Too Much Green for Greens

Don’t let collard greens go the way of kale as our favorite vegetable gets gentrified 

By Leilani Goodwin

Think of soul food, and fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and a pot of greens come to mind. The leafy collard green has traveled its way through the ancient times on the Mediterranean Sea, to the scraps of African slaves, and now are fully enveloped into African-American soul food.

Historically, white slave owners, ignored collard greens unless they were made by their servants. The leafy green was one of the few plants that slaves were allowed to grow and have as their own. Black house slaves cooked down the veggie and added scraps of meat such as pigs feet, turkey neck, or “chitlins.” In the years post-slavery, African-Americans continue to serve collard greens and prepare them in both creative and traditional ways.

Unfortunately, greens may soon become scarce in homes where money is tight. Just as they did with kale, foodies and hipsters have appropriated our favorite leafy green, so expect a price increase. Collards have replaced kale—which has become more and more expensive–as the “it” green, the ncollardsewest “superfood.”

Just as they do everything else, wealthy white people have found something that always existed and made it their own. Brad’s, a healthy food company known for “Raw Crunchy Kale,” recently discovered collards. They are increasingly replacing kale in green juices, warm and cold salads, and in a sandwiches. According to Whole Foods, a supermarket that symbolizes gentrification, collard greens will soon “dethrone” kale.

Michael Ferraro, executive chef at Delicatessen in New York City and a former competitor on “Iron Chef America,” is also a fan. “Collard greens are a very classic comfort food ingredient, but they’re making a comeback in a big way with new, lighter preparations,” he says. “They’re not just for fried chicken anymore.”

Part of the demand for collards? Kale has become too popular and is disappearing from the produce sections of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The nutritionally similar collard green offers a good substitute. But look what happened to the price? A recent story in Bitch magazine notes that kale went from 88 cents a bunch to $1.10, a 25 percent increase between 2011 and 2014. .

A quick price check of Fresh Direct, shows a bunch of organic kale priced at $3.49. Unfortunately, at $3 a bunch, collards aren’t far behind.

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