them, from the histories of how they came to be part of our diets. Collard greens, a highly nutritious variety of cabbage, have been enjoyed by people from all walks of life and have a wide-ranging history that spans from the ancient Greeks to modern, high-end, farm-to-table restaurants.

The path collard greens have taken to their position of relative prominence in today’s upscale food scene leads directly through some of our nation’s most brutal history; they were a key part of the diets of many enslaved African Americans and sharecroppers, who developed collard preparations still widely enjoyed and recreated today. Reminding ourselves of this connects us as people with varied yet interconnected histories in which the foods we enjoy figure prominently.

Local collard greens are widely available through the winter. One traditional preparation is to chop your collards into bite-sized pieces and simmer them in water or stock with onion, garlic, and ham hock or bacon. Like many older recipes, this one has as many variations as there are families who enjoy it.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)