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View Full Version : Versatile kale packs nutritional punch



Islander
01-11-11, 10:21 PM
January 10, 2011|By Sherry Boas, Simply Living

Every day around lunchtime, I go into the garden and cut a few kale leaves. After shaking water droplets off them, I bring the crinkly edged greens inside to use in place of lettuce on my sandwich. Kale leaves add a pleasant crunch to my midday meal as well as a slightly sweet, pleasant flavor.

Unlike lettuce, which has few vitamins and minerals, kale leaves pack a nutritional punch. Each bite provides antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients and cancer-fighting glucosinolates. Kale is a rich source of vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals such as calcium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.

Kale belongs to the Brassica family, whose members include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, mustard greens, radishes, rapini, turnips and watercress. While some of its cousins are strong-flavored and bitter, kale is mild-mannered and inoffensive. Consider it the Clark Kent of cruciferous veggies.
Kale is easy to grow. Its growing season is long — August through March. It likes cold weather and is seldom bothered by bugs or disease. The variety we're growing this year is Red Russian, ordered from Fedco Seeds in Waterville, Maine (fedcoseeds.com). Although the company's main clientele lives in Northern climates, many of its seeds, including Red Russian kale, do well in the South.

In late August, Ralph sowed about half of a 70-cent, 2-gram packet of the tiny black orbs into three 15-gallon containers filled with our special soil mixture, a rich combination of composted manure, peat and woodchips for aeration. Within a few weeks, dozens of sprouts began to appear.

When the young shoots were about an inch high and sported a few small leaves, my son Tim, who inherited his father's green thumb, transplanted them into two dozen 15-gallon containers. From then on, the seedlings developed quickly. We began harvesting the frilly leaves in late September. Today, four months later, the plants are still producing growth without showing any sign of decline.

I take scissors with me when I'm out gathering leaves. Kale leaves grow on tough stems that resemble pinkish-green celery stalks. The stems are edible, but they taste better when cooked, while the tender young leaves are delicious raw. For each sandwich, I snip off four bread-slice-sized leaf sections. I come back for the stems when I'm making soup or looking for a crunchy ingredient to add to a stir-fry.

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Islander
01-11-11, 10:44 PM
Ahaha. They live in the South. I plant kale in early May and harvest through the first light frosts (used to be late August...now it could be Sept., Oct. or even Novemberr before we have a truly cruel, killing frost.

That was a typo but I kinda like Novemberr.

She forgets to mention what kale, collards, chard and other leafy greens have in common: lutein, which is effective at preventing macular degeneration. Oops, forgot to say that in that respect, greens are best lightly cooked. Cooking breaks down the cell walls and makes the nutrients, including the lutein, more available.

Maurya
01-11-11, 11:43 PM
If one were to steam the kale, or collards or whatever, just ever so slightly, just until the leaves are a bit soft, then chop the leaves into small pieces, they can be sauteed with onion, carrot, or whatever, in almost any dish imaginable.

Reesacat
01-12-11, 12:52 AM
I like kale and 'Novemberr'! Elana's Pantry has been posting kale recipes-going to try her sea salt vinegar baked kale chips...will let you know how that goes.

Aaltrude
01-12-11, 04:20 AM
I understand that if you are susceptible to low thyroid function that veges from the brassica family are better cooked. Perhaps mellow can clarify this.

mellowsong
01-12-11, 05:26 PM
Cooking and fermentation do remove some of the goitrogens. Again, it is a matter of moderation and if you are on thyroid hormone treatment, it probably doesn't matter at all.

mellowsong
01-12-11, 05:27 PM
I like kale and 'Novemberr'! Elana's Pantry has been posting kale recipes-going to try her sea salt vinegar baked kale chips...will let you know how that goes.

I made something similar when I was able to get organic kale and they were delicious :) How bad are non-organic kale and other greens?

Aaltrude
01-12-11, 05:30 PM
The only kale available in my area is organic kale - Yeah:D:D

Islander
01-12-11, 06:05 PM
I made something similar when I was able to get organic kale and they were delicious :) How bad are non-organic kale and other greens?

In the winter, it's a 50-mile RT for me to get organic greens. The local greens are constantly sprayed with cool water in the display and I wash them again at home. Kale is #8 on EWG's Dirty Dozen list but I do buy it occasionally because I have recipes I like that call for it. If conventional were all I ever ate, I'd be concerned, but I've said before that I think it's possible to obsess over food. After all, conventional is all that a lot of people EVER eat who live long and happy lives. Given all the other measures I take to guard my health, conventional kale is minor. The goodness in it probably outweighs the dusting of chemicals that comes with it.

Reesacat
01-12-11, 07:22 PM
I can't get organic kale in the winter, so I get grocery store and don't worry about it.
I also buy grocery store sweet potatoes. I'm kind of on Islander's page-do the best you can and don't worry about the rest.

Aaltrude
01-12-11, 07:35 PM
I'm kind of on Islander's page-do the best you can and don't worry about the rest.

We do the same.
First choice: home grown,
Second choice: organic
Third chioce: local conventional
Fourth choice: NZ conventional
Fifth coice: imported conventional

mellowsong
01-12-11, 09:27 PM
I'm kind of on Islander's page-do the best you can and don't worry about the rest. I try not to obsess, I really do but as much as the toxicity of the pesticides, I'm paranoid about having a reaction due to MCS. I've had conventional lettuce cause a major reaction. I pretty much go without when I can't get organic except for a few time tested things I know I'm OK with. My local farmer had to quit growing veggies. They could not get help with harvesting and everything last spring went to waste in the fields. Besides the farm, Marc works full time on the road. High school and college students were demanding $15 to $18/hour to work on the farm...no way they could afford it. Anyway, that's why I lost access to organic veggies. Anything else is a good 30 miles away, which in this area, means an hour on the road each way. Sorry, I'm rambling, lol

Islander
01-13-11, 12:17 AM
Nobody had better complain to me about unemployment in the U.S. when crops rot in the field for lack of workers. :aaargh:

mellowsong
01-13-11, 12:43 PM
Nobody had better complain to me about unemployment in the U.S. when crops rot in the field for lack of workers. :aaargh:

Really sad isn't it? If I was physically able, I would be out at their farm working for free!!!...that's how much they mean to me!

