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?
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.)
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.