Kale has numerous vitamins and minerals and is associated with eye health and preventing certain types of cancer. Kale chips are one easy way to eat the powerful vegetable. (David Grace photo)
If something can be considered a super food of all super foods, kale just might be it. This vegetable, also known as borecole, belongs to the Brassica family that includes cabbage, collards, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It’s a super food that’s earning a lot of interest.
“I don’t know why there’s this interest in kale as far as the public goes, but the media is paying more attention to it,” said Marie Browning, a holistic nutritionist, certified in nutritional wellness through the American Naturopathic Certification Board. “The science backing it up as a super food has been there for decades.”
Kale is recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness and health benefits, but it should still be consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, said Audrey Kessler, Food City registered dietitian.
“It contains antioxidants. It’s associated with eye health and preventing certain types of cancer. It contains fiber, which is good for digestion and reducing the risk of developing heart disease. It’s rich in vitamins A, C and K, and minerals like copper, potassium, iron and phosphorus,” Kessler said.
Quick cooking preserves kale’s nutrients, texture, color and flavor.
“There are groups of people who have always known about [kale], but for the most part tended to lump it into collard greens and greens that they didn’t understand. They were either raised eating those things, or had heard of it but never tried it. I find myself giving cooking classes dedicated to greens and kale to show them they don’t have to cook them the same way their grandmother cooked them,” Browning said.
“When you think of greens, most people are very familiar with spinach. If you started with spinach, which is very tender, and you go up a notch, you would get chard. ... If you go up another notch, you get to kale. There are many varieties of kale. Red Russian is very hardy. There are some tender types of kale. I personally like the thin, tall dark leaves and they go by different names — Italian kale, black kale, Tuscan kale. I like Tuscan because it’s easier to deal with, easier to wash and easier to cook. That’s not to say it’s superior. I just prefer that one,” she said.
Kale can be rinsed and chopped and added to soups, stews, stir-frys, salads, egg dishes, casseroles and smoothies. It can be a pizza topping and made into chips.
“It’s incorporated into my family’s diet on a pretty regular basis,” Kessler said. “It’s an extremely versatile green.”
Kale can be eaten raw, but Browning doesn’t recommend it.
“There’s a really good reason for this,” she said. “We are not animals who eat grasses and all of these types of things. We don’t have the enzymes to break down the cell walls of most of the plants. The animals who eat those things have really long digestive tracts and two or three stomachs to break down the cellulose, and humans are not good at doing that. Kale and their related greens, and broccoli almost falls into this .. they have a lot of oxalic acid. The only way to neutralize that is by cooking it. The oxalic acid binds a lot of the minerals so they’re not available to the body. Kales does need to be cooked, but it should not be overcooked, not a slippery, slimy mush.”
Browning said she has been recommending kale for its long list of health benefits.
“I’m glad that I was never a person to push calcium supplements. I do recommend plant-based calcium, whether in the supplement but preferably in a food, and kale gives you more calcium than dairy products. It has lots of magnesium; all of the minerals you’re going to get from kale,” she said. It’s also loaded with Vitamin K.
Browning said that a lot of research is ongoing with kale’s role in preventing cancer. Kale also contains beneficial antioxidants.
Kale can easily be grown in this area, Browning said, and should be planted in the early spring or fall as it prefers cooler weather. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you can plant kale anytime from early spring to early summer. If you plant kale late in the summer, you can harvest it from fall until the ground freezes in winter. Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are about the size of your hand.
(adapted from thekitchn.com)
1 bunch of kale (preferably Tuscan-style kale)
Garlic power or cayenne, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Tear kale into bite-sized pieces, avoiding the tough inner stalk. Rinse well in water and dry as best you can either in a spinner or on a tea towel. Pour a little oil into your hands and coat the pieces of kale by rubbing between your hands one at a time. Place them onto a baking sheet so they are barely touching. Cook for about 5 minutes, making sure the kale doesn’t turn brown. Kale is naturally salty, so add salt to taste after baking. If desired, season with garlic powder or cayenne.
Butternut Kale Pasta Casserole
Created by Marie Browning, MS, CNW
1 medium size butternut squash
1 package (8 to 10 ounces) frozen chopped kale (chop more finely if needed to eliminate large chunks of stem)
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup half & half (or use more broth)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (parmesan, asiago, romano)
6 to 8 ounces dried pasta (gluten-free fettuccini)
Seasonings: onion flakes, garlic powder, thyme
1/2 tsp. Better than Bouillon chicken
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and dice butternut squash into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with tiny amount of olive oil. Spread on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes until the pieces have just started to brown. Turn oven to 350 degrees. Set aside 1/2 cup of the pieces. Cook the pasta until barely tender. Drain and set aside. In the pot over medium heat, pour 1/2 cup of the broth, all the half & half, and most of the squash pieces.
Add seasonings and heat for 10 minutes while stirring occasionally to blend flavors. Puree with immersion blender until just smooth. Add broth until the sauce is of the right consistency. Stir in the reserved pieces of butternut squash and chopped frozen kale. Taste for salt and seasoning and mix into cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and casserole is well heated through.
Smoked Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup
4 ounces smoked fully cooked sausage (kielbasa or hot links), sliced into rounds
2 3/4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3/4 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups thinly sliced trimmed kale leaves (about 3/4 of medium bunch) or 3/4 of 10-ounce package frozen chopped kale, thawed, drained
1/4 tsp. caraway seeds, lightly crushed
Saute sausage slices in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, sliced potatoes and white wine and bring mixture to boil.
Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add kale and caraway seeds to soup.
Simmer soup uncovered until potatoes and kale are very tender, about 10 minutes longer. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately.
Warm Salad of Wild Rice, Greens, and Black Eyed Peas
Created by Marie Browning, MS, CNW
1 pound (any combination) washed, chopped greens (kale, chard, collard, turnip, beet, spinach)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 to 4 minced garlic cloves
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed (or 11/2 cups freshly made black eyed peas)
1 1/2 cups freshly cooked wild rice
1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh herbs of choice
1/2 tsp. Better Than Bouillon Beef concentrate
Salt, black pepper, cayenne, and/or balsamic vinegar as desired for seasoning
Sauté everything except the garlic in 2 to 3 tsp. olive oil, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic. Lower the heat and cover. Simmer for 5 to 15 minutes depending on the tenderness of the greens. Stir in black eyed peas, wild rice, herbs, bouillon and seasoning. Stir gently, cover and cook over medium heat for another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Optional: Sauté a few slices of bacon until very crisp and add the drained crumbled bacon in at the end.