Tough Love with Collards

As I sweat my way through summer, one thing I’ve been aiming for with my afternoon and evening meals is lightness. The last thing I want to eat when the temperature is pushing triple digits is heavy food.

One food in particular I’ve been scooping up each week at our local farmer’s market is collard greens. One stall at the market is run by a super friendly man – his expertise on greens and berries is impressive. I could talk to him all afternoon! But he’s noticed my fondness for collards. He asked me a couple of weeks ago how I prepare them, and looked a little surprised when I told him I actually have them raw. That may be because a collard is one tough leaf!

And that got me thinking about chewing. Many of the convenience and fast foods we see so much of in both the UK and the US barely take much jaw effort to eat. This leads to many health problems, including several dental and digestive issues.

Chewing helps to break down the food we eat into small enough particles so our bodies can absorb and further break down the nutrients in the food. If that food is particularly tough and rough, like a raw collard leaf and stem for example, then we’ll need to chew that much more to avoid any potentially painful upsets further along in our digestive system.

Even cooked collards require some extra effort on our part to break them down, but the work is certainly rewarding. Have a look at this long list of nutrients found in abundance in collard greens:

  • vitamin K
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • folate
  • manganese
  • calcium
  • fiber
  • tryptophan
  • choline
  • iron
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B2
  • magnesium
  • vitamin E
  • protein
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • potassium

These nutrients are kept intact in both raw and very lightly steamed collard greens. To increase the chewability of raw collards, try letting them sit in a lemon juice marinade for 5 minutes before chowing down. So how can you find delicious ways of adding them into your meals during a hot and sticky summer? Here are two easy ways I love to use collards:

  1. WRAPS. Instead of a tortilla or flatbread, wrap up that sandwich filling with a large collard green leaf. You may need two, depending on the size and strength of the leaf. Fold it in on one end, just like a burrito. This works really well, especially with softer sandwich fillings, like tuna salad, guacamole, creamy goat cheese, or hummus. Do I even need to mention the fact that it is naturally gluten-free? The photo above, from Eating Bird Food, looks like an amazing summer dinner – tempeh and sweet potato!
  2. STIR-FRYS. So this does require some cooking, and the last thing I feel like doing on a hot day is adding more heat to the house. But it takes less than 5 minutes (any longer than that and you risk that unpleasant sulfur smell coming from the leaves, sort of like brussels sprouts). Make sure you slice up the leaves and stems into thin strips to cook them even quicker.

I used this second technique for last night’s dinner – Phil barbecued some salmon and finished off a couple of baked yams on the grill, while I prepared this quick and easy veggie stir fry. This is a kitchen-sink sort of dish: use whatever you’ve got in the fridge. We had a big bag of purple (green) beans, a large zucchini, a couple of sweet green peppers, and of course those collards. It took all of 5 minutes and was certainly more interesting than another salad! Try it – and don’t forget to chew!

Collard Greens & Summer Veg Stir Fry

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 5 mins

Keywords: stir-fry side gluten-free soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian wheat free summer

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 tbsp organic olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium or 2 small green bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 handfuls green beans, tops removed, chopped into thirds
  • 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 large organic collard greens leaves, rolled up and sliced into thin strips
  • handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet and add all ingredients except the collard leaves and mint. Cook over a high heat, stirring continuously, until the veggies soften and color slightly, about 4 minutes.

Add the collard leaves and stir through, cooking for another minute, until wilted slightly but still bright green.

Take off the heat and season well. Serve immediately, garnished with the chopped mint leaves.

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References: WHFoods.com, EatingBirdFood.com

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