I have received more comments about this shirt than any piece of clothing I have ever owned: my spiffy, turquoise EAT MORE KALE t-shirt. People stare, laugh, turn their heads to watch me pass on the street, nudge their companions, make grimmacing kale-is-yucky expressions, and–best of all–stop to talk. I hear that folks love kale, hate kale (a controversial vegetable!), grow kale, have the best kale pesto recipe ever, credit kale with the curing of various ailments. But the most common comment far and away is this one: “I know kale is good for me, but I’ve just never liked it.”
I have a Kale Calling: I love kale, and I want everyone to love it as much as I do. It’s beautiful, easy to grow year round in the Pacific Northwest, is glowing with health benefits, and–when fixed well–is truly delicious. But let’s be clear. I’m not talking about that cactus-like winter/Russian kale with the red veins. If you are growing that, and you think you don’t like kale, and can’t get your kids/sweetie/dog to eat it, then it is time for a kale variety switch. There are lots of good ones, but my personal favorite is the dark blue/black Tuscan Nero kale, also called “Black Palm.” It grows into a small palm tree of kale (people sometimes think it’s bolting, but it’s not–it’s flourishing). The leaves are the prettiest shade of deep blue-green, and it tastes sweet, even when raw, and especially after a frost.
Kale is dripping with radiant health: vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, beta-carotene, lutein, calcium, indole-3-carbinol (which encourages DNA repair at the cellular level and may block the growth of cancer cells). Also lots of other things, which I have never heard of and cannot spell, but which are reported to be very good for us, including nutrients that: improve eyesight, prevent cancer and colds, boost brain function, possess anti-inflammatory qualities, enhance digestion, and, and, and…the list almost literally never ends. In World War II, the U.K’s “Dig for Victory” campaign (the English version of the Victory Garden), promoted the planting of easy-to-grow kale to help replace nutrients missing from everyday diets because of food rationing.
Still, you can’t just throw the stuff on someone’s plate, steamed until rubbery, and expect them to love it. No matter how you fix your kale, first remove the thick stems and central vein. You can do this by folding the leaf over and cutting the stem out with a chef’s knife or, even easier, with kitchen scissors (or any scissors–I also cut pizza with scissors!). Then try this simple, classic Italian recipe:
Kale with Garlic and Olive Oil
Parboil a big bunch of kale in a large pot of boiling water with a couple teaspoons of kosher salt. Parboil only for 2-4 mintues, until the kale is tender. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water (pluck out with tongs if you want to save the water), then drain, squeeze out all the water you can, and chop coarsely.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of good, extra-virgin olive oil in an heavy skillet or wok over medium heat. Add plenty of minced garlic, a pinch of hot red pepper flakes (to taste), and stir until the garlic is fragrant and just begins to color. Toss in the greens, and stir for a couple of minutes until the kale is nicely coated and seasoned. Add a sprinkle of finishing salt, and some fresh ground pepper. If you like, serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the greens. SO yummy! This is really wonderful with farro, toasted hazelnuts, and some crumbled gorgonzola.
Or try Kale Chips:
Cut stems out of the kale, then chop leaves into two inch pieces. Toss to coat lightly with a good olive oil, and season as you like–with course salt, fresh ground pepper, a touch of cayenne…
Place the leaves in a single layer on a parchment-coated baking sheet, and pop them in a hot oven, 425 F, for 8-12 minutes. Keep an eye on the chips! They should just start drying/curling/coloring, but not become over-brown or brittle. It’s a fine line. These are so delicious–just like potato chips, you can’t stop eating them. Even my non-kale-loving husband munches these till they’re gone.
To successfully freeze kale: remove stems and lightly blanch as above before freezing. Remove as much air from the container as possible before putting it into the freezer. If using freezer bags you can mimic vacuum packing by putting a straw in one side, zipping the bag all the way up to the straw, sucking the air out, then quickly sealing the last corner of the bag as you pull the straw out. It’s fun.
Try substituting kale for half the basil next time you make pesto. Try sauteeing the greens in a little butter with some cinnamon, and serve in a roasted half of butternut squash. Try a lovely harvest season soup of kale, whatever squash you have on hand, tomatoes, and white beans in a nice vegetable stock. To inspire your kids to eat it, serve with parmesan biscuits (just toss a handful of parmesan into your favorite biscuit recipe). Try telling us your favorite kale recipe so we can try it!
For your very own hand-screened and dyed “Eat More Kale” shirt, contact Bo, the Eat More Kale guy, at his studio in Vermont.
As the lone kale advocate in our household, I want to thank you for the kale chips recipe. Yum! Hoping it helps convert my non-kale-loving household.
All hale kale! Great stuff (though I admit I like chard better). The most basic kale recipe I’ve got is my Irish grandma’s recipe for colcannon–basically, cut the kale from the stalks as you describe, then boil the kale. Drain it and chop it up along with an onion, then mix it into mashed potatoes along with salt.
