By Melanie Fincher

There's more than one way to enjoy this soul food staple.

Collard greens, like other greens, are a New Year's delicacy. In the American South and beyond, people eat collard greens on New Year's Day in hopes that it will bring them a little more green ($) in the coming year. But there are more benefits to eating collard greens than just luck. This Southern comfort food is actually good for you. These leafy greens are packed with nutrients and have cholesterol-lowering abilities. So grab yourself a "mess o' greens" and learn one of these simple techniques for cooking collard greens.

Pictured: Easy Collard Greens | Photo by lutzflcat

How to Pick, Store, and Prep Collard Greens

For the freshest flavor, look for leaves with a firm texture that haven't yet wilted. A deep green color free of blemishes or browning is best. Collard greens can be stored in a sealable plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days. These greens tend to collect the sandy soil they grow in, so a thorough rinse under running water is a must, but not enough. Allow your collards to soak in water for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to loosen any dirt. Then give them a final rinse to remove any of the remaining sand. Shake off the excess water and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems from each leaf and toss them. You can do this by either cutting the stems out with a knife or simply tearing the leaf away from the stem. Now you"re ready to get cooking!

1. How to Sauté Collard Greens

While collard greens are traditionally cooked low and slow, this method is great for when you're short on time. After washing and removing the stems, stack the leaves together and roll them lengthwise. Cut the roll into 1 inch pieces to create ribbons. For a basic collard green sauté, heat oil in a skillet. Add a little garlic to help balance the bitterness of the greens. Toss in the greens and season to your liking. Stop cooking once the greens are slightly wilted but still bright in color. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and you're done!

Pictured: Sweet and Tangy Sauteed Collard Greens | Photo by voraciousgirl

2. How to Fry Collard Greens

A little bacon grease goes a long way. Frying collards with bacon and onions is an easy way to pack your greens with flavor. For basic fried collard greens, start by frying slices of bacon over medium heat. Once it's done, remove the cooked bacon and crumble. Add whole collard greens (stems removed) and onion to the bacon grease and fry for several minutes. Add water or broth, along with any seasonings you prefer for flavor. Cover and allow the mixture to simmer for at least 15 minutes. Drain the liquid, and toss the greens with bacon and apple cider vinegar.

VIDEO: Kickin' Collard Greens

3. How to Cook Collard Greens in the Slow Cooker

If you have a little more time on your hands, a slow cooker provides the gentle braise that collards need for peak flavor and tenderness. Not to mention you can toss your ingredients in in the morning and come home to the fragrant (well, pungent) aroma of collard greens and ham hocks. After removing the stems, roughly chop the greens and add them to the slow cooker. Add broth, smoked meat and onion (along with brown sugar, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar for flavoring). Cook on low for 8 hours. Once it's ready, remove the ham hocks and chop off any meat and combine it with the other ingredients. Enjoy!

Pictured: Slow Cooker Collard Greens | Photo by Brielle Brauner

4. How to Simmer Collard Greens

Maybe the most popular option for cooking collard greens, a low simmer gives you tender greens that can be flavored however you'd like—it's all in the broth. Add water or broth to a large stockpot, along with smoked meat (like ham hocks) and seasoning. Allow this mixture to simmer for about an hour. After removing the stems of the collards, stack the leaves together and roll them lengthwise. Cut the roll into 1 inch pieces to create ribbons. Add greens to the pot along with a little butter. Allow them to simmer for another hour, stirring throughout. That's all there is to it.

VIDEO: Tasty Collard Greens

5. How to Blanch Collard Greens

While bacon and other meats are great for flavoring bitter greens, this blanching method offers a healthier alternative to the traditional methods. And it's so easy! Used chopped collards for a side dish, or use the whole leaf for wraps! Simply cook the leaves in a pot of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. Then drain them and chill them in cold water. Drain them once again and you're done!

More Ways to Enjoy Collard Greens:

Lentil and Green Collard Soup

"It was vibrant and flavorful and provided a healthy way to use up my collard greens," says reviewer Alison D.

Photo by Ace

Brazilian Collards

Reviewer 57suze says, "I served this as a side dish for a South American dinner and wine tasting we hosted and it was a huge hit—even those who thought they didn't like collards liked these!"

Photo by Scharffenberger

Winter Green Salad

"People tend to forget to eat salads and other raw foods in the cold weather," says recipe creator jgmurphy. "This salad is a good way to get your greens by combining somewhat heartier salad textures."

Photo by WIMSEY
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