Saturday, 30 August 2014

with kale

Kale - hailed as a superfood and a nutritional powerhouse, kale might seem to belong in the food-fad basket but that could be because ... it is a very super food.
I first heard of kale as an ingredient for juicing but I didn't take much notice as I don't juice, preferring to chew my own food and eat the fibre. But people were talking about kale being a superfood and instead of buying a bunch I decided to grow my own, read about it, learn what I could and experiment.  Here are the results so far.

Kale in the garden adds an element of luxury and freshness

What is Kale?
Kale is a leafy vegetable, with bluish/green or purple leaves, sometimes with pretty frilled edges and the centre leaves don't form a head.  Kale is from the species Brassica oleracea so it's related to arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts - all yummy vegetables.  There are many types of kale including Curly-leaved or Scots Kale, Plain Leaved Kale, Rape Kale and Black Kale or Cavolo nero.  Some grow into huge bushes but the those that are good to eat are much closer to the ground.

This cool climate vegetable has adapted to most climates. My garden is in the sub-tropics
and I have four varieties of kale growing.  While I'm  not sure of their names they are all good in salad and stew

Where did Kale originate?
Possibly a descendant of wild cabbage kale traveled from Asia Minor to Europe with early traders.  Curly kale was known to the ancient Romans and Greeks and similar vegetables were used in Ancient China.  In the Middle Ages kale was one of the most common green vegetables eaten in Europe, helping the poor to survive long, cold winters. During World War ll families in England were encouraged to grow kale at home to provide nutrition during food shortages. Even though it is a cool climate vegetable it is now grown and eaten around the world.

How to store Kale?
As a winter hardy vegetable Kale tastes sweeter after being exposed to frost and keeps best in a cool environment.  Store it, unwashed  in an air-tight container or plastic bag in the fridge, for up to five days. Apparently it freezes well, but I've found it is happy in a glass of water on the kitchen bench for 24 hours, and as I grow it I don't need to store it longer than that.    

How does Kale taste?
Kale needs some help in the flavour department, especially when boiled or steamed, and even raw it's best when combined with other strong flavours. Personally I like kale shredded over salmon on toast. 

The best kale tip was given to me by a friend who heard it on a TV show - cut off the stalk as that is where the bitterness lives.
You do get used to the taste and the texture is good. Cooked kale can be very filling.

What is so good about Kale?
Kale is called a nutritional powerhouse because it contains;
VITAMIN A - good for skin and eye sight, works to prevent lung cancer and mouth cancer.
VITAMIN C - strengthens the immune system and boosts metabolism better than oranges.
VITAMIN K - for antioxidants that prevent coronary artery disease and protect against some cancers, promotes normal blood clotting and bone health.
CALCIUM -  all dark leafy vegetables are rich in calcium to strengthen bones and improve their density.
IRON -  more iron than beef. Iron helps with liver function, cell growth and transporting oxygen around the body.
FIBRE -  that works to eliminate waste and clean the body of toxins, lower cholesterol levels (especially when steamed) and reduce the risk of heart disease.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY properties - the omega 3 fatty acids in kale help to treat arthritis, joint pain, disorders of the immune system and asthma.
ANTI CANCER properties - Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale can lower the risk of common cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate.
Kale is also a good source of vitamin B1,  B2 and B6, vitamin E, copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium,  phosphorus, protein, folate, and niacin.

How to buy Kale.
Kale leaves should be firm to touch and attractive, with a good colour - no brown or yellow on the leaves. Do not buy kale if it is limp or warm, it should be refrigerated. 

When picking kale choose the smaller tender leaves for a milder flavour.
Where possible use organic kale. Green leafy vegetables hold onto pesticide residue more than other vegetables and we don't need to eat that.

Freshly picked kale - even under the hot sun it is firm and crisp

Any bad news about Kale?
Low functioning thyroid -  limit your intake of cruciferous vegetables if you have a low functioning thyroid, and take thyroxin tablets, as cruciferous vegetables are believed to slow down the thyroid.  But don't miss out on the nutrition found in kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts, you can have up to one cup of shredded kale or half a cup of cooked kale four of five times a week and balance it by also eating iodine rich foods including eggs, kelp, seafood, Himalayan crystal salt, turkey breast, dried prunes, plain yoghurt, cheddar cheese, green beans, bananas and strawberries.  If the thyroid is healthy or has been removed you can happily eat up to 2 cups a day.
Medication - while vitamin K is good for us, it can interfere with anticoagulants like Warfarin.  Avoid kale, other green leafy vegetables and some vitamin supplements if you are on this medication. Check with your doctor about other medications.
Oxalates - kale contains oxalates which could interfere with the absorption of calcium. You can still eat kale but be sure to chew it very well and avoid eating foods rich in calcium at the same time as kale. 