Stoneharbor
01-21-11, 11:15 PM
I'm on a collards kick lately, but I know kale is the heavyweight in terms of "packed with nutrition". I'll have to get it back in my garden, especially for next Winter. I live in South Carolina, and kale should just about make it through the Winter if I don't overbrowse it! This Winter I've had broccoli to pick the leaves off of way after the flower's were gone, and savoy cabbage also seems to hold up well.

My problem with kale was always both the taste and the toughness. Maybe I was just a tenderfoot in the old days when I grew it in Washington as an all-Winter crop, but the only recipe that I actually thought was tasty for kale was merely combining it into the mashed potatoes which also had to be cooked with milk. Seems like I read somewhere that the milk helps take the edge off the kale, but read or not, that seems to be what happened and I learned to love the "green" potatoes. The one exception to my picky kale eating was when I ate the very top of the kale, in the garden, while it had ice on it. That was tasty for some reason. And I've read somewhere else that there's supposed to be special youthful giving powers in the extreme tips of plants, as even in the thread root running down from a carrot. Yep, you're supposed to eat that. Who knows. But maybe that's why the kale tip tasted so good. Just searched far and internet-wide and can't find anything to this effect though.

Islander
01-21-11, 11:23 PM
Stone Harbor, some winter vegetables taste better after they've been frosted. Brussels sprouts are not supposed to be harvested until after a hard frost. Parsnips (in northern New England, at least) are left in the frozen ground over the winter and dug in spring, when they are much sweeter. I can't test my theory because my kale was a crop failure this year (and the deer cleaned up the broccoli and swiss chard, although fortunately they waited until I had gotten almost enough).

Maurya
01-21-11, 11:47 PM
Don't remember where I read or heard this, but it has been said that carrots (I presume any root vegetable, as well) do not produce their sweet carroty flavor unless they are subjected to freezing. The conjecture was that this is why Minnesota carrots are so superb and California carrots so blah. Makes sense to me.

By the way, I also am a collard greens fan, although the flavor for tomorrow's soup is going to be kale!

Islander
01-21-11, 11:53 PM
I stir-fried kale leaves gently in olive oil yesterday morning, then scattered a handful of chopped onion and stirred in a couple of slightly beaten eggs. Very delish.

About carrots: I read somewhere that carrots developed their sweetness only when fully mature, which is why baby carrots are nothing special. Then again, I've also read that those so-called "baby carrots," the stubby things, are actually the salvaged parts of carrots too deformed or worm-eaten to be saleable. Probably just another urban myth, huh?

Aaltrude
01-21-11, 11:57 PM
Baby carrots are just the ones that are removed when a corrot crop is "thinned" to allow those remaining to grow to full size. It is just the farmer maximizing their return on the crop (and can you blame them)?

Islander
01-22-11, 12:04 AM
Oh, I almost forgot to say: did y'all know there is more nutrition in the carrot top than in the root? When I pull fresh carrots for juicing, I juice all of it. Or if I want carrots for another purpose, I save the tops for juicing. This may explain why the wise local deer may pull up the carrot, but eat only the greens....

mellowsong
01-22-11, 04:59 PM
I don't put a lot of faith in snopes...but in this case, the info compiled here agrees with what I've learned about "baby carrots" over the last few years. The term actually applies to a few things such as trimmed down mature carrots and specially grown sweeter carrots. Anyway:
http://www.snopes.com/food/tainted/carrots.asp

Islander
01-22-11, 05:08 PM
Thank you, Mellowsong, for sorting the wheat from the chaff and the carrots from the stix!

Stoneharbor
01-22-11, 07:36 PM
Don't remember where I read or heard this, but it has been said that carrots (I presume any root vegetable, as well) do not produce their sweet carroty flavor unless they are subjected to freezing. The conjecture was that this is why Minnesota carrots are so superb and California carrots so blah. Makes sense to me.

Well I hope that freezing includes the whole Winter worth of freezing in my South Carolina Winter, as I'll have a real sweet crop of carrots coming along that didn't grow to picking size last Fall. I've become used to leaving some Fall beets in the ground to over-winter and start anew in the Spring, but don't know about carrots, though mine look alive still, only frost wilted. Anyone know?

Yes, Islander, I've also read that the more nutritious part is the tops. So I try to eat some as I'm picking in the garden. I know that a whole carrot fed to a rabbit loses its top first, 100% of the time! And of course you don't have to worry about "carb overload" eating mostly tops.

Islander
01-23-11, 12:42 AM
How they used to do it in the North was to cover the carrot patch with a thick mulch of hay in late fall, before the ground froze. Supposedly you could go out in January, scoop away the snow, part the mulch and dig up a few fresh carrots. Seemed like work to me, when carrots store well in sand in a cool cellar.

Stoneharbor
01-24-11, 03:35 PM
Ah, I finally found this. Had to search for it, as never said "subscribe" when I posted here. Now, as I told you, I do auto-subscribe.

Yes, I've read about and tried putting the straw over my beets before and it works fine. I just never tried Fall carrots before and then they didn't get to a size that I thought were worth preserving for "Winter pull" so I ignored them until I saw the little tops were fairly perky compared to my beets and decided maybe I should think about seeing if the carrots can come back and finish up in the Spring. Thanks, I'll still throw some leaves over them!