COLUMBIA -- South Carolina legislators gave the lowly collard green its due Tuesday when the Senate agreed to make it the official state vegetable.
Always washed, frequently boiled and traditionally a charm for wealth in the New Year first put on Southern tables by slaves, the collard green would join dozens of other "official" things the state recognizes.
For instance, milk is the state's official beverage and state-grown tea is the state's official hospitality beverage. The Carolina wolf spider is the state's official spider and the bottlenose dolphin is the state's official mammal.
The 30-12 vote showed there were collard green doubters.
Sen. Greg Ryberg, an Aiken Republican and Wisconsin transplant, wondered if there was competition.
Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens Republican, defended the choice. "We all know the popularity of the collard," Martin said.
"What about the green bean?" Ryberg asked in a reference to past efforts to put money into a green bean museum.
"The green bean's not leafy," Martin said flatly. "This is very specialized."
When told of what the bill actually said, Martin was surprised. "Oh, it is? I thought it was leafy," Martin said with a laugh. Nonetheless, Martin said, "collards are good for the soul."
For now, the legislation leaves the collard green standing tall over everything from arugula to zucchini, something Senators could change before a final vote Wednesday that would send the bill to the House.
It's not a bad place for collards, Martin said, waxing on a dinner table spread he loves -- collards, cornbread and black-eyed peas -- but offering a warning. "The biggest thing you do not want to do is cook them in your house -- you'll never get the smell out."