Smoky, velvety collards recipe

Guest blog post by EarthDance volunteer Maureen Fox, recipe from Farm Manager & Educator (& chef!) Jena Hood

During a recent EarthDance field shift, volunteer Maureen Fox (right) took notes on Farm Manager & Lead Educator Jena Hood’s best and most favorite way to cook collard greens. Maureen shares her thoughts, and the recipe below.

Collard greens are good for me!

Yes, yes, yes, I know greens are good for me. They have lots of fiber to help control LDL, tons of vitamins, like C to fight free radical and flu, Vitamin A for healthy skin and good vision, K for stronger bones, phytonutrients with anti-cancer properties. I know that, but who cares! I’m not going to eat them because I don’t like them!

That’s what I thought before Jena, EarthDance Farm Manager and food lover, told me how to cook greens. She/they gave me a basic recipe and said it works well for any kind of greens.

From Farm Manager/educator/chef Jena:

“Collard greens and their common preparation in this country come from Black soul food traditions,” Jena said. “The Southern style of cooking greens, which is what I grew up eating and the way I cook them now, came with the arrival of enslaved people of African descent to the Southern colonies. Of course, specific food preparations can be made by people from any culture and background. And, there is a beautiful richness, as well as important context for all of us, in naming and honoring the cultural origins of foods.”

Jena likes to use a mix of greens. “You can use any combination of hardy greens – kale, collards, mustards, turnips, chard. I save the stems to use when I make chicken and/or veggie stock.”

It’s important to allow time for a slow cooking process. “These are best cooked for a long time. That’s how you get the velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture. That being said, it does mean you’re cooking out a lot of the nutrients. The good news is, the nutrients are then concentrated in the potlikker, the richly flavored, smoky soup at the bottom of the collard pot. You can freeze/reuse the potlikker for the next batch of collards, or add some more ingredients (beans, more pork, etc.) and make it a soup. Whatever you do, don’t throw it away! I’m planning to use potlikker for the next peanut boil this fall!”

And, Jena said they don’t like to add vinegar while the greens are cooking. “A lot of folks feel the need to add it because it helps with the bitterness that is sometimes in collards, especially before they’ve been frost-kissed in the fall.” They do like to add homemade hot pepper vinegar, to taste, at the very end.

Basic principles:

1. Add a smoky flavor.

2. Cook them for a long time, at least an hour or two.

3. Never use vinegar in the cooking, as it can add toughness.

Jena’s collards recipe, as told to Maureen Fox in the field at EarthDance


2-3 T. oil (Olive oil, avocado oil, or bacon renderings)

1 onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Smoked turkey leg or several slices of thick sliced smoked bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces and browned

1 bunch chard, thoroughly washed, deveined, and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces

1 bunch collard greens, thoroughly washed, deveined and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces

Enough Chicken broth to cover the greens. (Don’t skimp on the broth because that is the best part. I keep broth from cooked chickens and veggies in my freezer. I freeze it in ice cube trays and use it as needed.)

Salt and pepper to taste (smoked salt is great in this!)

Hot sauce and/or vinegar to taste (when serving)


In a large cooking pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they are getting translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add broth, salt, pepper and greens. Add cooked bacon and/or turkey leg. Cover and simmer on low for 1 to 2 hours.

These are the best greens I’ve ever had. The texture of the greens was luscious and velvety. And the smoky flavor made all the difference.

There was enough for leftovers. With the first meal I had shrimp sautéed in garlic on the side and with the second meal, lacy cornbread pancakes.

Americorps Summer Apprentice Grace Coleman with arms full of collards in front of the EarthDance Pay What You Can Farm Stand. This year, Champion and Georgia Southern collard greens are growing at EarthDance. Photos by Jess Garrett

Collard greens are available nearly year round in the EarthDance booth at the Ferguson Farmers Market, and during the warm season, twice a week at the EarthDance Pay What you Can Farm Stand.

Tap here for more on growing, safe handling, and cooking with collard greens.

For additional perspective on food gentrification, some of it specific to collard greens, visit this online presentation we found helpful.