All About Kale: The Super Veggie
Vegetables are a must on a diet; I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.— Jim Davis (Garfield cartoonist)
Stop the Madness!
The stuff of every child’s nightmare—the suspicious green vegetable—has invaded every corner of our lives. No matter where you go, when you dine out, if it’s green, it’s kale.
The romaine lettuce of Caesar salad has been replaced by kale, and Popeye is no doubt gulping down canned kale in place of his beloved spinach.
We are a nation obsessed with kale! Kale salad. Kale soup. Kale casseroles, chips, designer t-shirts, and (can you believe it) even kale cake!
Please, don't misunderstand me--I love kale. It has many health benefits (things called bioflavonoids, antioxidants and other terms I cannot pronounce or understand).
It is inexpensive and available year-round. It tastes wonderful--but not in a smoothie, brownie, or cupcake. The current mania is turning kale into a four-letter word, the "tofu" of the 21st century.
Consider for a moment--it isn't that long ago that kale was nothing more than the green frill that separated the rows of pork chops from the sirloin steaks at the butcher shop and now it is ubiquitous.
Let's step back for a moment and reconsider how to use (and not abuse) this culinary super-star.
A Long Time Ago...
(But not in another galaxy) Brassica oleracea was growing wild in the Mediterranean region of Europe. Kale is not a recent fad. As man began farming and choosing the largest plants for propagation, wild kale/cabbage plants selectively became larger and larger, until they developed into the plants we would recognize today.
In 600 B.C. Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote of kale in his book on plants. (Ancient Greeks boiled and ate the leaves as a hangover remedy). Cato advised eating cabbage soaked in vinegar before embarking upon an evening of heavy drinking and the accepted remedy for a Roman hangover was simply more cabbage. Pliny the Elder (Roman philosopher and author) also wrote of the medicinal properties of kale.
...Far, Far Away
And by the 6th century B.C. the people we have named the Celts had gradually infiltrated Britain. With them came kale and its cabbage cousins. By the 5th century B.C., selective cultivation was leading to an increasingly "leafy" plant. The botanical name of the kale that we eat today is Brassica oleracea acephala which translates "cabbage of the vegetable garden without a head."
Until the Middle Ages, kale was the most popular vegetable in Europe. As a source of calcium and iron, it was a blessing to those who could not afford meat, and its hardy nature made it able to withstand even the harsh winters of Scotland and Ireland. Cabbage and kale, along with leeks and onions, were the main sources of food for the British Isles until the introduction of the potato.
In fact kale (known as kail in Scotland and cole in England) came to mean the meal itself—the main meal of the day and the Scot vegetable garden was commonly called a "kail garden."
But They Were Willing to Share
It was French navigator Jacques Cartier who brought cabbage and kale seeds to the Americas in 1536. The explorers of the 17th and 18th centuries carried greens in their ship's stores for their crews to eat--the high Vitamin C content helped stave off the scurvy that was so common among sailors.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
Fast Forward to Today
Kale is just one variety of the large Brassica family. The short list of relatives is given below:
Root (see heat level)
radish (medium heat)
How To Use Them
Members of the kale/cabbage family are interchangeable in most recipes. Any leafy choice in the above table can substitute for another leafy cousin. And the same can be said for the "head" versions.
The roots are a bit more complicated--rutabaga and turnip have a very mild flavor, radish is slightly more assertive, and daikon, horseradish, and wasabi are extremely hot. I would not use horseradish in the place of a turnip.
Now, with those guidelines established, let's delve into some serious (non-smoothie or -dessert) recipes that use kale.
Kale and Cabbage Trivia
- Because cabbage requires only three months of growing time, one acre of cabbage will yield more edible vegetables than any other plant.
- Cabbage is considered Russia's national food. Russians eat about seven times as much cabbage as the average North American.
- Scrolls from 1000 BC uncovered in China mention white cabbage as a cure for baldness in men.
Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad
- 3 cups Brussels sprouts
- 1 large bunch Tuscan kale, center stems removed
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Thinly slice the brussels sprouts with a sharp knife or food processor
- Thinly slice the kale.
- Whisk together the cheese, olive oil, nuts, Dijon, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper.
- Add the brussels sprouts and kale and toss to coat the vegetables with the cheese/lemon dressing.
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 2 cups finely chopped kale
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coat a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Press mixture into prepared pan.
- Bake 60 to 65 minutes, or until no longer pink in center.
- Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
More Carb Diva Kale Recipes
- Carb Diva's Vegetable Soup--simmer a nutritious pot of love for your family
Tastes like your Grandma's vegetable soup with a healthy dose of flavor and homey goodness.
- Italian Bread Soup (ribollita)
A simple bowl of ribollita (a rustic soup of beans, vegetables and bread) brings back memories of an idyllic vacation in Siena, Italy.
- Carb Diva's Colcannon, or Irish Mashed Potatoes
Start off your St. Patrick's Day celebration with a comforting pot of Colcannon (otherwise known as Irish mashed potatoes). An inexpensive dish of potatoes, savory pork, and braised cabbage or kale.
And an Amazing Dish from Tasty Kitchen
© 2015 Linda Lum