farming, garden, Pleasant Hill Ponderings Blog

A Collard Peddler

Oh, if I knew then what I know now. Growing up, I had a strong dislike for collards, though I probably never tasted them until I was an adult. That smell, that sulfur stench, of collards boiling was enough cause for me to turn up my nose. This year I planted 1,000 collards, a lot for someone who once despised the things. Either my culinary tastes have improved or my olfactory senses have declined. Natalie says I can’t smell anything.

Earlier this year, I decided to become a collard peddler. I took my inspiration from a man who sold collards from the back of his pickup truck at an Exxon Station in my hometown of Hamlet. He did quite the business. Every year, during the fall and winter, he would be back at that gas station, selling collards. He sold the collards whole, not in bundles or bags. Some customers inspected the collards, examining each leaf, as if at a tobacco auction, before settling on the collard they wanted to purchase.

So far the collard business has been pretty successful, although I believe they aren’t quite as popular here in the western part of the state. It seems like a lot people here grew up eating turnip greens instead. I planted two varieties of collards: Georgia Southern and Flash. Georgia Southern is an heirloom variety with huge, crinkly leaves. Flash is hybrid that grows faster, albeit with a smaller size overall, and produces smooth, bluish-green leaves. Both taste the same, like collards.

I grew my own transplants from seed, which I planted into black biodegradable plastic mulch. This was my first time growing anything in plastic, and I’m impressed so far. The time it saves in weeding outweighs the cost. I planted the collards in double row beds, with 12 inches between rows and about 14 inches between plants in the row. I have a drip-line between the two rows. I strip-till the beds, living enough room to get a tractor between each bed. The ground between the beds is left in white clover sod.

I like the strip-till system. Before, we used to disc the whole garden, and anytime it rained, a muddy mess lingered. After heavy rains, much of the garden stood in water. Now with the clover aisles between each bed we can easily access the collards. The sod helps water infiltrate the ground. This has been the wettest November on record, with over 10 inches or rain this month, and standing water has only been a problem in tire tracks. Of course, the problem with the strip-till system is that it isn’t nearly as efficient with space. With so much ground left in sod, you’re only planting about half of what you could with traditional rows.

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Strip-till rows

Collards are easy to grow, but pests are tough on them. Caterpillars and grasshoppers have been a pain. I had intentions of cutting my collards whole, like the collard man at the gas station, and selling them that way. Instead, I’ve resorted to picking good leaves and bundling them, which adds more labor. I tried spraying some organic pesticides (Bt, neem oil, and sulfur), but they didn’t seem to faze the pests. The good thing about not cutting the plants is that I can continuously harvest more leaves as they grow. After the hard freeze, pests haven’t been as bad. So far deer have left my collards alone. I can tell where they’ve been browsing in the clover aisles, but apparently the deer herd here doesn’t like collards. Maybe for deer it’s an acquired taste, as well.

 

Pleasant Hill Ponderings Blog, recipe, sausage

Soppin’ up Soup

It is generally well known that I am not fond of cooking. One thing I do like to fix is homemade soup – chicken, potato, sausage, rice….you name it, if it goes in broth I’ll probably attempt it.

Armed with my trusty Hotpoint stove, the only electric stove our house has ever had, I’m fighting tonight’s cold, windy weather with my favorite sausage potato soup.

Begin to brown 1 lb. sausage. In a stock pot, simmer garlic, onions, and a small amount of chicken broth until onions are tender. Add remaining stock and chopped carrots and celery. ** You can substitute celery for Kale**

Allow vegetables and broth to simmer. Wash and slice 3 – 4 potatoes leaving the skin on. I typically use either russet potatoes (they hold up better in soup) or Yukon Gold (I like the texture and flavor the best). Add sliced potatoes and browned sausage to the soup.

Allow soup to simmer until potatoes are tender – then, you are ready to eat!

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This is one of my favorite soups to make – it is hearty, tasty, and it reheats well. I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables, so this is also a healthy and sneaky way for me to eat more of them.

Click the image below for a printable recipe card.

Recipe_Card_-_Sausage_Potato_Soup