Emory & Henry College, Emory, VA

Ed Davis grew up in North Carolina’s part of the Collard Belt, and is a cultural geographer teaching at Emory & Henry College. He worked with a team led by Mark Farnham to find collard seed savers around the Southeast and ask them to donate to the national seed bank. He co-authored (with John T. Morgan) the book Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table (Univ. of Alabama, 2016).

Why are collards special?

Our research showed that collards, one of the most important garden crops in Southern history, might have gone extinct were it not for the recognition in Black culture (brought from West Africa) that dark leafy greens provide essential nutrition. British and Irish immigrants had brought collard seeds from Europe (it’s a cool season crop) but by the 1700s that plant was disappearing from their foodways. Meanwhile Black families were seeking dark leafy greens in their diet, so they took up the collard and made the dish important. As a result of the wisdom and influence of those Black cooks, today millions of Black and White people in the Southeast consider collards central to their cuisine, and even people in distant regions are discovering the great taste of collards.

What’s Your Favorite Way To Eat Collards?

Cooked with lots of onion and garlic, and topped with butter!