By Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager
I’ve been trying for years to be a pioneer, instigator, a champion, an advocate, a cheerleader of kale. “Goooo Kale!” I’ve attempted straight-up conversion by spouting nutritional benefits, lauding this green’s versatility, flavor, and flexibility. I shouted from the aisles, loudly at times, the benefits of this amazing vegetable. Only a few, mostly the already converted, listened to their friendly Co-op Produce manager.
These days it’s all over the news, and celebrities the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Hathaway are eating it and publicly touting its benefits. Kale is now cool and hip. In fact, it is so cool that people are getting sued over the stuff! In October, a lawyer for Chick-fil-A sent a letter telling the folk artist Bo Muller-Moore he had to stop using the phrase “eat more kale” on his hand-screened t-shirts because it could be confused with Chick-fil-A’s trademarked term “Eat Mor Chikin.” Muller-Moore apparently has his home state of Vermont backing him and Gov. Peter Shumlin said that the state would do all it could to help Bo Muller-Moore raise money to defend his small business, and by extension all Vermont small businesses and local agriculture, against what they both see as “corporate bullying” by the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A. http://www.masslive.com/business-news/index.ssf/2011/12/vermont_governor_supports_eat_more_kale.html
The public’s conclusion based on previously mentioned empirical evidence: If a simple vegetable like kale can cause this much controversy and fill the gossip columns with recipes from the Stars, it must be good and good for you. In this case, it is!
Let’s jump back to the basics for a moment. Kale is a member of the Brassica family. This family of plants includes a host of more familiar vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Kale, however, is the prodigy child of the Brassica family. It is so nutrient-dense that it puts some commonly held beliefs to the test about which foods are the best to get our nutrients – including competing with carrots for carotein, milk for calcium and orange juice for heavy doses vitamin C. There are a few different varieties of kale (Curly, Lacinato, Red Russian, Decorative). Since I get asked a lot which one is more nutritious, I did a little fact finding and found that it’s pretty much a wash. It’s really up to you to decide on your personal preference. They all have different textures, but are similar in flavor.
Here are some more facts on this power-food:
– A serving of kale has 206% of your RDA for Vitamin A (Yes, if you eat a lot you could turn yellow)
– A higher percentage of the calcium in a cup of kale is absorbed than in a cup of milk. (http://www.365daysofkale.com/2009/02/whats-in-kale-calcium.html) Here’s how that looks:
– Milk contains 300 mg calcium/cup x 32% absorbed = 96 mg calcium absorbed
– Kale contains 197 mg calcium/cup raw x 42% absorbed = 83 mg absorbed
– A serving of kale contains 134% of your RDA for Vitamin C.
– One serving of kale not only contains 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber, but it also provides 2 grams of protein. Yes, that is protein from a vegetable!
– A serving of kale contains 121 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.
– Kale is known to fight cancer-causing free radicals with sulfer-containing phytonutrients. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2
The best part of all is that it does not take a rocket scientist to prepare a delicious meal using kale. It’s really quite easy, and this vegetable is amazingly versatile. I put kale in everything from soups to lasagna and eggs, even on top of pizzas. Anything that you would put spinach in, kale will do one better. A favorite among children and adults alike is “crispy kale.” The recipe follows.
Recipe courtesy of New York Times published: September 15, 2009
Adapted from the Strawbery Banke Museum
Time: 20 minutes
1 bunch of kale, (about 1 pound), cored, leaves rinsed and thoroughly dried
3 to 4 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Meanwhile, flatten kale leaves and use the point of a knife to remove tough center ribs. Stack leaves and roll them together, then slice crosswise into chiffonade strips 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wide.
2. Place kale in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, garlic and salt, making sure leaves are well coated with oil. Spread evenly across a large baking sheet.
3. Bake, tossing once or twice, until leaves are crispy but not burned, about 5 minutes. Serve as is as a finger food or snack, or top with poached eggs as a breakfast or lunch dish.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings as a finger food, snack or side dish.
Gourmet, November 1994
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Makes about 3 cups
a 2 1/2-inch piece smoked kielbasa, sliced thin
1 teaspoon vegetable oil if necessary
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup lentils, picked over
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 small bunch kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves sliced thin (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon balsamic or red-wine vinegar
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, brown sausage over moderate heat and transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. If there is more than 1 teaspoon fat in pan pour off excess; if there is less, add enough oil to measure 1 teaspoon fat. Cook garlic, stirring, until golden. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened.
Add lentils, water, broth, and sausage and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Add kale and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.