In Defense of Kale

The Kale Backlash has begun.

I don’t follow trends, generally speaking, so please forgive the distinct lack of back story here. All I know is that some time ago, somehow, kale got to be a big nutritional deal in the U.S.A.

Americans do this, making a particular aspect of food a fad; consider chlorophyll in the ’50s, more recently oat bran, red wine and the like. Each “big deal” becomes a marketing trend, finding its way into the least likely products. Right now, kale almost rivals “gluten free” as the hip nutritional byword/phrase.

And, of course, with the enthusiasm, comes the backlash, mostly from people who don’t like the “hot” item. Such as kale. A lot of people don’t like it, or assume they won’t should they ever try it.

So, who better to defend kale than I, an admitted kale skeptic?


Some of Michelle’s kale (dinosaur? I think?) (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

It took me a long time to realize that I like kale. Michelle, bless her, braises greens often, and she’s good at it. She has fed her family braised greens, largely kale, despite our lack of enthusiasm. Even after she trained my palate to appreciate kale, I recall my spirits falling just slightly, when, the answer to “what’s for dinner?” included “braised greens.” That still happens, even if part of me looks forward to the dish. Old habits are, indeed, hard to break.

Now, we eat braised greens, largely kale, every morning, in the breakfast wraps Michelle makes, and has taught me to make them as well.

The great thing about kale is that not only is it easy to grow, but it lasts a long time (see Ever Greens). Most gardens in our neighborhood include a patch or two of kale. Most of us leave it in the ground, and it lasts through the winter, waiting to be harvested. Even when we have to dig it out of the snow or break it out of ice, it’s ready to eat. It seems nearly indestructible, and if you grow enough of it, even marauding moose can’t eat it all before we do!


More kale in the Solar Garden (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Braising kale is so easy, even I can do it. Here’s how I do it:

I heat a bit of olive oil in a lidded pan (cast iron is best—see Cooking With Cast Iron Cookware) on medium flame. I wash the kale and give it a quick—not thorough—shake off. I chop it up and toss it in the pan with other vegetables if I have them, particularly some onion.

I sprinkle on a savory spice of some kind, like curry powder, and push the greens around in the pan a bit to braise them, then I turn off the heat and put the lid on it. The greens will stay warm, steam a little from the water on them from the rinse, and be just about right for whatever else I need them for when the time comes.

Super simple, tasty, and nutritious. Not a bad way to learn to like kale, rather than jumping on a lame bandwagon to demonize it and all those who eat it.

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