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Collards - Brassica oleraceaacephala

Collards are one of the most primitive members of the cabbage group. These leafy, non-heading cabbages originated in the eastern Mediterranean or similar to Asia Minor and are the wild forms of cabbage first used for food in prehistoric times. They were cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and either the Romans or the Celts introduced them to Britain and France. They reached the British Isles in 400 B.C. The first mention of collards in America was in 1669, but they may have existed here much earlier.

Collards (also known as tree cabbage or non-heading cabbage) are cool-season vegetable greens. They grow better in warm weather and can tolerate more cold weather in the late fall than any other member of the cabbage family. Although collards are popular substitutes for cabbage in the South, they can also be grown in northern areas because of their tolerance to frost. Collards are close relatives to kale.

Collards are extremely nutritious because they have a high content of vitamins A and C. The taste is similar to cabbage. A light frost near harvest time improves the flavor of collard greens.



Plant in early spring for summer harvest and again in midsummer for fall and early winter harvest.

Sow seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Thin seedlings to 6 to 12 inches apart to allow enough space for plants to mature. Thinned plants may be eaten. Allow at least 3 feet between rows because plants become large. For early production in fall or spring, use transplants.

If you maintain ample soil moisture during hot periods in the summer, collards will produce an abundant harvest.


All green parts of the plant are edible and may be harvested at any time during the growing season. Plants grown 6 inches apart can be cut at ground level when they reach 6 to 10 inches in height. As an alternative method of harvesting, you can pick the large leaves when the plants are 10 to 12 inches high. This harvesting method allows the younger leaves to develop for later use.

Some gardeners prefer the young, tender leaves and cut the inner rosette of young growth. This "loose head" may be blanched by tying the outer leaves together to keep out the sun. Frost improves the flavor in the fall.

Bacterial soft rot can enter through the broken areas where the leaves were removed. This can be controlled with a spray of Kocide 101 or copper bordeaux at harvesting.

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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002