Once again the “kale song” has hit the top numbers in the hit parade of vegetables. Greeks, Romans, and Europeans have extoled the virtues of this vegetable off and on for some 2000 years. Kale, a good source of vitamin C and cold tolerant down to 10 degree Fahrenheit, was a staple food eaten daily in Scotland. Scottish kitchen gardens were known as kailyards. If someone was not feeling well it was said they were “off their kail.” Not to be confused with the definition of Kailyard school:
World English Dictionary: Kailyard school: a group of writers who depicted the sentimental and homely aspects of life in the Scottish Lowlands from about 1880 to 1914. The best known contributor to the school was J. M. Barrie.
It is believed that settlers brought kale to North America in the 17th century. Kale was popular as a nutritious vegetable to add to home victory gardens during WWII years.
After years of selective breeding of the once wild cabbage, we enjoy the edible leaves of the cultivar known today as Brassica oleracea.
So how did I become interested in kale? Simply put I was at the Riverside Farmers Market last Wednesday and bought a big bunch of kale for $1.00. Next, while perusing the internet for recipes, to my amazement I found that kale is called a superfood. Superfood is a non-medical term used by writers to indicate a food with an unusually high content of antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients. Kale’s claim to fame includes a high concentration of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. And it is only 33 calories a cup! The list of kale’s benefits is extensive, from my point of view: kale is inexpensive, grain free, sugar free, a good source of calcium for someone not eating dairy, and low in calories. Kale can be eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried and even in smoothies. I was determined to give kale a try.
I made a soup consisting of homemade chicken broth, sweet potatoes, and kale that was delicious. My husband, who is an avowed vegetable-hater, ate two bowls full. This recipe is a keeper. I tried a few other recipes that were less successful. The kale chips that I baked won’t replace my beloved tortilla chips. Well not the recipe I used. I think I over baked the chips, and they became too bitter.
But last night, while at a party grazing from the buffet table, I heard someone mention the excellent kale salad that Winnie made. Soon I too was singing the praises of that salad. It was wilted kale with cranberries and finely chopped nuts with a vinaigrette dressing. I will be asking my hostess for that recipe without a doubt.
Kale is easily grown from seed and survives in full sun or partial shade. Colors range from cream, green, purple, and black. The plants take about two months to mature, grow about a foot high, and spread one to three feet across. It is not too late to plant a fall crop. To avoid insects or pesticide residue in commercial kale, be sure to rinse the kale well. One source recommends a little vinegar in the water to help clean it.