A member of the cabbage family, Collard greens are descendants of the wild cabbages that were once found in Europe. Collards come the Brassica Genus that includes Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage. High in vitamins and nutrients, collards have edible leaves and stems. A cooked cup of collards alone contains 83 % of Vitamin A’s daily requirement.
Today it is widely grown in North American and is even considered a staple in Southern cuisine. In the Northern parts of America, planting collards can be done in the early spring and can be available for harvest during the summer, fall or early winter seasons. When planted in the warmer areas, collard greens can actually survive the cool winter cold and can be harvested all year long.
The varieties of Collard Greens to watch out for are the Georgia Southern, Vates and Morris Heading. The Georgia Southern can stand the cool weather. The plants of this variety have large open heads of thick blue-green leaves that are rich in flavor. This variety is really rich in vitamins and tastes excellent when cooked or frozen. The Vates variety is non-heading and has dark green crumpled leaves on plants that grow up to 30 inches. This variety is frost resistant and is popular in the southern and mid-atlantic states. The Morris Heading has broad waxy leaves that have the colors that range from green to blue green. Later in the growing season, it will have loose, leafy heads. It is great for fall and is loved by Southerners because of its flavor and nutrition.
Collard greens prefer deeply tilled soil. Its tap root usually grows extensively so its preference to sandy soil is evident compared to other garden plants. Planting your collard greens in a raised bed is perfect since it already has loose soil and would not really requiring digging. You can also do this by gathering the loose soil and making raised rows in the garden.
If you use seeds, sow them for about a quarter to a half inch deep in the soil and try thinning the seedlings at least 6 inches apart. When they start to crowd against each other as they are growing, harvest whole plants and distance the rest for about 1 ½ feet apart. For collard greens that are planted traditionally in rows, you may space them for about three feet. When you are transplanting your collard greens, make sure that you choose the strong ones. Just make a whole on the ground that will be deep and big enough for your plants to fit. Put in the soil around the roots and firmly pat. Make sure that you water it well after transplanting.
Collard greens love water. However you must water the seedbed gently. When plants have started sprouting, watering should be done regularly to ensure that even moisture is maintained. Collard greens can even thrive during dry season particularly during summertime provided that it is guaranteed with enough care and receives regular amount of water. If you want to conserve water however, good organic mulch will help to shield the plant from the sun and keep soil from drying up. The nutrients that will be derived from the mulch will mix into the soil when you water and you will see the results during the growing and harvest season. The most ideal thing to do when watering is mixing the water with fish emulsion or manure tea by doing this your collard greens will refrain from turning weak and pale.
Collard greens prefer full sunlight but can actually tolerate a little bit of daily shade.
Before planting your collard greens, top dress the soil in fertilizer or organic compost. Tilling the soil and making a raised bed will ensure its growth. Once the fertilizer has settled, sprinkle the seeds on the raised portions of the soil and gently water the plants.
It is actually best to harvest collard greens the moment you see that they have real leaves. Harvest the plant by cutting the outside leaves yet still leaving the layers of the center leaves to propagate. If you harvest the plant regularly in mild climates, it will provide you continuous produce. For gardeners who are the short season types, they usually may harvest the whole crop all at once and put it in the freezer for preservation. Collards can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days at least. Just wrap the leafy vegetables in moist paper towels and seal it in a plastic bag. You may also blanch it and freeze it afterwards.
Collard greens require longer cooking time compared to other leafy vegetables as this plant is full of fiber. The plant is best for beginners since it is relatively easy to grow and harvest. Choose your own variety and start your plantation, this would assure that you will have your fair serving of greens in many months to come.