All Hail, Amazing Kale! Jennifer Audette On Summer’s Hippest Superfood & Sumptuous Peach, Corn & Kale Salad . . .
Kale, glorious kale. A member of the extensive Brassica oleracea species (cultivars: cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, savoy), kale is in the acephala group, which means â€œheadlessâ€. Kale and its nearly identical partner, collards, are likely quite similar to the earliest forms of cultivated cabbage, which were also non-head forming and known to be in cultivation for thousands of years.Â The word â€œkaleâ€ is apparently Scottish in origin stemming from the Roman coles and caulis, their words for cabbage. Bet you can guess where the words â€œcauliflowerâ€ and â€œcole cropsâ€ come from now, too. In medieval times this group of vegetables was known as coleworts or colewyrts.
Like my favorite Vermont-made t-shirt says, we should all â€œEat More Kaleâ€, but kale can be a hard sell, even to people who love their veggies. Does the idea of kale cause you to cringe as you picture bitter greens lumped in a foreboding pile on your plate like a gustatory penance for all the junk food you ate this week? Well youâ€™re in luck, because Iâ€™m here, a Kale Krusader, to convert you.
Kale can be planted each spring as soon as the soil is workable, which we all know is the time when gardeners chomp-at-the-bit to stick hope into the cold earth and wait for it to grow. So, donâ€™t you dare plant tomatoes, peppers and green beans in early May as a desperate attempt to get a jump on the season only to have failed germination and frost-killed seedlings! You should be planting seeds or six-packs of kale instead! Winterbor is my favorite variety because I like how the ruffle-y leaves trap dressings and seasonings. But there are other varieties: Lacinato (dinosaur kale), Red Russian, Rainbow Russian, Red Winterbor and many others.
I have grown kale easily from seed in the past, but now prefer to purchase six-packs of healthy starts.Â The tiny, tentative leaves emerging from seeds were harder for me to protect from the darn slugs. The more mature six-pack starts seem to stand up better to moderate slug and snail abuse.Â Kale prefers well-drained, organically rich soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 and full sun.Â The most common pest youâ€™ll find on your kale is the cabbage worm, the larval stage of those pretty little white cabbage butterflies. Dark green frass (fancy word for poop), collecting on the stems of your kale plants will give the little buggers away.Â So, do a daily walk-through looking for frass. If you find any, search for the well-camouflaged cabbage worm. It will be almost the exact color of the kale stem. Pick it off and dispose of by your preferred method. (I throw them onto the driveway, hoping that birds might eat them. Iâ€™m not sure if this system actually works as planned since Iâ€™ve never done a follow-up study of my disposal method.)Â Kale is very easy to grow and produces from early spring right through late fall. They say frosts make the leaves sweeter, but honestly, Iâ€™ve never noticed a big difference.Â This year, the neighborhood woodchuck took a liking to my kale and in early July ate most of my crop (18 plants).Â But once the woodchuck problem was solved (a story for another day), the kale recovered even stronger than before and on it grows.Â Go kale, go!
Â Beautiful, Curly Redbor Kale is Great for Holding Dressing and Seasoning, or Fancying Up a Serving Bowl
So with the growing part out of the way I can hear you wondering, â€œyeah, but whatâ€™s so great about eating the stuff?â€ Iâ€™m glad you asked!Â When you grow your own kale you can pick it right before youâ€™re going to eat it so itâ€™s fresh and tender. You donâ€™t get stuck with excessive bits of the hard, fibrous ribs like you get in a bag of kale from the grocery store. You can harvest the younger leaves for salads. Save the more hearty leaves to braise atop golden-brown onions and garlic for 20 minutes (adding small amounts of water to keep from burning). Then toss with a good squirt of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan cheese and serve over your favorite pasta. You can tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle over the top of a pizza before popping it into the oven. The edges of the kale will get crisp and nutty while the part in contact with the pizza stays tender.Â And if you missed the craze of â€œKale Chipsâ€, just do an internet search and youâ€™ll find plenty of recipes for the simple-to-make, healthy, addictive, salty snack.Â You can make a dressing with tahini, tamari, red wine vinegar, garlic and water then toss with torn kale leaves. Top with tomato, cucumber and avocado.
Â Fresh Ingredients from the Garden and Walker Farm Make Great Companions for Homegrown Kale
But hands down, this is my new favorite thing to make with kale. This salad appeared in my life just three weeks ago and Iâ€™ve made it four times since then. Because kale is so hearty, it holds up as leftovers even under an acidic dressing that would wilt lesser greens. So this recipe is great to make in a big batch to have for quick, healthy lunches and dinner side dishes for several days.Â If thereâ€™s still time where you live to buy local corn and perfectly ripe peaches, you should make this salad post haste. I think there will be a few kale converts among the ranks.
Kale, Peach and Corn Salad
(adapted from a recipe at NPR.com)
Ingredients for 6 servings
Â½ cup olive oil (the better the quality, the better your dressing)
Â¼ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (or more to taste)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup of red onion very thinly sliced into half moons
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt & pepper. Add the thinly sliced onion, stir and allow to sit for 15 minutes or so. This mellows the flavors and softens the onion.
1 bunch of kale, (maybe about 10 â€“ 12 small to medium stalks) washed, dried and torn into smaller pieces
Â½ a bunch of cilantro, stems removed and leaves torn, or to taste
4 ears of corn, uncooked, cut off the cob
4 peaches, peeled, cut into wedges
4 oz. of feta or to taste (I use Vermontâ€™s Maplebrook Cheese and itâ€™s delicious!)
Combine the kale and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour dressing over greens. Toss well, making sure to get the dressing over every piece of kale. Then add the corn kernels, the peach slices and the feta.Â If you can let the salad rest, (refrigerated or not) for about an hour, the kale will absorb more dressing and soften slightly.Â Keep leftovers refrigerated.Â Enjoy!
Â Toss the Ingredients Together Well and Let Stand in the Refrigerator for One Hour or More, Before Serving
The best thing about eating so much kale is that itâ€™s one of those supposed â€œsuperfoodsâ€, which means I can drink more wine and eat more dessert with less guilt, right?Â Hurray!
I know there are other kale-lovers out there in TGE-land. Got any great recipes to share?
Todayâ€™s guest blogger,Â multi-talented writer Jennifer Audette is author of the always entertaining and often humorousÂ Cozy Toes Blogspot.Â When not experimenting with canning, baking, cooking, horticulture, entomology or other scientific pursuits, Jennifer can be found writing, hiking, making music, working at Walker Farm and delivering smiles to her very fortunate friends.
Thank you Jen! xoÂ
Article â“’ Jennifer Audette,Â Photography â“’ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!Â
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