How to order Collards (the book)

Here’s what the cover looks like. Kind of subtle colors – and that $2.00 price you see right there on front is for a bunch of collards – not the book.

Jacket design as of 2014-09-29

To buy it, I prefer this online book store since it is a real bookstore, and independent:

Powell’s, based in Portland, Oregon:

New Book on Collards!

Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table, has just been published by the University of Alabama Press. I co-wrote this with my colleague John T. Morgan. Here are some details:

Food is essential to southern culture, and collard greens play a central role in the South’s culinary traditions. A feast to the famished, a reward to the strong, and a comfort to the weary, collards have long been held dear in the food-loving southern heart. In Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table, Edward H. Davis and John T. Morgan provide this emblematic and beloved vegetable the full-length survey its fascinating and complex history merits.

The book begins with collards’ obscure origins. Like a good detective story, the search for collards’ home country leads the authors both to Europe and West Africa, where they unravel a tale as surprising and complex as that of southern people themselves. Crossing back over the Atlantic, the authors traverse miles of American back roads, from Arkansas to Florida and from Virginia to Louisiana. They vividly recount visits to homes, gardens, grocers, farms, and restaurants where the many varieties of collards are honored, from the familiar green collards to the yellow cabbage collard and rare purple cultivars.

In uncovering the secrets of growing collards, the authors locate prize-winning patches of the plant, interview “seed savers,” and provide useful tips for kitchen gardeners. They also describe how collards made the leap from kitchen garden staple to highly valued commercial crop.

Collards captures the tastes, smells, and prize-winning recipes from the South’s premier collards festivals. They find collards at the homes of farmers, jazz musicians, governors, and steel workers. Kin to cabbage and broccoli but superior to both in nutritional value, collard greens transcend human divisions of black and white, rich and poor, sophisticated and rustic, and urban and rural.

Food trends may come and go, but collards are a tradition that southerners return to again and again. Richly illustrated in color, Collards demonstrates the abiding centrality of this green leafy vegetable to the foodways of the American South. In it, readers will rediscover an old friend.

Collards as an ornamental

We have on several occasions found collards being raised as an ornamental plant.  This is usually done at a residence, and it seems not so different from the use of certain kales.  Of course the kale we usually see used in this way has a very unique and sturdy rosette form with pink central leaves – more striking than a collard plant!

Here is a friend of a friend using collards to decorate his law office in Seneca, South Carolina! Thanks, Julian, for permission to share this, and thanks, Frank, for making the connection for us!!Collards as ornamentals in Seneca SC 2014-09-25

Cabbage Collard

My colleague, Dr. John T. Morgan, met a seed saver named Ila in rural Johnston County, NC in 2004, and she shared with us some seeds for a cabbage collard. This is what her seeds produced when grown out by Dr. Mark Farnham at the U.S.D.A. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC. What a beautiful collard!

Cabbage Collard

Whitetail Deer – a pest that loves collards

Here is some deer control fencing and white cloth “motion triggers” created by my friend Fetzer Mills of Wadesboro, North Carolina. If anyone has seen interesting variations on this, please let me know!

Deer can choose to eat many garden plants – and they show wide variability in this habit.  Some gardeners say the quit growing collards because they were tired of feeding the deer. But I have spoken to gardeners who say deer will not bother their collards!

The deer-hunting community is some areas regularly plants “deer plots” in the woods to encourage deer, and one such plant I heard about when exploring Tennessee – collards!  They were more often planting turnip, kale and canola (also called rape), but these are all very closely related. If anyone knows from experience more about whitetail preferences of the Brassicas, please tell me!

NC Fetzer Mills garden with deer prevention Christmas 2008


Growing collards

Most gardeners and many farmers harvest collards a few leaves at a time – usually taking lower leaves, so the plant can continue to produce. Here is a plant in a small commercial plot in Marion County, SC. Note the very sandy soil! This can be an excellent medium for collards.

Growing collards

What makes collards such a great portal to our planet?

Alice Felton's giant collard - Eure, NC

Alice Felton’s giant collard – Eure, NC

Without African American cooks, collards would not have become so widely popular in the Southern US. Without British colonists, who brought the seeds, collards wouldn’t have been available to Southern cooks. And so collards represent the wonderful potential for our enrichment arising from the interactions of cultures.   -Edward H. Davis of Emory & Henry College