Vegetables How should I cook Collard Greens

Tips for growing cabbage greens

Collards are a member of the Brassicaceae family. They are grown for their leaves, which are cooked, much like kale. This boiling green is mostly associated with southern US cooking, and the plants actually prefer warmer climates. They are native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, but the plants are easy to grow in most climates.

As with kale, cabbages are non-headed cabbages. In fact, cabbage and kale were often thought of as the same vegetable.

Genetically, they don't differ very much, but breeding and growing over the years have produced plants with different textures and tastes. Cabbage leaves have a wide, oval shape, very distinct veins, and a smooth, almost waxy texture that requires more cooking than kale, and heads of cabbage tend to have a stronger and sometimes bitter taste.

Cooking greens are some of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat, and turnips in particular are packed with vitamins A, C, and K, soluble fiber, calcium, folic acid, manganese, and tryptophan - and less than 50 calories per serving. Eating your cabbage leaves will even help lower your bad cholesterol.

  • Leaves: Cabbage leaves are smooth and almost waxy, with pronounced veins. They can be quite large and light to dark green. The trunks are very fibrous and tough.
  • Flowers: True to the cruciferous family, the cabbage flowers have four yellow petals in the shape of a cross. They are edible and have a sweet, cabbage-like taste.

Latin name

Brassica oleracea L. subsp. Acephala

Common names

Collards, collard greens, cabbage

Winter hardiness zones

Cabbage species can hibernate from around USDA hardiness zones 6 and up, but they are only every two years.


Full sun to partial shade.

Mature size

The size of your plants will depend on the strain you are growing, how often you harvest, and how you are growing it.

Mature plants typically reach between 20 and 36 in. (H) x 24-36 in. (W)

Days to harvest

Most varieties are ready to harvest in 55-75 days. You can harvest leaves as needed or cut the entire plant. If you prune the entire plant at a young age, the crown should sprout at least 1 additional crop.

Recommended types of cabbage

Collards are often grouped according to 2 growth characteristics, those that are loose leaves and those that form a loose head. Traditional varieties like "Vates" and "Georgia" make loose, open plants. Some of the newer hybrids, such as Morris Heading, grow quickly and arch in on themselves, forming a loose head and a more compact plant. Loose-heading strains are a great choice when you want to harvest the whole plant at once. If you want a steady supply of leaves I would go with a loose leaf variety.

  • 'Champion' - A 'Vates' hybrid. Cabbage-like leaves store well. God for smaller gardens. (60 days)
  • 'Flash' - Smaller plants but very vigorous growers. Smooth, sweet leaves. (55 days)
  • 'Georgia' - Large plants with delicate, waxy leaves. Heat-resistant and screwable slowly. (75 days)
  • 'Green Glaze' - Glossy, dark green leaves that are less likely to be damaged by caterpillars. (75 days)
  • 'Vates' - Compact plant with very smooth leaves. (75 days)

With Collard Greens

Cabbage leaves are very versatile. You can try the traditional method of simmering, but I like to leave it with some substance and either lightly steaming, frying, or braising.

Harvest leaves while they are smooth and firm. Young, tender leaves will be the least bitter. You can keep them in damp paper towels for around 3 to 4 days, but the longer they are stored, the more bitter they become. Better to harvest when needed.

There are good reasons behind the phrase "Chaos o 'Greens." A pound of uncooked leaves makes about 1/2 cup of cooked greens.

Collard recipes

  • Southern style
  • Raw collard greens with ginger
  • Saut e ed cabbage and kale
  • Braised Collars Cajun Style

Collard Greens growing tips

Ground: If you grow them in a slightly acidic pH of around 6.0 to 6.5 pH in the soil, the Collards will have fewer problems with the cabbage root.

Since you are growing cabbage leaves for the leaves, you will want rich soil with lots of organic matter.

Plants: You can start cabbage plants from seed or graft. You can handle cool spring weather. Start seeds outdoors about 2 weeks before the last spring frost date or get a head start by sowing seeds indoors 4-6 weeks earlier and plant the seedlings exactly around your last frost date. For an autumn harvest in cool climates, plant in midsummer, around 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date. With shelter, you can harvest collard greens well into winter.

In USDA Climates 8 and above, getting your tastiest harvest is by planting in the fall and harvesting all winter. Cool weather sweetens most cooking greens, and cabbage greens are no exception.

Sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Collards are large, open plants. You can spac them 18-24 in. Apart, or plant them thicker and thinner and eat young plants until you get the distance you want.


Keep the plants well watered and harvest them regularly so they will send out new leaves.

Side clothing with compost or slow release fertilizer every 4 - 6 weeks to keep the plants through repeated harvests.

Mulch keeps the soil moist and the leaves clean.

Cabbage greens can take a light frost, but you will lose your plants if temperatures stay below freezing for long periods of time. To keep harvesting in cold areas, protect your cabbage greens with some sort of hoop house or cold frame. Every two years all plants are overwintered if you want to save seeds.

Collard Greens pests and problems

Collards suffer from the same diseases and pests as other members of the cabbage family, although their tough leaves offer some protection.

Keep insect pests Keep an eye out for aphids, cabbage grippers, cabbage worms, cabbage root maddies, flea beetles and even nudibranchs.

Diseases to Consider include; Black rot, black rot, cabbage root and yellow cabbage.

Diseases tend to build up in the soil, so don't plant cabbage leaves in the same spot every year.

Rotate all of your cruciferous vegetables and if you have any disease or pest problems don't let them sit through the winter.