Liberian Cuisine 'Collard Greens'

For many in the Diaspora, there is shared knowledge that dishes are meant not only to feed and nurture the body but to do so for the soul. This is what Liberia shares with its cousins across the Atlantic. In 1821 the American Colonization Society founded Liberia as a place for newly freed African Americans to migrate and call home. Today Liberia is known as the oldest republic in Africa, and the country shares a few traditions with African Americans because of this migration.

One of the shared culinary ttraditions of African Americans is soul food. The meals are typically eaten during special occasions and holidays such as Thanksgiving. Soul food includes collard greens, fried okra, and corn bread, all of which are also eaten by Liberians with differences in preparations.

Collard Greens

Collard greens is a popular Liberian dish. As with African Americans, Liberians mostly eat collard greens during holidays and special occasions. Unlike African Americans, however, Liberians prepare collard greens as a soup or stew and eat it with rice.

As with other greens in Liberia, the collard greens must be shredded very finely before being fried with vegetable oil or cooked with palm oil. The greens are packed tightly into a bundle then shredded with a sharp knife very close to the hand. Steamed or fried pieces of meat such as chicken or fish are added at the very end.

Preparing fried collard greens is different from collard greens prepared with palm oil. When frying collard greens, shredded greens are added into hot oil with onions, garlic, pepper, and seasonings. These ingredients are stir-fried. Water or broth is also added to cook the ingredients. Next, fried pieces of meat, chicken, and fish are added into the pot. The soup is then seasoned to the preparer’s liking, who then allows the water to boil out completely before serving the greens over rice.

During the preparation of palm oil collard greens, shredded greens, onions, garlic, pepper, and seasonings are added into the pot with water to boil. Once the water has decreased and the ingredients are cooked, steamed meat, chicken, and fish are added. The soup should be seasoned to your liking before adding palm oil. Let the remaining water dry out and serve over rice.

Benefits of Collard Greens

Like most foods in Liberia, collard greens is packed with lots of nutritional benefits. Here are a few benefits of collard greens.

Prevent Cancer

Collard greens detoxify the body; have high levels of antioxidants such as glucosinolates; and reduce inflammation, making this powerful vegetable a natural cancer fighter and preventer.

Support Cardiovascular Health

Because collard greens reduce inflammation, they impact our cardiovascular health. Vitamin K, which is abundant in collard greens, is a critical nutrient for reducing inflammation and protecting cells that line blood vessels, including both veins and arteries.

Lower Cholesterol

Collard greens lower cholesterol naturally because the leaves are high in fiber. Soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the digestive system, causing it to be excreted by the body.

Support Digestive System

Collard greens are some of the best high-fiber foods. Eating this beneficial vegetable stimulates the digestive system. Collard greens consumption can be added as an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diet food because they combat IBS.