If you have untreated kidney and gall bladder problems, check with the doctor before eating large amounts of kale.

It may not have a heart but kale is a bright green crunchy vitamin boost

What is the best way to eat Kale?
Raw kale with breakfast
RAW in a salad or sandwich. The smallest new leaves are milder in flavour for those new to kale. Wash and dry the leaves, bunch them up and cut into thin slices. The bitterness goes well with strong flavours so combine with foods like capsicum, tomato and pepper, sesame seeds, lime juice or lemon infused oil, strong salty cheese, olives and garlic dressing.  I like it with lemon basil and nasturtium leaves as seasoning alongside hard boiled eggs and sun dried tomato.

JUICING is another way to have kale raw, as a smoothie with yoghurt and berries, or as a base to a green juice, or with carrots and celery and other veggies and herbs. 

A kale and banana smoothie makes a good breakfast or with other fruit as an afternoon snack.

COOKED in stew, soup or pasta sauce, kale is a hearty leaf that doesn't fall apart or lose texture like silver beet or spinach, when cooked for a while.  
Chop the kale into strips or chunks and drop into the pot of soup or stew about 15 minutes before serving.  

Add kale to a stir fry but cut finely and use only the very small leaves or it will not cook enough and the bitterness can overpower other flavours.

STEAMED OR BOILED kale does not lose texture. But, it is not the most attractive looking boiled vegetable so enjoying it cooked depends on how you serve it. 

The bitterness is reduced by steaming and the fibre is more easily available for use.

Wash under cold running water, cut into thin strips and steam or boil for 5 to 20 mins, depending on the texture preferred.  If using the stem, put that in the pot first and the green leaves five mins later. When cooked, strain out all the water and toss with salt, pepper and a little olive oil, or butter and grated parmesan cheese with a squeeze of lime juice.  Kale is versatile enough to be yummy with a fried egg breakfast or with mashed potato and steak for dinner.

Kale is not the most attractive vegetable boiled

BAKED OR FRIED kale chips are good. This is the second most popular way to serve kale. Break the leaves into bite size pieces, wash and pat dry and put into a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the leaves and sprinkle on salt and pepper.  Toss the leaves until they are coated with oil and salt.  You could also use chilli flakes, cumin or garlic salt.  Spread in single layer on a baking sheet and put into a moderate oven for about five mins or until crisp.  

Salted kale fried in coconut oil, until brown and crisp, is very tasty with fried tomatoes and chives, another of my breakfast favourites. Make sure it browns all over, if only half cooked it's like eating the dish cloth.

Tear into pieces, fry in coconut oil with salt and serve when it has browned - delicious

How to grow Kale
Kale is grown from seed and these are available in online stores and organic nurseries. It likes soil rich in organic matter and prefers cool temperatures. Do not let the soil or seeds to dry out before germinating. Seedlings can be transplanted easily.  Kale will grow in full sun if it has plenty of water.  I found that during a very dry winter my kale stopped growing but once we had rain it burst into life.

The plant size varies with the variety planted but can grow to about half a metre high and wide. Plants should be ready to harvest in two months. Take the larger, outer leaves first, though you can nibble on the younger leaves as they grow.

I don't give information sources - my research is done on line and if you want to double check the information, or do further research, your search could find better web sites or more recent investigation results and I don't want to spoil that.



  1. Enjoyed reading all about Kale very much :) Thanks Janine,

  2. Your garden looks very healthy. CJ

  3. Hey Janine. I just read your blog on kale and notice you said it likes cool temperatures. Is it happy in the shade? Will it still grow through our summer if I was to start some when I get back in a week or so? R

  4. Ok U sold me. That breakfast looks too good.

  5. I also like the taste of kale and don't think it is bitter at all. Rob

  6. You kale looks much healthier that what Im growing. Do you know the names of yours.


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