Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, collard greens have a bitter taste because they contain so much healthful calcium. There are lots of ways to tone down the bitterness. Because they have plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fiber in addition to calcium, collards deserve a place in your diet. Choose bunches with crisp, dark green leaves with no yellowing around the edges and cook them within five days of purchase.
Adding both opposite and complementary flavors to collard greens won't eliminate bitterness, but will balance it with other flavors and reduce its impact. Salty tastes reduce the effects of bitterness, while sour flavors, in the form of lemon juice or vinegar, and savory umami all give you additional taste sensations to counter bitterness. The best dishes have all the flavors working together.
Classic Southern Collards
Southerners know that a salty and savory ham hock broth counteracts the bitterness in collard greens, but more easily available chicken stock works as well for a cooking liquid. Other nontraditional ingredients to round out the dish include a bit of orange juice for both sweetness and sourness; sauteed red onions and garlic also for sweetness and sourness; and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce to make the dish pop.
Ham, Eggs and Collards
Pairing collard greens with salty ham chunks goes a long way toward reducing its bitterness, but adding a rich and savory fried egg, or eggs scrambled with a dash or rich cream, balances the bitterness as well. Serve these ingredients along with cooked collard greens and place them on top of a piece of good quality, whole-grain buttered toast; the textures, richness and flavors of the dish will all reduce your perception of bitterness. Sprinkle pepper and Parmesan cheese on top to finish.
Collard Green Salad
If you balance the taste of collard greens effectively, you can serve it as a base for a green salad or a collard slaw. Choose from a variety of ingredients and add them in abundance. Toasted peanuts or beans give a salad richness, plus textures that contrast with the collards; bacon bits or Parmesan cheese add saltiness; and fruit, such as slice mangoes, apples or oranges, add sweetness. Use a dressing with cider vinegar and a dash of maple syrup.