Florida Heritage Foods


Common names

Collards, Borecole, flowering kale or fodder kale (English), 宽叶羽衣甘蓝 (kuān yè yǔ yī gān lán, Mandarin), kola (Swahili), couve (Brazil and Portugal), kovi or kobi (Spanish), haak(Kashmir), sukuma wiki (East Africa)

Scientific Name

Brassica oleracea.


Collard’s roots reach back 2000 years to ancient Greek cuisine and today the highly nutritious vegetable is enjoyed throughout most of the world. Brought to the Americas during European colonialism, the easy to grow green became a staple crop. Today, collards are a common side dish in Southern American cuisine, where they are often stewed with smoked meat and bone. Collard greens are also integrated into a variety of new dishes such as quiche, stuffed leaves, and layered in casseroles as a lasagna alternative to pasta.

Historical Significance

Collard greens are one of the longest cultivated vegetables. Originating in the Mediterranean region, it spread throughout Europe during the Roman empire. Collards were referred to as ‘colewort’ during the Medieval Period, and they are featured in the oldest English recipe book, The Forme of Cury, which lists dishes served to the aristocracy during the reign of King Richard II in the 14th century.  European colonialism carried the crop worldwide in the 17th century. As a result, collards are prepared in a variety of multicultural dishes, including early American colonial cuisine. The crop was particularly abundant in the southern region of the United States where it became a common dish in African-American cuisine referred to as ‘soul food’ today. Collards remain a popular side-dish throughout the Southern U.S. and it can be found in homes and menus throughout the country today.

A family picks collard greens from a 'Victory Garden' during World War II, Escambia, Florida (1942). U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information . Library of Congress.
collards historical image
‘Belulah Baptist Church Food Booth with Collards on the Menu, White Springs, Florida (1995) Florida Department of State Archives http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/folklife/f2018328.jpg
A Home Economics student at Bethune Cookman College poses with collards in the refrigerator, Daytona Beach Florida. (1943)
Mrs. John L. Bishop with girl in collards garden. 1938. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Cultural Significance

Collards are culturally important worldwide. They remain a staple food throughout many parts of Europe and the Middle East. In Turkey collards are referred to as ‘dark cabbage,’ and they are a staple in the Black Sea area. Throughout Latin America stewed collards are a common side dish to meat or fish. Collards are one of the most common greens consumed in East Africa and Zimbabwe. Today, collards are an icon in traditional Southern fare in the United States where the greens are often stewed with pork, such as a ham bone, fatback, salt pork, or bacon, and seasoned with hot pepper vinegar. The liquid left behind a bowl of cooked collards, meat and seasoning is referred to as ‘pot liquor,’ and the tasty and nutritious broth is used as a base for soups, an additive to cooked vegetables, and as a beverage. Despite deep European roots, collard greens also play a significant role in African-American cuisine and it is commonly found in Soul Food themed restaurants and cafes throughout the country. 

Cooking With Collards

There are many ways to enjoy collard greens. Add the collard recipe collection to your cookbook. View recipes with collard greens for some ideas on how to cook with these delicious greens. When cooked alone, collards contain no fat nor cholesterol. They are also low in calories and rich in nutrients such as vitamins A, C, K; folate; calcium; fiber.

Collards Plant Card Photo
Collards Plant Card Photo

Growing Tips

Collards are a cool-weather crop that are easy to grow in the Florida home garden. Once established, they are resilient to freezes and leaves can be harvested as needed from the bottom up throughout the winter and into the summer months. Planting usually occurs between August and February. Collard seeds can be started indoors in pots and transplanted into the garden or sown by seed directly into the ground. It is a good idea to improve the soil with compost a few weeks prior to planting, and to control weeds until the plants are well-established.

To plan a heritage garden, download the ‘Planning a Florida Heritage Garden (PDF).’