Collard Greens

Collard Greens February 3, 2011

A couple weeks ago, during my typical Whole Foods visit (a trip with at least one kid, tasting every sample we can find throughout the store, ending up at the gelato counter where we taste at least 2 flavors each, and finally ordering a $2.88 gelato for the kid while I abstain), they gave out Dixie cups “double green smoothie.” To be charitable, it didn’t taste too bad, but it did look like what you find in your 6 month old’s diaper after you start her on spinach. And given that the smoothie contained both spinach and kale, it’s not surprising it looked like the contents of that diaper.

The double green smoothie lady also pushed a website: where she promised I could see how nutritious my diet is. Because I’m incredibly self-absorbed and a trained social scientist, I always want to see how I score on everything—personality, strengths, even what my handbag says about me—and given what a foodie I am, my nutrition score was no less intriguing.

So I came home, took the test, and found that I have an excellent prognosis to live into my 90s! However, although the test conceded I was doing pretty well by having about 68% of my diet consisting of vegetables, fruits and whole grains (as opposed to most Americans with only about 30%), their goal for me was to raise that number to 94%!

You’ve got to be kidding.

In fact, what kept me from looking more healthy by their standards is that I eat a rich dessert 1-3/week, drink wine 1-3/week, eat red meat 1-3/week, and eat “white” meat or eggs 5-7/week. I already feel so deprived, I can’t imagine going further!

But now I get a daily nutritarian e-mail message advising how I should eat. What I’ve found most interesting is the ANDI score, that score that you can find in Whole Foods, which rates each food based on how nutritious it is per calorie. Here’s the top ten, with 1000 being top and 0 being bottom:

Kale (cooked) 1000

Mustard, Turnip, Collard Greens (cooked) 1000

Watercress (raw) 1000

Bok Choy/Baby Bok chok (cooked) 824

Spinach (raw) 739

Broccoli Rabe (cooked) 715

Chinese or Napa Cabbage (cooked) 704

Brussels Sprouts (raw) 672

Swiss Chard (cooked) 670

Arugula (raw) 559

I first ate collard greens when I ate “soul food” on an summer urban missions project. It was love at first bite. Some years later, I attempted to stir fry my good friend’s canned collard greens. Didn’t work. Unlike in Chinese tradition, you’ve got to cook those greens until they cry uncle!

Inspired by their 1000 point ranking, I bought 3 bunches of collards, cooked them with 2 ham hocks and produced incredibly delicious greens that even the kids all liked. Of course, everything’s delicious with smoked pork grease! The bummer was that 3 bunches cooked to almost nothing so that we devoured almost all of it that night, leaving lots of good pork juice. So the next day I bought 5 bunches and cooked them in the remaining juice. Still delicious. doesn’t tell me how much damage the smoked pork hocks (which are probably -500 on the ANDI score) wreak on 1000 point collards. But in case you want to give them a try, here’s the recipe I came up with.

Collard Greens

5 big bunches collard greens, rinsed, chopped, big stems removed

olive oil

8 cloves garlic

4 cups chicken broth

2 ham hocks

1 Tbs. vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute garlic in a little olive oil

2. Add chicken broth and ham hocks, simmer for awhile

3. Add collard greens, turn heat to medium high. Let greens cook down for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

4. Reduce heat to medium and season with salt, sugar, vinegar & red pepper. Continue cooking for 45 minutes-1 hour.

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