Want more riches in the New Year? Try eating collard greens this New Year’s Day.
According to Southern folklore, anyone who consumes this nutritious, cool-season vegetable will be lucky, as well as reap in financial rewards during the year.
Exactly how this tradition started isn’t clear. But some culinary experts attribute the creation of Southern-style greens to the arrival of African slaves.
Though greens did not originate in Africa, the habit of eating greens that have been cooked down into low gravy, and drinking the juices from the greens (known as “pot liquor” or “pot likker”) is of African origin.
The slaves used this same cooking technique to prepare the leftover food (the tops of turnips and other greens, as well as ham hocks and pig’s feet) that they received from the plantation owners.
Then, when the slaves became cooks in the plantation houses, they made these same dishes and helped give birth to Southern-style cooking.
Yet, even if eating collard greens on New Year’s Day doesn’t bring luck or money, it’s still a good dish to consume. The vegetable, also known as tree cabbage, is rich in vitamins and minerals that help prevent and fight disease.
So many chefs – from different ethnicities – have started using greens and collards in many of their dishes.
Yet, collards are still most associated with the South. In fact, some southerners contend that collards not only bring financial reward (when consumed on New Year’s Day) but they will ward off evil spirits (when a fresh leaf is placed over your door) and even cure a headache (when a fresh leaf is placed on your forehead). So eat up!
Here are some tips for preparing and serving collard greens:
1) When preparing collard greens, wash each leaf individually under cold running water.
a. After rinsing the collard greens thoroughly, stack several leaves on top of each other. Roll these leaves together and slice the leaves into thin strips using a large knife. (Rolling them together speeds up the process by slicing through several leaves at once).
b. Save the extras in the refrigerator. They should keep for a long time and actually get better as the juices settle in.
2) The traditional way to cook collard greens is to boil or simmer slowly with a piece of salt pork or ham hock for a long time (this tempers their tough texture and smoothes out their bitter flavor) until the greens are very soft.
a. The ham hocks should be falling apart before adding the collard greens.
3) Collards are often served with cornbread, used to soak up the collard broth, or “potlikker,” which is rich in nutrients.