What is kale and where the *%$# did it come from? Up until this year, I knew it only as the colorful frost-resistant foliage that I planted in autumn after the first frost killed my begonias. Suddenly, this leafy green vegetable is sprouting up in the salad sections of menus everywhere. And at the local grocery stores, it’s currently appearing in a pre-washed and bagged version on the shelves next to its more traditional leafy green cousins.
Kale is a member of the broccoli/brussels sprouts family. With leaves of green or purple, it grows easily and freezes well. More important, it is a huge source of Vitamins A, K and C, and of sulforaphane, a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. There’s even some calcium for those of us trying to increase bone density. As a result, this ubiquitous “queen of greens” is being touted as “one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet.”
Edible types of kale include “curly” kale, premier kale and redbor kale.
Kale’s rigid texture and slightly bitter taste may deter the more traditional leaf-lovers. Antidotes include mixing kale with sweeter-tasting greens and allowing the kale to marinate in salad dressing to soften both the leaves and the taste.
One Chicago restaurateur has figured this out. The kale salad with pine nuts, currants and parmesan cheese, tossed in a sweet vinaigrette, is served daily at the salad bar at The Cellars Market in the Board of Trade building.
When Mel was in town a few months ago, she made a terrific kale salad for Rob and me. She even massaged the leaves.
As they’re saying at Whole Foods today (where kale is on sale), “All Hail Kale!”