Up until earlier this year I certainly had not. Of course I'd heard of Collard Greens. As transplanted Southerners my family had a love of all kinds of greens--turnip, mustard and yes--collard. But I never knew that collards could grow on a perennial tree--that is until a Brother at my church enlightenned me.
Brother Leo is not one to let arrable land go to waste, so when he spied a piece of vacant, almost vertical, ground on a hill behind our church, he went to work improving it. Before long he had tomatoes, zuchinnis, mustard greens, and onions tucked into place there--to say nothing of the peculiar looking, straggly offering which looked as if it had climbed from the pages of a Dr. Suess book. He called it a Collard Tree!
It wasn't long before Leo was pulling leaves from the host of "Collard Trees" and sending some of us home with them to cook up. With a little bacon, and garlic, and a slight dash of vinegar, Leo's Collards were as good as anything I'd tasted from a supermarket.
I was quickly won over, and I had to find out more about this peculiar veggie. A little internet research soon told me that the Purple Collard Tree was something of an East Bay Area institution--a plant passed from neighbor to neighbor, propogated exclusively by cuttings because it so infrequently went to seed. And when they did make seed, what resulted was rumoured not to come "true." In fact it was so rediculously easily to lop off any of the many branches a single plant could produce in a growing season, and just simply stick it into some good muddy dirt, that no seed is really necessary: in a few weeks a bushy Collard Tree would be well on the way!
So now I'm a Collard Tree convert, and we now have several examples making food at 7th Street Farms.
Above: One of my first cuttings a few weeks on.
Same plant; much bigger now, and with the cooler weather comes a deeper purple color--and a sweeter taste.