“Kale is my best friend. I eat kale salad. I put kale in my smoothies, kale in my soup. Kale, kale, kale! I feel like Popeye. I love it. I definitely need variety or I get super bored, so I have to mix it up with different sauces and tahini or whatever.”
– Alanis Morissette discussing her kale obsession with Runner’s World.com.
Did You Know?
- Kale is considered to be a form of wild cabbage.
- Kale’s official name borecole originates from the Dutch phrase for farmer’s cabbage.
- Some varieties of kale grow over six feet tall.
- Decorative kale seen in winter flower pots is also edible!
Why Is Kale So Popular?
Move over Popeye’s spinach and make room for the latest greens rage, kale. Also known as borecole, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. A leafy green available in a variety of shapes and hues of green and gray, kale belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. While Americans may be discovering the superpowers of kate, the leafy green has always been popular in different cultures around the world and its dense nutritional qualities celebrated in festivals and tours.
According to Wikipedia, a whole culture around kale exists in north-western Germany. There, most social clubs hold a Grünkohlessen or Kohlfahrt or a “kale tour” between October and February. Most communities in the area also have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a “kale king” or queen. In Scotland, kale is such a staple of traditional diet the word “kale” is synonymous with food. And to be “off one’s kail” is to feel too ill to eat.
During World War II, the United Kingdom’s Dig for Victory campaign encouraged backyard growers to include kale in plantings because its nutritional value was needed to counter the deficiencies and effects of rationing. Because kale is a cold season crop and overwinters well in some areas, one variety is called Hungry Gap named after the period in winter when few other crops are available.
What Makes Kale So Exceptional?
Here is why it’s a superstar vegetable world over and for many centuries: Kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. As with broccoli and other brassicas, kale contains sulforaphane, a potent anti-cancer nutrient. It is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat.
Should I Buy Organic Kale?
Yes. The Environmental Working Group rolled out its “Dirty Dozen” list of the most contaminated vegetables in 2013, and while kale is not in the top ten, it IS classified as HIGHLY TOXIC due to organophosphate insecticides used on the crops.
Kale and Collards made the EWG’s Dirty Dozen PLUS list which was created to highlight two crops – domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens. The EWG says, “These crops did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.”
Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible. The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choosing the least contaminated produce.
For more on which foods to purchase organic, visit the EWG and see their shopper’s guides here: www.ewg.org
How Do I Prepare Kale?
Research shows that boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane in kale, however, steaming or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Steaming actually increases the green’s bile acid binding properties. Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavorful after being exposed to a frost.
- Kale Chips – This simple preparation of kale will have you begging for more. A crispy salty treat that is better than popcorn or potato chips. See the full recipe below.
- Kale Pesto – More flavorful than basil pesto, this is a great addition to pizza, pasta, or in an omelet.
- Sauteed Kale – For a hearty side dish, this is a classic preparation. Saute onions and garlic before adding the kale, and add a couple dashes of hot sauce for an added kick.
- Kale Quiche – You can substitute any spinach quiche with kale and it offers the same great taste with the added health benefits.
- Kale Soup – A classic kale soup is made with white beans and ham or sausage, however you can also use acorn squash and kale to create a sweet and savory winter favorite.
- Kale Lasagna – The perfect “make ahead” recipe for a hearty dinner is a dish the whole family can enjoy.
- Kale Juice – If you own a juicer, kale is quite possibly the healthiest thing to juice. Mix it with apples, carrot and a little lemon for a drink that is better for you than liquid gold.
- Kale Slaw – You can substitute raw kale for raw cabbage in this winter soup.
- Kale Pasta – Goes with just about anything from spaghetti to sausage pasta to baked macaroni and cheese.
- Kale Pizza – Make toppings on your pizza with sauteed kale, caramelized onions, strong white cheeses, and some crispy bacon.
Find more resources and recipes at Eat Local Grown: http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/top-10-ways-to-prepare-kale.html
Make Your Own Kale Chips, CHEAP
Kale chips are really popular in health food stores, but also really expensive. You can make your own kale chips in minutes and customize their flavor by adding your favorite spices. The simple recipe isto preheat your oven to about 375 degrees before taking one bunch of washed kale and ripping it by hand off of the stems into bite-sized pieces. Spread the kale onto cookie sheets and drizzle with your favorite olive oil, sea salt and/or spices. You can also add grated cheeses! Bake for about 15 minutes, until edges are brown and crispy. Enjoy!
If you are still confused or want more guidance, watch this YouTube video on How To Make Kale Chips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcEklK4ysQk
Tips for Storing Kale
The World’s Healthiest Foods website says to look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. Kale should be displayed in a cool environment since warm temperatures will cause it to wilt and will negatively affect its flavor. The leaves should look fresh, be unwilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be more tender and have a more mild flavor than those with larger leaves. Kale is available throughout the year, although it is more widely available, and at its peak, from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring.
To store, place kale in a plastic storage bag removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Do not wash kale before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage.