Growing Collard Greens

This hearty, nutritious vegetable is a staple in the southern US, and has its best flavor after the first frost. This guide is about growing collard greens.

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Collard Greens growing
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When the flowers come on the top of collards are the green leaves still good to eat?

By Colonel

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Usually when garden plants flower and bolt, they aren't eaten because they turn bitter. If you don't mind bitter greens, go ahead and eat them.

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I planted Collard Green seeds last year in early Fall. The plants came up and I did not cut them down as usual. They survived the winter and now have grown to about five feet tall with yellow flowers on top. What should I do? Should I cut the flowers to promote leaf growth? Will cutting the flowers kill the plants?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By joneslogic from New Haven, CT

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I think that your collard greens will be tougher than usual.

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Q: I planted my collards in the Spring of 2005 and cut them back in the Fall of 2005. These plants are still going strong. How many years can collard plants grow? Shall I cut them back to the stem again to keep them growing? Would it do any good?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Thanking you in advance.
Holly from Dallas, TX

A: Holly,

Since is doesn't sound like you are looking to harvest the collards over the winter, I would keep cutting them back in the fall the same way you did last year. Collards are usually grown as annuals, but they can also be grown as biennials or perennials in warmer climates. They can survive temperatures to the upper 20s-even cooler if they are located in the right microclimate.

I've heard of them growing for several years before tiring out. Collards taste best during the cooler parts of the season, especially right after a light frost. This is because the plant responds to cooler temperatures by moving water from the leaves to the roots, which concentrates the sugars in the leaves and ultimately gives them a sweet flavor. You can get this same "sweet" flavor in the heat of the summer if you pop the whole plant (stems and all) into the freezer for about 10 minutes. You end up sacrificing the plant, but you get leaves with that post-frost sweet flavor.

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Yes, I have had the same results by repeatedly pinching off the flower stalks for many years now and it works great. The plant can become like a small tree often times with many plants sprouting from the same stalk. Quite unusual as a striking yet still productive curiosity.

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I planted collard greens and mustard in the early summer. Can I pick and cook them now?

By Jane K.

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Yes, your plants should be large enough by now. I always select a few leaves from the bottom and add to my salads, or steam the collard greens. Yummmm! You can also start new plants now to harvest throughout the winter months if your zone allows. I live in Zone 7 and have a year-round garden. I actually enjoy the winter garden best, no bugs and a wonderful mixture of greens!

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Collard Greens growing I planted collard greens about a month ago. They look ready to pick, how will I know?

Hardiness Zone: 10a

By Jeanne from Sun City, CA

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I pinch the leaves off & cook them any time I want some, you can ad a little sugar to them while cooking, taste them before serving, good luck.

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Q: I am growing collard greens and have many, many plants. I pick and cook the leaves regularly. Recently, I have noticed that 3 of my collard plants have began to go to seed and have beautifully yellow blooms from the seeds. How do I get these seeds and plant them so they can make more collard green plants? Is it too late after the blooms develop or can I cut of the bloom with stem and plant in the dirt? Please help.

Thanks,
Sheryl

A: Sheryl,

If you want to save the seeds from your collard greens, just leave some of the flowering plants alone to form seed pods. You'll be able to identify them easily once they form because they look almost like green beans. In fact, some people even eat them. The pods can be left to dry right on the plant in the same way you would leave bean pods to dry. Once dry, store them in a paper bag until you plant them. Cutting off the stem of the plant while it's blooming and planting it won't work. Collard greens are best grown from seed or by purchasing seedlings inexpensively from a nursery.

Good luck!
Ellen

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Just wait and watch. The flowers will produce seeds. Wait until they are just dry and take them for use. Depending on where you live, you may want to wait to replant as they probably won't appreciate the summer heat.

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I always heard that it is best to pick collard greens after the first frost.

Woody from NC

Answers:

Collard Greens Harvest

This is true. The first frost makes the collards sweeter. I sometimes buy my collards fresh and stick them in the freezer. When I'm ready to cook them I just take them out of the freezer, defrost them, wash them, and cook them. This makes it easier to wash them, too. The collards shrink and get limp so the dirt washes right off. This method also makes them easier to get into the pot. (04/18/2007)

By EnSusie from Buckhead, GA

Collard Greens Harvest

Yes, better after a frost, but I wouldn't avoid them until a frost. Just know that they can be on the strong/bitter flavor side and use less in a mixed recipe. (04/19/2007)

By cookwie

Collard Greens Harvest

Before the frost sweetens them, pick only young, small leaves. I usually buy ham hocks as soon as I can get a big batch, and simmer them all day together. Then I freeze the extra for other times. (04/20/2007)

By Coreen

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By Ellen Brown

Q: The older the collard plant, the smaller the leaves. I planted a collard plants this Spring. Can I get the Fall season out of it by cutting it down to the ground? My location is Dallas, TX.

Thanks for your input,
Cookwie

A: Cookwie,

You can certainly try it, but it really depends on how much the plant has already produced for you. You're right, though, this late in the season the leaves will definitely be smaller. As long as the plants haven't flowered, they may continue to sprout leaves from the sides of the stem. Cut the plants back when they are about half grown, and when harvesting take only the lower leaves to keep the plant growing and producing more leaves. Because of your location, you probably still have time to sow new seeds for a second season Fall crop (50-60 days to adult plants) if you plant them now.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. <a href="add.ldml">Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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