Southern Collards


OK, y’all. This week’s Spin Cycle is supposed to be a poem.  This one is almost impossible for me, because I practically cut my teeth on poems. My beloved grandmother, who passed on October 23 of last year, was a prolific poet and artist. I already have posted  several of her poems on my blog. And, since my life’s goal was to be exactly like her, I started writing poetry when I was about nine years old. In searching through my archives of poems, both hers and mine, I finally decided on this one.

Being able to cook up a good mess of collards is the number one requirement of being a true southern cook, y’all. This poem is, I think, the last one my grandmother ever wrote. I found this hand written copy, dated May 2007, tucked away in one of her journals – the writing scribbled and hard to read, due to her failing eyesight. It is about one of her’s (and mine) favorite things….collard greens.

I think I know what inspired her to write this poem. My Aunt Barbara, who was was my grandmother’s daughter-in-law, and refered to as her “adopted daughter” in this poem, remarried a man named Benny, after my uncle died.  Benny, who is from Pennsylvania, never ate a collard green in his life, until he married Barbara and moved down south. He loved them so much, that he decided to try and grow them in his backyard.

Barbara, being one of those southern gals who’d rather spend the day shopping at Dillards than slaving away over the hot stove, had no idea how to cook them. So she did what all us southern women do in a pinch. She called up her southern mama, “Miss Gladys.”

This poem is the answer she got.

Southern Collards

By Gladys Parker
May 2007

When I was forty or so
And you were my daughter, adopted you know
I would don my apron the old fashioned way
Because you were coming for Mother’s Day.


Here’s the collard patch, right outside
It looks a little country-fied
But, begging your pardon,
I like my garden.

The collards were cropped, a leaf off each one.
It makes them grow better – they get big in the sun.
Summer collards are okay to eat,
But winter collards are tender and sweet.

The pot is boiling with a streak of lean.
(Slab bacon, maybe, is what I mean.)
When the meat is tender the fork will tell.
Each leaf examined and cleaned very well.

Now, twist each leaf half in two
Place in the pot, like good cooks do
Cook ‘til tender and seasoned to taste
Drain – nothing goes to waste.

Even the “pot liquor” is good for you.
Or corn meal dumplings, cooked like I do.
So chop up the greens nice and fine
And they will taste just like mine.

14 thoughts on “Southern Collards

  1. She was sharp right up until the end!

    Do you make your collard greens this way?
    Do you know that I’ve never tasted collard greens?
    Can you put vinegar on ’em like spinach?

  2. Never tasted collards??!! What kind of southerner ARE you, woman? Yes, I make my collards this way. It’s very important to drain them, real well, and chop them up. I like to refrigerate them overnight, and the next day fry up some fat back and put the cut up collards in a couple tablespoons of fat back grease, in a cast iron pan, and warm them up. And ALWAYS put hot pepper vinegar on them!

  3. Collard greens….reminds me of Christmases in North Carolina. Your grandma was great. I love this poem. I might have to opt out on the poetry one this week. My brother is an awesome poet, though, so maybe I’ll have to steal from him.

    Sorry I haven’t been around lately to comment. I seem to be hit or miss these days with the blogs I like. I get a few moments here or there lately to check things out.

    Anyhow, love the collard greens poem!

  4. Collards are good, but they’re only a side dish. Like grits, southern & tasty, but not a main course.

    Catfish, fried pork chops or better yet BARBEQUE (shredded pork, not the act of grilling outdoors) covered with vinegar sauce. That’s good eating.

  5. Yummy!!! 🙂

    I love collard greens. I don’t eat them the day that they’re cooked though. I like them leftover with cold fried chicken.

    That is a great poem!!

  6. They are not as delicate as spinach. I’d never eat them raw. More like mustard greens, or turnip greens….but if you haven’t had collards, you probably never had those.

  7. I haven¡¦t checked in here for some time because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

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