Collard greens grow throughout the Lowcountry. This is the season where you can find farmers with their wares on a truck parked by the side of the road or at farmers markets. You also can visit friends who grow this green vegetable for a hobby.
There are few things that taste better than collards cooked Lowcountry style with ham hocks and neck bones, served over rice and eaten with cornbread.
You do not have to guess if collards have been cooked; just walk inside the kitchen and get a whiff of the odor for which collards are famous. You will enjoy the taste.
Collard greens are best when prepared just after the first frost, though they can be eaten year-round. They should always be harvested before the dew dries.
When being prepared, they are "chopped," "looked" and then "cooked." That is, they are cut at the base of the stalk, searched for worms and then cooked until tender on a low boil, usually with fatback, smoked turkey, smoked neck bones or olive oil.
There is an art to preparing greens. The better prepared, the better the cook and the better the taste. Greens have to be rolled in bunches of five to six leaves, held tightly so no pieces will escape the knife. They must be cut into thin slices. They should be cooked in a pot with enough water to cover them and simmer until well cooked and the water is reduced. Greens are usually served with hot pepper, garlic and vinegar.
Potlikker, the juice left in the pot after the greens are gone, is a Southern version of nectar from the gods. It's valued both as a delicacy and for its alleged aphrodisiacal powers.
Collard greens are a good source of vitamins A, B-6, and C as well as calcium, iron and niacin. Greens are the official state vegetable of the Palmetto State, and no other vegetable could be finer in South Carolina.
Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.