Eating Well: Tips for Cooking Bitter Greens

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Earlier this month, we posted a survey asking which vegetable you fear cooking. Many of you mentioned bitter greens, the category of collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens that can turn out tough and unappealing. So we have some tips and recipes to help…

The classic way to cook collard and turnip greens—especially for those of us who grew up in the South—is to braise them with pork, either smoked ham hock or thick-cut bacon. The flavor of the pork mellows out the greens and gives them a much needed salty boost. The fat makes the leaves tender and silky.

• Our general method for the toughest greens (collards and turnip greens) goes like this: Cook some thick, chopped bacon in a heavy saucepan until the fat is rendered. Add the greens (which we’ve sliced into ribbons) and cook in the pork fat with plenty of salt and pepper until they are wilted. Add enough chicken stock or water to barely cover the greens, cover the pot, and cook for about half an hour or more, until the greens are soft and an army green color. That’s right. We like ours to lose that all-important, vitamin-packed bright green color. We like ’em a little overcooked.

If you are a vegetarian, or just don’t want to use pork fat, you can cook your greens in olive oil. But we’d recommend salting heavily and adding stock rather than water for more flavor. Of course, there are myriad variations. Some people add cider vinegar, wine, or onions. Some people boil their greens and then drain them.

• As for kale and mustard greens, they tend to be more tender (we even eat kale raw, in salads) and don’t need as much time or heat. You can stir them into soups and they’ll soften up nicely.

Some recipes to try:
Easy Braised Collard Greens, from the Kitchn
Collard Greens, from Paula Deen

Cavolo Nero Kale, from the Kitchn
Slow-Cooked Cavolo Nero, from the Kitchn

(Image: Flickr member peskymac, licensed under Creative Commons)