Thanks to Jimmy Lee Covin, a farmer in Sasser, GA and his crew, I have had an abundance of delicious collard greens to experiment with for the last few weeks. I met Mr. Covin on a recent farm tour with a local Girl Scout troop, The Green Girls (a group of young women focused on sustainability initiatives), several members of the Southwest Georgia Project and other local food advocates. The purpose of this visit was to let The Green Girls and Girl Scouts have a look around an actual farm, to see how food is grown in a sustainable manner, why it is important to purchase from local farmers when possible and to learn about the importance of consuming a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of fresh produce.
This farm visit came about through a collaboration with the Southwest Georgia Project, The Girl Scouts and The Green Girls due to the interest surrounding the future organic garden installation in the Downtown Albany Art Park and the farm to fork charity event for the Lily Pad. The Lily Pad provides comprehensive care to child abuse and sexual assault victims and their families. For the last two years they have hosted a farm to fork event that sources as much food from local farmers as possible for its’ annual dinner. This year, the Lily Pad hopes to get all of the lettuce and greens for the salads from plants that have been started by The Girl Scouts and Green Girls! More on this exciting project later….
Collards are a member of the brassica genus of plants that are a part of the mustard family. Other popular brassicas include cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and cauliflower. It is believed that collards originated from the Mediterranean region, however, the widely popular Southern style of cooking the greens came from African slaves. The traditional method of cooking collards involves cooking them down over several hours in water with salted pork or hog jowl until the water has been greatly reduced and the greens are extremely soft. They are typically served with corn bread to dip in to the pot likker, which is the vitamin & mineral rich juice left over in the pot after the collards (or any other green) have been cooked. My family, as I am sure many other Southern families do, pours vinegar that has been used to preserve a bumper crop of hot peppers over the greens after they have been dipped from the pot for an extra kick.
The nutritional value of both the collards and pot likker should be enough to send us all out in a frenzy to find a local farm that can provide us with a crop that could lower our health care expenses, boost our immune systems and prevent premature degeneration of the eyes, as well as cataracts. Collards are a good source of fiber which adds bulk to our stool and helps speed its passage through the digestive system. Dark, leafy greens are a rich source of folate, a water soluble B vitamin. Folate is required by the body to make DNA and RNA which are the building blocks of cells. It is needed to make new red blood cells, prevent anemia and helps to prevent changes to DNA that can lead to cancer. Our hearts also benefit from the rich source of folate and potassium that collards provide us with. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two carotenoids and antioxidants that are abundant in collards and other dark, leafy greens. In several large scale studies, participants who consumed a diet high in these carotenoids had a significantly lower risk of developing age related macular degeneration, reduced their need for cataract surgery and in those who had already had cataracts and undergone surgery, there was a lower rate of cataract recurrence. Vitamin K and Vitamin A are both fat soluble vitamins found in dark, leafy greens. Vitamin K causes our blood to clot. Vitamin A helps to maintain our immune system by making white blood cells to fight off infections and helps to keep our skin and mucous membranes strong to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the body. Another important vitamin and antioxidant found in dark, leafy vegetables is Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to heal wounds, form scar tissue and prevents some of the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals form in the body when we are exposed to various things in the environment such as cigarette smoke, radiation and oxygen. A build up of free radicals causes damage to our bodies. If too much damage occurs over time, it may become irreversible and lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Covin Produce sells to surrounding school systems, at farmers markets and to area retailers. If you are interested in learning more about Covin Produce and how you can purchase food from them, they can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 229-310-3749.
** A disclaimer about my recipes: I rarely measure anything but rather use my senses of sight, taste and smell to guide the amount of ingredients that I use. Cooking to me is like a science experiment, sometimes I come up with a dish that is a mind blowing discovery. Other times, it is considered, at best edible and I figure out what to do differently next time. I encourage you to be creative in your cooking and not feel bound by a set list of measured ingredients. If a dish calls for collards and you have kale or swiss chard, use them instead! When a recipe mandates using pignoli nuts and you live in one of the largest pecan producing states in the US, use pecans!
Peach State Pesto
Raw, uncooked collard green leaves with stems removed
Amount of ingredients used should be specific to individual taste and preference.
In a food processor, insert a few leaves of collards through the shoot while the blade is turning. If you put too many leaves in at one time the processor may have a harder time shredding them up. Add olive oil in a steady stream while food processor is still on until it reaches desired consistency. Add pecans and when they have been finely chopped up add garlic. At this point you may need to add a bit more olive oil to even out the consistency. Add salt to taste. Try it and add more of any of the above ingredients if needed. Use as a base for pizza, spread for sandwiches, on pasta and anywhere else that sounds good!
Collard Green and Chickpea Curry
1t cumin seeds
1 small/medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, diced
2t fresh ginger, diced (if you only have powdered, skip this and see instructions for adding below)
3 cups fresh collards, chopped
1 1/2t corriander
1 1/2t curry powder
1t ginger powder (if you used fresh ginger above, skip this step)
1/2t cayenne pepper (use more if you like it spicy or omit if you don’t want added heat)
1 1/2 cup veggie or chicken stock
3 cups garbanzo beans, cooked from dry beans (my preference) or canned
2 cups diced tomatoes, fresh if in season or canned
In a dutch oven (or 2qt saucepan) melt butter. Add cumin seeds, onion, garlic, ginger and cook over medium heat until the onions become translucent and the mixture is fragrant. Add collards and dry spices, cook for 3-4 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add beans and tomatoes and after mixture has returned to a boil, turn down the heat and allow it all to simmer on low heat for 25 minutes or until the liquid has been reduced and starts to thicken.
Collard Green Breakfast Bake
2T olive or organic canola oil
4 cloves garlic
2 cups collards greens, chopped
1/4 cup water
4 cups cooked, stone ground grits (adding cheese and other spices such as onion, garlic, and chilli powder are optional here)
3- 4 eggs (the amount used will depend the pan size and the size of your eggs)
Preheat oven to 350° F. In a cast iron skillet, heat oil and saute’ garlic for approximately 3 minutes. Add collard greens and water, saute’ for another 3-4 minutes. Mix grits and contents of skillet together, either leave mixture in cast iron skillet (if big enough) or pour in to a baking dish. Crack eggs one at a time in to a bowl. Make indention’s in the grit mixture with the back of a big spoon and pour egg in to the indention. Continue doing this until you have used all eggs. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until eggs appear done and are no longer translucent and runny. I serve with a variety of hot sauces.