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BRUNSWICK COUNTY—She has been growing collard greens for more than 30 years, but never has she grown them as tall as this year.
Velma Williams planted collard greens in her garden last spring, just like she does every year. Only this year, they never seemed to stop growing.
Last week Williams measured them. The tallest one in her garden is 56 inches in height.
“Everyone keeps asking me to come by and see them,” Williams said. “I planted them in March, and they have grown tall in the last three months. They are collard trees.”
During Hurricane Irene, Williams staked the plants because they were top-heavy. Williams plants two crops of collard greens a year, as it is a staple of her garden. They start as small plants she purchases at a seed store.
Gardening is in her blood. Williams grew up on a farm in Halifax County and remembers growing collard greens as a child.
“I remember they were always low to the ground. I have never seen them like this,” Williams said.
The garden is a source of joy for Williams, who says there is always something edible in her garden. During the winter months, collards and other greens thrive.
“I remember the saying from when I was a kid, ‘Get a leaf from every collard and you have a meal,’” Williams smiled as she pulled the bottom leaves off her collard plants.
“Once a frost comes, they get real tender. They will grow through to next spring. After the frost comes they have a natural sweetness.”
Williams said one of the best ways to eat the collard greens is to take the vein out of the leaf and cut it into little strips. Steam it with olive oil and add turkey, bacon or ham hocks for taste.
“They are so easy to grow,” Williams said. “You plant them and keep the grass out.”
She uses newspaper to smother out the grass. When bugs threaten the plants, she sprays them with Dove dish detergent. Deer and rabbits enjoy eating in her garden, and Williams has learned a few tricks to keep them away over the years.
Also in her garden you will find bell, jalapeno, habanera and chili peppers, kale, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, rutabaga, cabbage, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, tomatoes, okra, beets, broccoli and more.