Cascade Glaze, the Shiny New Collard

Shine Food

by Kemp Minifie, Gourmet

Getting a bit tired of kale? Then get into collards! Kale may be the "it" green of the moment, but collards are right behind them, ready to grab the spotlight. They're both members of the brassica family, that super-healthy group of plants that include broccoli and cabbage. Collards are distinctive for producing large flat leaves that get so big, Adam and Eve would have found them quite useful.

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I'm excited about a glossy new collard that's beginning to appear at farmers markets. The Cascade Glaze Collard is distinctive because the leaves look as though they've been polished to a shine with beeswax. It's unmistakable at the top in the photograph above, and bunches of them really stand out in farmers markets when piled next to regular collards, one leaf of which is in the lower half of the photograph above.

According to Uprising Seeds, the Cascade Glaze Collard may be new to gardeners and growers, but it's actually an almost 200-year old variety that was resurrected and improved upon by three noteworthy plant breeders: Alan Kapuler, Carol Deppe, and Jeff McCormack. Dr. Kapuler is the co-founder of Seeds of Change and the president of Peace Seeds, a self-described planetary genome pool service, while Carol Deppe, another biologist, is a freelance plant breeder and author of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. Jeff McCormack is the founder and previous owner of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

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Although many of us associate collards as the slow-cooked greens of the South, collards can be cooked quickly, in three to four minutes, the way they do it in Brazil. Just roll up the leaves like a cigar, and thinly slice them into fine shreds, then toss them in a hot skillet with olive oil, garlic, or bacon.

This video of how to do it shows me removing the center rib, but these days, I've stopped doing that. The stem is not only edible, it also provides a welcome textural contrast to the leaves. And Cascade Glaze Collard stems are particularly juicy. Just roll up the leaves parallel with the rib, and start slicing. I cooked up a bunch last night for dinner, and we loved them. They were sweeter than regular collards, and who's going to complain about that?

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