Eat More Kale!

I am old enough to remember when kale was a lowly garnish. Cheap, too.

When working in my college dining hall, I carefully placed kale along the stainless steel wells of lettuce, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, red cabbage and other salad bar fare. I placed cherry tomatoes, twisted orange peel slivers, or bright red cinnamon apple rings carefully in the corners for additional color.  At the end of the meal service the kale was tossed into the garbage. This wasn’t a solitary cultural mis-step or food fashion faux pas on my part (just following orders, ma’am). I often saw similar displays of kale in the crushed ice of fish counters.

A Nutritional Powerhouse

Thirty years later, kale wears the coveted superfood label. It’s trendy, too. I’ve seen it at the finest restaurants and recently was offered kale coleslaw at a corporate cafeteria.

Kale pairs high fiber, beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium with low calories. Everyone (including WebMD) seems to be touting its antioxidants, which apparently help block the growth of cancer cells.

An Acquired Taste?

Lacinato and regular kale in a CSA delivery
Lacinato and regular kale in a CSA delivery

I happen to love kale. When Sport Hill Farm was starting its CSA, I would beg for the kale that no one else wanted. When our friend Vincent had an over-abundance of kale seedlings one year, we took them off his hands, growing different varieties in our backyard (trouble-free), harvesting well into the winter.

Alas, many people actually dislike kale. My health-conscious friend Kathryn recently described it as “bitter and inedible” in a social media thread. Friend and Eco Chick founder Starre Vartan’s quickly jumped in to offer advice: “The key is baby kale! Baby lacinato kale isn’t bitter. Just slice it up really thin and toss with your regular salad greens, or throw it in a blender when you are making a smoothie.”

Although I agree with Starre that lacinato kale is most palatable, I’ll eat any form of kale! If you need more convincing, try the Eco Chick recipe for kale chips or some of my favs below. Just do it. Eat more kale.

Turning Your Kale Frown Upside Down

Make Kale Chips, courtesy of Starre and Eco Chick (which contains tips on choosing kale).

My standby preparation is to shred kale with a sharp knife, sauté it with garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Do not overcook! (I don’t know why so many people want to blanch it first. Blah.)

Smoked Trout - Kale - Leftovers Hash
Smoked Trout – Kale – Leftovers Hash

I also like to throw shredded kale into leftovers to create hash.

Portuguese Kale and Potato soup is awesome, too. Bloodroot has an excellent vegetarian recipe, although I admit to sneaking in sausage sometimes when Jim’s not around.

Finally, although raw kale is not my thing, I encourage you to try a recipe that my friend Ed (who eats but does not cook!) told me about on My New Roots. I love this Roasted Sesame Winter Slaw. It’s vegan. I use kale instead of cabbage, or sometimes mix the two.

“You have to age, but you don’t have to rot”

I heard about Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond from my friend Martha. I downloaded it to my e-reader and started checking out its advice: Exercise, watch what you eat, don’t be a hermit, and so on. Not exactly new news.

Then I read: “Biologically, there is no such thing as retirement, or even aging. There is only growth or decay.” Hello! V8® moment. I never thought about it that way. I always saw being fit as a nice to have — to show off in a road race or a tailored suit. Now it was no longer optional.

Authors Crowley and Lodge were re-assuring, however: “You have to age but you don’t have to rot.” All right then. I can work with that!

Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week AND serious strength training two days a week… for the rest of my life? Wow. That sounded intimidating. In talent management we’d call that a “stretch goal.” But I’m trying. It’s hard some days, especially if I don’t squeeze in an early workout and the day goes in an unexpected direction.

Younger Next Year is refreshing. I’m a sucker for lines like “do some damn thing every day” and “you can dog it some of the time.” It’s worth a read whatever your age. Because decay is not a generation thing. It’s not a case of “Now you’re 50 (or 60 or 70), and you need to watch out…”

If you are an adult, and your body is not growing it is decaying. Choose growth!