Collards Can Curtail Cholesterol

Moloa’a Organica’a is a certified organic, diversified farm on 20 acres in Moloa’a. Ned and Marta Whitlock grow vegetables on four acres and fruit on 15 acres. Moloa’a Organica’a harvests six days a week and supplies Kaua’i grocery stores and restaurants.

Some of what they grow: Avocados, bananas, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cherry tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, citrus, collard greens, corn, curly kale, dragon fruit, eggplant, fennel, green beans, herbs, joi choi, Lacinato kale, lemon grass, lettuce, longon, lychee, approximately 30 varieties of mango, okra, papaya, radicchio, rambutan and taro.

COLLARD GREENS

Collards are in a group of brassicas referred to as the acephela group, meaning without a head. Paddle-shaped leaves resemble cabbage because they are a non-heading cabbage known as colewort. Typically, collard greens are dark green to blue-green with a dull sheen. Moloa’a Organica’a grows a variety with glossy, light-greens leaves that are a little more tender than common varieties. Leathery looking and mild tasting, the cholesterol-lowering ability of collard greens may be the greatest of all commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. Collards are the state leafy green of South Carolina, where it often is paired with smoked meats, onions, chili, garlic and vinegar.

Season: In Kaua’i’s sub-tropical climate, collard greens can be grown year-round.

What to look for: Choose sturdy paddle-shaped leaves with a rich green color. A robust white stem runs through the center and white veins stretch across the surface. Avoid leaves that are yellowed or wilted.

Storage: Cook collards as soon after picking or purchase as possible. Until then, refrigerate in plastic bags.

Tip: Stalks crowned with yellow flowers shoot up when collards start to bolt. They are tender, similar to asparagus, mild and good to eat, as are the flowers. If the central stem of each leaf isn’t tender, remove and discard.

Preparation: Collards taste better when cooked. Finely sliced and blanched, they make a fine salad. Collards are typically braised for soups and stews, and can be steamed and used as a wrap or in place of grape leaves for dolmades – a Greek dish with rice and spices. In Africa, India, Egypt, Spain and Pakistan, collards are seasoned with garlic, ginger chilies, coconut, turmeric, coriander and cardamom.

Health benefits: Steamed collard greens outshine steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, in terms of collards’ ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract. Bile acids are made from cholesterol, and the result of bile acid binding is a lowering of the body’s cholesterol level.

Moloa’a Organica’a produce can be found at: Farmers Market: Waipa (Tuesdays 2 to 4 p.m.), Kapa’a (Wednesdays 3 to 4 p.m.), Kilauea (Thursdays 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.), Hanalei (Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to noon). Grocery: Harvest Market, Healthy Hut, Kilauea Town Market, Banana Joe’s, Weston Market, Hoku Foods, Papaya’s Natural Foods, Vim n’ Vigor, Living Foods Poi’pu, Kukui’ula Market, Whole Foods Kahala on Oahu. Restaurants: Bar Acuda, The Garden Cafe, Hukilau Lanai, Duke’s, and Kilauea Fish Market. Call 651-1446.

SAVORY COLLARD AND SWEET POTATO SOUP

Collard greens make this soup thick and savory; fresh ginger and Hawaiian chili pepper add a spicy zip. The broth is enriched with coconut milk, which adds a rich and creamy texture. Cubes of sweet potato make this a filling meal. If you pop the sweet potatoes in the oven the morning before you make the soup, they’ll be cool enough to peel and cube later in the day. Makes four servings.

* 1 pound collard greens, stems removed and roughly chopped
* 1 tablespoon oil
* 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 Hawaiian chili pepper
* 5 shallots
* 2 teaspoons minced fresh turmeric
* 1 teaspoon sea salt
* 1 15-ounce can coconut milk
* 3 cups water
* 1 purple sweet potato, cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 1 orange sweet potato, cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Warm oil in a large pot. Add ginger, garlic, chili, turmeric and shallots. Cook until fragrant, then add collards. Add coconut milk, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 25 minutes. Puree soup in batches in a blender. Return to pot, add sweet potatoes and warm over low heat.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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