Collard greens may be a healthy vegetable, but they also can be overwhelmingly funky for the uninitiated. Don't let the pungent, sulfuric smell be a turn-off to cooking these winter greens. Use solid selection, storage and cooking techniques to keep the smell level low so that you can enjoy collard greens without a bad smell in your nose.
Collard Green Basics
Collard greens are a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Like all these vegetables, overcooking greatly diminishes the nutritional value of the greens and releases an unpleasant odor. Don't let this smell define your experience with these greens and miss out on the benefits of collard greens.
No matter how you cook collard greens, some will smell more than others. Choose young, small greens for the least bitter and pungent ones instead of the larger and tougher greens. Avoid collard greens that are discolored and yellowing, opting instead for brightly colored green collard greens. Store collard greens for three to five days in your refrigerator's crisper drawer in a plastic bag to keep them the from wilting and becoming more bitter. Buy collard greens from January through April when they are at the peak of their season for the freshest and least pungent greens.
One way to overcome the smell associated with collard greens is to avoid overcooking. The pungent sulfuric smell is released when collard greens are long cooked. Avoid this by removing the ribs from collard greens and trimming them into thin, uniform pieces before cooking to allow them to cook more quickly and evenly. Saute the greens briefly in oil before turning the heat to low, covering the greens and steaming them until they are tender.
For Southern-style greens, long cooking is key to their flavor and texture. This preparation for greens requires you simmer the greens for several hours, typically with smoked ham hocks or turkey necks for added flavor. Using this method of cooking requires additional seasonings to cut down on the smell and improve the taste of the greens. Use white vinegar and a dash of sugar to diminish the smell and improve the flavor of your finished greens.