Friday, January 1, 2021



When supplied in adequate amounts, a diet of composed typically of cornmeal and salted pork provided the protein and calories enslaved individuals needed for the labor intensive lives they were forced to endure. However, these staple rations alone proved insufficient in terms of complete nutrition. To supplement their issued provisions, and produced through self-initiative, enslaved people grew fruits and vegetables that they learned helped keep a body healthy.

Adding flavor to an otherwise bland diet, and receiving the benefits that we today know come from vitamins and minerals, enslaved communities on plantations often planted and grew leafy green vegetables like collards. A member of the cabbage family, collards developed into a key food that offered high levels of vitamin C and fiber. Due partly to its ability to thrive in cooler temperatures, and thus its availability more year round than vegetables that only grew in spring and summer, collards greatly enhanced the traditional corn and pork-based fare.

Although born to free parents in North Carolina, John Green Patterson recalled the significance of collards: “To the inhabitants of the country districts of the South, where there are no markets, and the daily allowance consists of salt meat, rice, potatoes, and the like . . . the collard is a very great blessing; because when boiled in a pot with a piece of fat meat and balls of corn dough . . . it makes palatable a diet which otherwise would be all but intolerable.”

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