Recipe: Make Warm Collard Green Dip with in-season chives



Atlanta’s generally mild winter months mean metro Atlanta farmers can still have rows of green vegetables to harvest. Collards, kale, turnip greens and mustard among others will all be fine unless the weather turns to temperatures in single digits, and even then they’ll recover after a few days of warmer temperatures.

Members of the onion family like chives are among the hardy offerings of area farms, and College Park’s Metro Atlanta Urban Farm is growing onion chives, garlic chives and thousands of Vidalia-type sweet onions.

The farm and its 5 acres is the realization of a dream for Bobby Wilson, who retired from UGA’s Cooperative Extension with a goal to continue the extension service’s work of creating stronger, healthier communities. “Farming and community gardening are a major part of building healthy communities,” Wilson said. “So we use our farm as a teaching tool, an economic empowerment zone and as a food production site for southwest Atlanta.” His partner in the project is Cathy Walker, a colleague from Cooperative Extension.

The farm is in its seventh growing season. “In addition to growing crops for sale, we have a community garden where you can lease a 180- to 200-square foot space and grow your own vegetables,” he said. “We have cooking classes and host farmers markets on site and people can come to the farm and pick their own vegetables. We also go out to churches and other organizations and help them identify sites to install gardens and small farms. We make our own value-added products such as jellies, jams and pickles and we were just approved by the City of College Park to make our own wine.”

If that’s not enough, listen to Wilson list more of the farm’s activities. “We feed 300 to 350 homeless people each month through the Atlanta Union Mission. We have a farm school so elementary-aged children can make the connection between their food and the soil. We have hands-on gardening classes and community service opportunities with the court system. That’s an important part of what we do, working with young people and helping them make good decisions about their food.”

On Feb. 16, Wilson will host attendees of the 20th Anniversary Georgia Organics Conference and Expo, Conference goers have the choice of several visiting more than a dozen metro area farms including Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, Gilliam's Community Garden, Hickory Grove Farm and Cane Creek Farm.

Wilson says he hopes visiting the farm will help others see what it takes to build an urban agriculture program. “You have to create multiple streams of income to be successful. Leasing garden spots, identifying restaurants that will buy what you grow, those are two ways we support ourselves. The National Resource Conservation Service offers cost-sharing funds which we used to drill at 345-foot deep well and an irrigation system that runs through the farm as well as hoop houses that extend the growing season.”

Back to those onions. The farm is doing some trial planting. In late September they laid out rows and then covered the soil with weed block fabric. They topped that with aged horse manure and wood chips, and then cut through the weed block to plant thousands of sets of Vidalia-type sweet onions. In the middle of the rows they planted canola and rye. These cover crops will help keep down the weeds and then improve the soil when they are tilled in later. “It’s a little research project for us. One of the biggest problems in growing organically is being able to keep down the weeds.”

They also have permanent beds with garlic chives and onion chives. “The biggest job we have is to clean out those beds periodically. We pot up some of the plants to sell to other farmers and community gardeners and we harvest the chives to sell to our restaurant customers like The Feed Store in College Park.”

Warm Collard Green Dip

Chef Michele Tompkins, “executive foodie” and managing partner of Urban Foodie Feed Store: Kitchen & Bar in College Park buys produce from Metro Atlanta Urban Farm including their chives. She sends us this recipe that updates your favorite spinach dip with extra-healthy collard greens and a nice chive topping. No more frozen spinach and packaged onion soup mix.

Tomkins says she likes to serve this with crisp tortilla chips, although you can use warm tortillas if you prefer. And if you like your food on the spicy side, add a bit of your favorite hot sauce.

For the wine, she suggests a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup white wine

2 bunches (1 pound) collard greens, stems removed and chopped (about 7 cups chopped greens)

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

1 cup grated Parmesan, divided

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons chopped chives, divided

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 1/2 teaspoons chopped cooked bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-inch square baking dish.

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add wine. Stir in collards, cream cheese, sour cream, 3/4 cup Parmesan, red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon chives. Continue cooking until everything is well combined and cheese has melted. Taste for seasoning. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and the top is a light golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of chives and chopped bacon. Makes: 5 cups

Per 1/4-cup serving: 142 calories (percent of calories from fat, 78), 5 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 12 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 33 milligrams cholesterol, 158 milligrams sodium.


For sale

Vegetables and fruit just coming to market: cutting celery, prickly pear cactus fruit

Vegetables, fruits and nuts: apples, arugula, Asian greens, beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, cornmeal, endive, escarole, fennel, frisee, grits, green onions, herbs, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, pecans, polenta, radicchio, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

From local reports