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How to Harvest and Store Collards

collards
Collard green harvest

Collard leaves are ready for harvest as soon as they reach usable size. They will be most tasty when picked young–less than 10 inches long and dark green. Older leaves will be tough and stringy.

Collard greens are ready for harvest 75 to 85 days from transplants, and 85 to 95 days from seed.

When to Harvest Collards

  • Collard leaves are most flavorful in cool weather. Leaves will be sweeter if harvested after frost; cool temperatures cause carbohydrates in the leaves to turn to sugar.
  • In mild-winter regions, collards will produce new leaves nearly all winter. In hard freeze regions, protect collards from temperatures in the low 20°sF—use row covers, plastic tunnels, or cold frames.
  • When temperatures in the teens are predicted, cover collard plants to keep the leaves from freezing. Still, frozen leaves can be cooked.
  • Overwintered collards will bolt and produce flowers in the spring; then plants should be removed and replaced.
  • Collards planted in the spring and grown into the summer will be bitter if hit by a summer heatwave. But new leaves generated in the fall when temperatures become cool again will be tasty. The roots of summer-grown collards should be generously mulched and watered for the best flavor.
Collard leaves
Leaves will come away from the stem with a sharp downward pull. You can also use a sharp knife.

How to Harvest Collards

  • Harvest leaves from low on the stem first and then work your way up the stalk. Pick leaves from the outside of the plant and work inward. Be careful not to damage the stem where new leaves emerge.
  • Leaves will come away from the stem with a sharp downward pull. You can also use a sharp knife.
  • Leave at least four leaves at the top of the plant (the growing crown); that will allow the plant to grow new leaves for future harvest.
  • Regular harvest and even watering will keep the plant producing new tender leaves.
Collard leaf in kitchen
Store collard leaves for several days to a week in the refrigerator.

How to Store Collards

  • After harvesting collard greens, wash the leaves thoroughly to remove any soil that may be clinging to the bottom of the leaves.
  • Store collard leaves for several days to a week in the refrigerator. Place leaves in a perforated plastic bag wrapped in a damp paper towel in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator to keep leaves moist and to avoid drying.
  • Collard greens will store for two to three weeks at 32° to 34°F and 90 to 95 percent humidity (moist) with some air circulation.
  • You can harvest the collard plant whole and keep the leaves fresh indoors for a few weeks by setting the roots in moist soil or sand.
  • If you cook collard greens whole, stems will become tender.

More tips at How to Grow Collards.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. We planted four collard plants in the spring of 2020 as a trial run. We did not harvest anything off of them last year, as they didn’t seem to flourish. We wanted to see if they would survive over winter, and they did. When they bloomed this spring, we cut the blooms off leaving the upright stalks about two feet high. The stalks that are on the ground look like large snakes! Where the crown end stands up about two feet tall, there are large leaves. We’ve just noticed that leaves are beginning to sprout on the large, snake-like part of the stalk that’s on the ground. How should we harvest the leaves and maintain the stalks to keep the plants growing year round?

    • Tree collards commonly need staking; you will want to train them upright. They are then grown like other brassicas (cabbage family members. You will want to harvest them cut and come again taking the tender new leaves which can be treated like kale. We don’t grow tree collards; you may want to research tree collards further or speak to the vegetable expert a the cooperative extension nearest you for regional suggestions.

  2. My collards were planted in September and we have enjoyed 2-3 dozen in the harvest. The only grew to about 8 inches but still tasty. I think I planted them too close together. They need about 12 inches of space for the roots to stretch out. We are in Los Angeles and this week is about to get warm. I think they will continue to flourish though.

  3. I just harvested my collards, leaving the growing crowns @ the top and part of stem from the leaves. How do I get new leaves to grow?

    • If the crown was not cut back too severely, new leaves will emerge in time. Give the plant a boost with a dilute solution of fish emulsion.

  4. I purchased for the first time collard green plants sometime between the fist and second week of June. Now it the 2nd week in July and their leaves are getting pretty big. Is this normal. I’ve read where they shouldn’t be picked until 85-95 days after being planted.
    Help… advice needed
    Thank you in advance

    • You can harvest collard leaves at any time they are large enough to eat; the younger leaves will be the most tender.

    • I purchased several collard plants at Walmart. I planted them and they are now approximately 8″ tall. They are not dark green like your video they are a silver grey/green. There is a tall flower blooming in the center of each plant (yellow flowers). Do I cut that flower stem off or do I just leave it and hope the surrounding leaves grow large?

      Thank you…..

      • When a collard plant sends up a flower it is an indication that the air temperatures have warmed and the plant believes it must flower and drop seed before it dies. Collards are a cool-weather plant; they grow best in temperatures 70F and cooler. Cut off the flower, this may prolong the plant’s life for a few weeks, perhaps more. Plant collards again in late summer so that they mature in cool weather, not in warming weather.

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