Collard greens do not grow well in the hot climate of the Kerala coast. However, in the cooler mountain districts of Wayanad and Idukki, it is an entirely different story. When we purchased our land in Wayanad around 8 years ago, we used to visit every week to supervise the construction work of our home. We were surprised to see beautiful plants with long stems sporting cabbage-like leaves growing in many households in the neighborhood. On asking, we came to know that the plants are locally called ilacruse and live for up to two years. The tender leaves can be harvested every fortnight to make stir-fry or curries. Soon after we moved to our new home, we planted a few ilacruse / collard greens in our garden. To our pleasant surprise, the plants grew robustly and yielded plenty of crisp, delicious leaves for me to cook several beautiful dishes.
The collards did well in all sorts of weather and are relatively pest free. They grew exceedingly well when fed on farmyard manure and leaf mold with frequent watering. The fresh and tender leaves could be used in place of cabbage leaves anytime, saving a trip to the market. This low fat vegetable is a veritable source of vitamins C, K and A to boost one’s immune system and manganese to fight against cancer. Collards are reputed to have cholesterol lowering abilities. Today, I made some spicy, deep-fried collard nuggets which turned out so good that I must share the recipe with you. I am sure you will enjoy it!