All Hail Kale!

kale 1

Over here at 5H homestead, we spent the last few weeks digging out the last of this year’s crops and prepping the garden for next spring.  With the exception of a few potatoes we probably missed, the only plants we left were our kale plants.  Really kale trees would be a more accurate term.  They were almost as tall as my 4 year old daughter and had stems a few inches in diameter.  We had two kale plantings this year, one in May and one in July, totaling about 10 plants.  We harvested the majority of the kale this week, as sub freezing temps will be the norm next week around here (yikes!)

Here are some reasons I love kale:

1. It’s hardy.  Kale will continue to grow through light frost, which where we live means at least November.  The leaves are more tough than spinach or lettuces, so they can withstand cold and bugs very well.  We didn’t use any pesticides, natural or otherwise, and had very little pest damage to our kale.  It will also keep in your fridge longer than spinach or lettuces.

2. It’s versatile.  I will share some of my favorite kale recipes below, but this is a very versatile “green” (It’s technically a cruciferous vegetable).  We use it in salads, soups, stews, smoothies, as a side dish, etc.

3. It’s HEALTHY!  Check out this info by Alison Lewis at MindBodyGreen:

Kale is being called “the new beef”, “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse.” Here are ten great benefits of adding more kale to your diet:

1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.

2. Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.

3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions including normal bone health and blood clotting. Also increased levels of vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers.

5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.

7. Kale is high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.

8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.

9. Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility

10. Kale is a great detox food. Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.  (Originally posted 4/2/2012 on MindBodyGreen by Alison Lewis)

So by now, you are thinking you should eat more kale.  I would encourage you to grow your own if you have the space (not much space required).  It’s a really easy crop and will produce for you all growing season.  We grew Halhoher Gruner Krauser kale, an heirloom variety from Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsaversexchange.org). It’s one of the first plants to go in the ground, grows quickly, and the last to stop producing. It did very well and we will use the same variety next year.

Here are some of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy kale:

Chicken Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Soup

-3-4 chicken sausages cut into chunks

-one onion, roughly chopped

-16 oz cannellini beans

-4-5 large leaves of kale, chopped

-3 cups chicken broth

Sautee onion and sausage in a large sauce pan with a little oil until onions are translucent.  Add beans and kale, cook 5 additional minutes on medium-high heat.  Turn down heat, add broth, and continue to heat on low until heated through (about 30 minutes).  This is a quick weeknight favorite in our house.

Add chopped frozen kale to smoothies for a veggie boost.

Kale Fatoosh

-1 cup cooked quinoa

-finely chopped cucumber, tomato, and red onion ( your preference on amount, I am not much of a purist when it comes to recipes)

-4 cups finely chopped raw kale leaves ( I use the food processor on pulse to get the leaves just right)

-Dressing- I buy a fatoosh dressing from a local specialty store as it’s my favorite dressing.  You could use any lemon based vinaigrette.  Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and chill.  Add feta cheese if desired.

Sleeksleek

This Middle Eastern dish is traditionally made with kale, caramelized onion, and bulgar wheat.  It was my first introduction to kale when I worked at Ali Baba’s in Pittsburgh (AWESOME restaurant).  My at home version will never compete with Ali Baba’s, but we like it. I skip the bulgar wheat and serve it with pita and hummus.

-3 onions chopped

-3 tbsp oil ( I use coconut or grapeseed)

-10 to 12 leaves kale, hard stem removed, torn in pieces.

-salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon to taste.

Sautee onions over low-med heat until nicely browned and soft (45 minutes).  Add in kale and spices.  Cook on medium until kale is nicely wilted.  Serve with hummus and pita or spicy roasted cauliflower with tahini.

Happy Kale Cooking!

-L

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