Many years ago, early spring meant foraging for small tender greens. Adding the first greens of the year to spring meals or tonics were made to build the immune system up after a slower paced winter. Since most of us don’t forage in the forest anymore, you can still add more greens to your meals if you haven’t already! One of the most popular greens in the US is kale. The number of farms harvesting kale more than doubled from 2007 to 2012 and the trend continues.
Kale is a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family. Kale is also part of a family known as cruciferous and includes vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc) and is considered a superfood since it is packed with nutrients including Vitamins C, B6, and K, potassium, magnesium, iron and folate. Low in calories and high in fiber, kale is also known to help decrease risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and helps keep skin and hair healthy. Kale contains many nutrients which are anti inflammatory. For example, if you grill out frequently, evidence suggests that the chlorophyll in kale (and other green veggies) can inhibit absorption of a carcinogen called heterocyclic amines. This carcinogen is found in the char of grilled items so first work on not charring food and make sure to serve a side of a leafy green like kale when you grill for added protection!
The Environmental Working Group annually rates pesticide content in produce and added kale to the Dirty Dozen Plus list in 2016. Kale and hot peppers are frequently laced with pesticides so buy organic kale whenever possible. For more information on the dirty dozen check out the website: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php. If you can’t afford organic, wash well and eat cooked instead of raw as cooking tends to diminish pesticide residue.
Kale has a spicy, earthy flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. If you like a milder flavor, purchase baby kale. Use kale in salads, smoothies, as an alternative to lettuce on sandwiches or sauté with garlic and onions as a side dish. It’s easily added to soups, and stews. When eating raw, massage the greens to help break down the cellulose to increase absorption of all those wonderful nutrients. Nuts pair well with kale so toss in some nuts for a delicious flavor.
Honor spring with delicious greens and try out the recipes below.
Kale chips: Remove the ribs from the kale, wash and pat dry. Having dry kale is key for crispy kale chips. Toss in extra-virgin olive oil or lightly spray and sprinkle with your choice or a combination of cumin, curry powder, chili powder, roasted red pepper flakes or garlic powder. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-30 minutes to desired crispness.