Making its appearance in the late 1880s, Yellow Cabbage Collard continued to be prominent with readily available seeds for purchase in North Carolina until approximately 1975. Colonel Joe Branner, proprietor of the Asheville Greenhouses, began the production of the seed in eastern Carolina in 1887 by sowing full collard seeds in his greenhouse, which responded to the local soil by growing a bit shorter and more cabbage-like, naturalizing over time to their new environment. Today most people jealously guard their cabbage collard seeds: some have been passed down in the same family for generations. Distinctively, the Yellow Cabbage Collard has rough-edged, non-heading edible leaves that radiate from a common stem. It grows year-round in full sun or partial shade, has a 45+ day growing season, and can grow to be 60 cm tall and wide.
Also known as the Carolina Cabbage Collard, the plant differs from other landrace coleworts as it has thinner leaves, with finer veining and more of a yellow tone to its shade of green. It has a silky, tender texture, more akin to spinach than bitter greens. The flavor, which reaches its peak in late summer, is milder and less bitter than regular collard greens. While the Yellow Cabbage Collards are most often prepared in the manner traditional to southern collards (long boiled in salted water with a piece of fatback or bacon) the relative tenderness of the leaves permits other preparations unusual for collards. The most distinctive preparation found in eastern North Carolina is the Yellow Cabbage Collard pickles, in which the vinegar brine is laced with hot peppers and a spoonful of brown sugar.
While production of the Yellow Cabbage Collard began in Asheville, NC and is particularly known across eastern North Carolina, recent research suggests that the current availability of the yellow cabbage collard is limited to Ayden, NC. The city of Ayden calls itself the “The Collard Capital of the World” and lives up to this name hosting each September the Ayden Collard Festival. The 2014 edition will marks the 40th year of this festival.