African American hands rinse chopped collard greens in stainless steel bowl under running water.
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How to Clean Collard Greens Properly


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Bitter with an earthiness that pairs well with vinegar, onions, and smoked meat, collard greens are a staple in Southern cuisine. Not only are they a healthy dish, but the brassica is also regarded as a symbolism of African-American culture according to authors Edward H. Davis & John T. Morgan in their book, Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table. Served on New Year's Day with black-eyed peas and cornbread for good luck, fresh collard greens need a bit of preparation before they can hit the dinner table. Learning how to clean collard greens will help you get your bunch of collard greens in the pot speedy quick without the grit that sometimes tags along to the tender leaves.

Whether you get them from the Farmer's Market or the grocery store, before you cook collard greens you gotta start with clean greens.

What is the Easiest Way to Clean Collard Greens?

Hand holding collard greens leaves under running water

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Before you can wash your greens you gotta make sure your sink is clean. Did you recently open a package of chicken in the sink? Grab some bleach or your favorite cleaner and give it a good cleaning over before you toss in your greens. This method also works for turnip greens, mustard greens, and kale.

Fill the sink basin with cold water and add in the green leaves. Swish the leaves around like you are a nymph in a fairie forest playing in the fresh brook. Or better yet, make a little whirlpool using your hands and watch those greens twirl! Drain and repeat until grit and dirt no longer come off the leaves.

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cutting collard greens

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Drain in a colander and dry with paper towels. Using a cutting board remove the tough stem and chop the collard greens. Place into your cooking vessel (I prefer a dutch oven) and cook your Southern collard greens according to the recipe you are following.

Do You Have To Soak Collard Greens Before Cooking?

Yes. Even if you are making a collard greens recipe using bagged greens, you should soak them or place them under running water to clean all the grit off. Some cooks like to use vinegar or salt to clean their greens, but good old-fashioned water works just fine. If you are having a hard time drying your collard greens, try a salad spinner to force the water off.

Farberware Pump Spinner

How To Store Collard Greens

While it is recommended to store unwashed collard greens in the fridge, you can store washed greens in the freezer for up to one year. According to the MSU extension, "you should blanch your collard greens with about a gallon of water for three to four minutes per pound". Once blanched and placed in an ice-bath, dry the leaves and place them in plastic freezer bags and remove as much air as possible. Use the frozen greens in your favorite soul food recipes.

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