Skip to main content

Man in Overalls - An Ode to Collards

I love growing my groceries in the fall - watching the miracle of growth, having ready-access to the freshest produce money-can't buy, the many flavors, getting to try new varieties - all while the temperature drops to more and more pleasant levels. I enjoy growing most anything in the fall, but, if I had to choose just one thing to grow every fall for the rest of my life, it would be collard greens, hands down. 

It's a health thing and an effort-to-yield calculation, but in the beginning, the roots of my collard green passion were seeded by family.

When I was a kid about 9 or 10, just a couple years into gardening in the front yard, my aunt, the family documentarian showed me a clipping of my late grandfather from the Graceville New (or was it the Jackson County Times?) beneath his 9ft collard greens that he had kept alive multiple years, growing them into small trees.
Not to be outdone, my grandmother grew a
collard forest of her own.
Seizing the moment, my mother suggested that I grow some collard greens too. "But I don't like collards," I said. To which my mother replied, "If you grow them, you'll like them." - "No I won't," I retorted. "Well then, Nathan," my mother responded, "Then will you grow some for me?" The direct motherly ask; how do you say no to that?

So I turned up a new garden patch; we purchased a 9-pack of collards, and I planted them, watered them, tended them, picked the worms off of them, talked with my grandmother about them, and finally, harvested a big bunch. My mother helped me cook the "mess" of greens for dinner. And then, when she served everyone's plates, she fixed mine without any collard greens.  When I protested, my mother said, "Oh, but you don't like collard greens." - "I...um, well...." 

So along with a heaping of collard greens, I ate my words that night.
~ ~ ~
In addition to family legacies, I love collard greens for their sheer productivity.  I once grew 150lbs of collard greens off 12 plants in 9 months. Compare that to the little "bunches" of organic collards sold at the health food store. They are about 9oz and cost roughly $3. In those terms, I grew over 265 bunches worth $795+. Not to mention that collard greens are among the very few vegetables with a notable amount of protein: 3g to the serving.
It's no wonder that southerners for centuries have relied on collard greens as a dietary staple. When folks had a plateful of collard greens flavored with a cutting of meat from the smokehouse and a side of cornbread, they might have been poor like my people, yes, but they were sitting down to a filling, nutritious meal. Here's to collards!
~ ~ ~
Collards are my favorite fall veggie, but I realize they may not be your thing. That's okay. There's a lot to grow in the fall. In short, here in the Deep South, fall is the time to grow your leafy greens (both things like collards as well as salad greens), roots other than potatoes (think carrots, beets), the garlic/onion family, and most of the herbs other than basil, which is a heat lover (cilantro, parsley).

For a more complete list of what you can grow, when to grow it, as well a plant spacing guide guide for raised bed food gardening, sign up for my semi-monthly updates to receive my What Can You Grow in a Square resource. 

Man in Overalls' "semi-monthly" updates


Get them emailed to you & receive free "What Can You Grow in a Square" planting guide


Updates include stories and food gardening tips. No spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
And, as always...
- - -
If I can support you in growing your groceries locally (here in NE FL)...
please, click here to see my services & book me for a consultation, so I can assess your site; we'll discuss design, answer your questions, talk #s, and get your project lined up. I offer turn-key raised bed food garden support services. Also, with us being in high fall season, if you'd like me to lead a workshop with your grow shoot me an email.
If you'd like to support me...
in freely sharing my stories & expertise, please consider passing along this article to a friend. Each of my articles take 5-10 hours of resource gathering, writing, and editing, so I want to make sure they don't just sit on the digital shelf.

PS- Keep abreast of my workshops & speaking engagements here.
Respectfully,
Nathan Ballentine (Man in Overalls)
Itinerant Urban Farmer, Entrepreneur, Educator, Community Organizer
Growing in Jacksonville, FL. Connecting Globally.
(904) 240-9592
Email Man In Overalls at Gmail dot com
Man in Overalls on FB & IG
ManInOveralls.com
Blog - Services - Projects - Resources - About

Popular posts from this blog

Why Can I Eat Bread in France, but not the USA?

Updated 10/31/2017 as the National Organic Standards Board meets in Jacksonville, FL. This may well be the most important thing you read this year for your health. (Originally written in 2015 while I was traveling-- and eating bread-- with my wife in France.)

I've got a food riddle for you from Paris, France: Why can I eat bread over here when it makes me sick at home?

I'll share my best guess in a minute, but first, a little personal background.

Since my senior year of high school, I've not been able to eat much bread at all. For five years, I was severely hypoglycemic, and everything I ate had to have more protein than carbohydrates. That meant, in effect, that I spent my years of college beer-less and eating lots of salad with meat on top. I ate tons of vegetables, very little fruit, basically no carbohydrates to speak of, meat, nuts, eggs, and cheese. If I accidentally ate, say, meat loaf that was, unbeknownst to me, made with bread in it, I'd spend the next 2-3 da…

Man in Overalls - It's Like Washing Your Dishes

I often hear folks joke, "Yeah, I had a garden once. I put in all this money & effort, and I only got a handful of tomatoes. Each one of them cost $27!" And they usually end by saying something about not having a green thumb.

I smile and think about a mental model I've been working on: Growing your groceries is like washing your dishes.

While they're raving about how many plants they've killed, I'm thinking, "It's not your thumbs. I bet you don't have a sink. And if you do, are you using decent soap or that garbage from the dollar store? And did you mention you've never washed dishes before in your life? And you're surprised you broke a couple wine glasses with no more experience than a four-year-old?" My eyebrows furrow involuntarily belying my thoughts, "Really? That doesn't seem all that surprising to me." But, of course, not only would saying all that confuse people, it'd kill the moment, so I just smile som…

Man in Overalls - Growing Great Soil

Good soil will basically grow your groceries for you, but how do you build great soil? 
The answer is that there are two options: a quick & easy way and a DIY, hard(er) way. 

So we're on the same page, I'm continuing my #GrowYourGroceries The Easy Way series by digging into the how-tos of growing great soil. These stories and techniques will likely make the most sense after reading Geeking on Good Soil, my last update. (I outlined where I was headed in The Big Picture.)


As I was saying, the easy way to build a great soil is to fill raised beds with a terrific compost-based soil mix like my Magic Mix to jump start your food garden productivity from year one. From there, seasonally, you simply top-dress each season before planting with another few inches of compost-based soil mix. This is how I manage my own food garden and those of my customers. Why? Because at the root of things, I'm a lazy food gardener, and long ago I decided to embrace it. 😎

But if you're not in th…