Food, like fashion, entertains trends and cycles. The idea of ‘super-foods’ is an ongoing trend devoted to curing what ails us from the natural, wholesome goodness of the plant. We all want to fight cancer and lose weight and feel better, and super-foods promise to deliver all of those things…and so much more. While the legendary hero-foods are many, today I’d like to focus on my favorite leafy-green superhero: kale.
I have to admit, I only first tried kale a couple years ago. I don’t even remember what prompted me to do it (probably feelings of shame over being a dietitian who didn’t eat kale). I haven’t met too many vegetables I didn’t love, so I couldn’t imagine I wouldn’t love kale too. And I do. I really love kale. And I believe you will love kale too…and not just because it’s so good for you. However, since it is really good for you, allow me to convince you of why you want to eat it.
Kale is a fibrous, leafy green plant with ruffly, almost-curly leaves. It brings a multitude of minerals to your meal—calcium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium, just for starters. It’s a super-source for fat-soluble vitamins K and A, as well as the all-important vitamin C. As kale is a very fibrous vegetable, it’s filling with very few calories per serving. It is an excellent accompaniment to more decadent fare.
Compared to many other leafy green vegetables, kale is rather unobtrusive in the flavor department. Whereas many leafy greens are best described with words like “bitter” or “dirt”, kale has a pleasant, mild flavor.
It is quite versatile and pairs well with many other foods. For those who need to ease into the world of leafy greens (or for those trying to convince some unwilling family members), kale is a great starter. For those with a more timid palate, kale is a great addition to fruit smoothies and cream soups. Once blended, stronger flavors take over and you’d hardly know you’re sipping on so much goodness (if you didn’t keep telling everyone about it).
Cost & Availability
Leafy green vegetables seem to be either dirt-cheap (think mountains of mustard and collard greens at every farmers market), or terribly expensive, ritzy little leaves meant to satiate only the rich and not-hungry (baby arugula, anyone?). Kale is fairly inexpensive and is usually sold in large, cost-effective bunches ($0.99 per bunch from my local chain grocer). Kale is a hardy plant, and is often available fresh and local, even in the winter, in many places. It keeps well in the refrigerator, and is slower to wilt than other, more delicate vegetables.
Easy to Cook—Hard to Ruin
Kale is a forgiving plant. It can withstand a great deal of over-cooking before it begins to wilt too much and turn that unhappy brownish shade of green. It holds up well to boiling, sautéing, and steaming. It’s a filling addition to soups, stands alone as a side-dish, and makes a great frittata. If it doesn’t turn out quite how you imagined, douse it with your favorite condiment and enjoy it anyway. The kale will still taste good.
Find a recipe that makes you hungry and head to your nearest farmer’s market or grocery store for a big ‘ole bunch of beautiful, ruffly kale. Find out for yourself what this super-food can bring to your table.
By Mandi Irwin, RD