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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." - ", 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. 

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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.
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PS- Keep abreast of my workshops & speaking engagements here.
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
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