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Collard Greens Shortage Threatens New Year's Day Good Luck Recipe

Good luck finding collard greens this New Year. A shortage due to bad weather this fall has made the good luck food harder to find.

Eating collard greens on New Year’s Day is a tradition that began in the South and spread far and wide for its prosperity superstitions. The collard greens on New Year’s Day tradition started long ago as the leafy vegetable, paired with black-eyed peas, served as a sort of good luck charm for the New Year. Cooked collard greens, with their green color resembling money, signified more prosperity for the New Year, while black-eyed peas also symbolized good luck.

Typically cooked with ham or bacon and served with corn bread, collard greens served as a New Year’s Day tradition in the South because the leafy-green vegetable in the cabbage family is grown mostly in the region. From there, the collard greens tradition spread. But it’s in jeopardy this year, since severe weather late this summer and fall caused a collard greens shortage for grocers and producers, putting this long-held New Year’s Day tradition in jeopardy.

WP Rawl, a leading grower of leafy greens in the United States and provider to grocery stores, is experiencing a major collard greens shortage due to the bad weather that plagued the Southeast this year, from the Carolinas to Texas. Crops including collard greens experienced stunted growths because of weeks of heavy rains from a couple of major hurricanes that drenched the region.

Georgia, for instance, typically has the nation’s largest collard greens production but that state was hit hard by Hurricane Michael, which delivered high winds which “tore at their roots, stymying their ability to soak up nutrients,” according to ajc.com.

“It’s been kind of a perfect storm,” said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, according to the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Normally there are areas of good production at this time, but all our major production areas have weather and disease-related issues.”

Reports suggest that turnip and mustard greens sown into the ground fared just fine this year, but it’s the collard green seedlings sprouted in greenhouses by the larger producers and moved to the soil that struggled the most amid high winds and heavy rains.

“The plants seem to be in shock after Michael,” Heath Wetherington, director of operations at Baker Farms in Norman Park, told ajc.com. “I don’t know how to describe it, but they just sat there. The plants just sat there in the field.”

The collard greens situation is so bad approaching this New Year that WP Rawl is encouraging consumers to try other leafy greens for good luck.

“We consider this a great opportunity to encourage consumers to try other types of leafy greens. With similar nutritional profiles, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens are just as good for you and have similar tastes,” Ashely Rawl, a vice president of sales at WP Rawl said in a release. 

Some will find collard greens this year since the Southeast isn't the only sregion where they are grown. Some producers grow collard greens in California and those fared fine, according to the Holiday Veggie Patch in Belton which posted a picture on social media of its collard greens "as far as they eye can see."

Also, many retailers and wholesalers have collard greens for sale online. Thus, they are available but will be harder to find at many grocery stores this New Year.

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