The Seattle Times published a white bean soup recipe many years ago that calls for kale–amazingly it’s my preteen kid’s second-favorite dish, and she doesn’t even pick out the kale in it. If I find a link, I’ll send it.
Can it be planted now, do you think? We’re experimenting with an overwinter garden this year.
Lucia–where do you live? Here in the northwest it’s getting a little late to plant in the ground, but you can try it–I planted my overwintering kale and arugula about a month ago, they are all about 4 inches high, and it’s time to mulch for the winter. You might have success starting in a cold frame…I hope you’ll let us know how it goes.
I actually just discovered kale a few months ago and love it – though recently found another variety that looked a lot like green leaf lettuce and didn’t have as much delicious flavor Nero. I’ve been tossing it as a salad with fried tofu chunks, tomatoes and (believe it or not) Trader Joe’s Romano caesar dressing.
I’ve got a potato, carrot, kale soup recipe I will try out and share if it’s any good!
Thanks for posting this!
I’ve made the kale chips, but just couldn’t call them delicious – maybe I needed more olive oil? I did find the BEST kale recipe I’ve ever tried this summer, though, and have made it several times to the delight of my husband and 11 year old daughter. It became an instant favorite – Garlicky Potato Salad with Wilted Kale. It’s a warm potato salad with parm cheese and lemony dressing that is fun to make and eat. Here’s a link to the recipe: http://happinesslikebread.com/2010/03/17/dinner-recipe-garlicky-potato-salad-with-wilted-kale/
I am agnostic re: Kale. I simply do NOT like it. Being good for me just doesn’t do it. Yesterday, I picked my my CSA Box. I lifted the cover of my box to discover–among many other good-for-me good things–a gargantuan pile of fresh Kale. Heart sinking, I slipped over to the TRADE box to check my options. We’re allowed to trade one thing with various items in the Trade box. I lifted the cover and found the interior stuffed with those curly green leaves. Kale, kale, kale. One lonely yellow pepper was buried beneath the kale.
I grabbed it.
The world must abound with kale resisters.
FUNNY! All that forlorn kale in the box…
I am in the “love Kale” camp. I saute with some onions and then make quesadillas with thinly sliced steamed new potatoes and goat cheese. Yum. Tomatillo salsa on the side.
Here is the Italian Bean Soup with Kale recipe from the Seattle Times Oct. 8, 1997, that I promised to find! I hope this link works. Not only was my kid a convert to kale (at least in this soup!) at the age of 8 but so were several other picky eaters we know:
I just heard about kale chips! I think I might have to try them.
I found a video about it.
When I cook it with coconut oil, my 6 year old will eat some too.
Thank you, everyone, for all the lovely recipes and thoughts! Kale–could any other vegetable insight such passion?
only tomatoes, Lyanda!
I come from a kale-loving household in Namibia, where despite voracious nematodes, aphids, cabbage moths and a seven month dry season it is possible to grow a decent crop. The only problem is that our friends have a baby named Cael, so our 3 y.o. daughter gets a bit confused by our meal plans. Let’s see how she likes her Cael chips tonight. Thanks for the recipes!
Michael, can you please advise me where I can get kale in Namibia or maybe even only the seeds?
We love kale at our house. We sauté it like you do, but don’t bother with the parboil first. I also just hold the stem at the bottom and slide my fingers up to the top, tearing the leaves off as I go. It works very well. Here’s a great Caldo Verde recipe that I make all the time that my 5 year-old *loves*. I don’t bother with the parsley, cilantro and mint. I just use a bunch of cilantro and it’s delicious.
I enjoyed your blog very much. The information was interest to me. Thanks for sharing the recipe
I use Kale for green smoothies (blending the leaves and not the stalks along with bananas or other fruit). I would like to freeze kale as well to store it because I end up wasting so much. Should I forgo the blanching and just tear the leaves from the stalks and freeze them?
This is our first year of starting a community garden in Western, New York. Our kale is growing great! I discovered kale this January when I was visiting Sedona, AZ with my best friend — I’d never had it before! We bought a picnic lunch at New Frontier and this salad was one of our selections. I searched the web for days to try to find the recipe for it. This is a link to a close substitution. It is now a staple in my house (although my 10 year old son is not a fan!). I sub craisins for the currants. http://www.food.com/recipe/denas-kale-salad-437676
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I love Kale in my green smoothies made in my Vitamix blender. I freeze it first (washed and dried) and then add spinach,banana,pear and flax seed and have this every morning.
Thanks for the great article on kale! I just discovered it last year and grew it for the first time this spring/summer in Wenatchee. I actually grew the Russian Red and like it very much. But part-way through the summer, it started getting infested with what I believe were insect eggs, whitish and causing the leaves to curl up. Any idea what this could be and how to prevent it organically?
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Hi there! Where can I get that Eat more Kale shirt? Love it!