Well you can grow it in your very own garden at home – it’s called Kale and one cupful can do all the above plus more!
Maybe it was really kale in that tin?
Where’s it from?
Kale is a Mediterranean member of the brassica or cabbage family which dates back a couple of thousand years. In fact it was a staple vegetable of the time as it proved frost hardy and could survive
much harsher winters than it’s origins would suggest. In the Netherlands it’s known as ‘farmers’ cabbage’ with the main variety we see called Cavolo nero or ‘black cabbage’. The dark blue and green leaves
are the first hint to the health inducing carotenoids contained within. My fiance knew about kale before I did, as she used to be a florist and some varieties are stunningly ornamental.
How do you grow it?
Like other cabbages, Kale is a hero winter vegetable that can be sown in Autumn and harvested a few months later. Alternatively sowing established seedlings around now (early July) will ensure your enjoying
Kale well into spring. I don’t bother growing it during the hot summer months as the white butterflies are too numerous to compete with, plus the leaves are sweeter when grown in the cooler seasons. As with
cabbages, prepare the soil in advance with lots of compost and/or rotted manure. They are heavy nitrogen feeders so top dressing with pigeon manure and liquid feeding during their growth will ensure success.
Pick the older outer leaves first (as you would with silverbeet) to keep the plant producing again and again.
Kale is a little tougher than it’s cabbage cousins but don’ let this put you off. I first learned of Kale from Stephanie Alexander as she described it as being the original addition to minestrone soup. So it can be
cooked long and slow and still hold its shape and texture which is a bonus in many dishes. It can be boiled (apparently if you drink the liquid afterwards you will, in fact live forever) or sautéed with butter or
olive oil and of course garlic. Young leaves are great raw and will ensure you get all of the vitamin C as described above. I find it to be a great addition to simple oil based pasta dishes that need something to cut through other rich flavours, where spinach simply doesn’t make the grade. Same goes for risotto. Below is a recipe for Kale Chips and while I can’t guarantee they’ll take the place of your beloved salt and vinegar varieties,
they do feel a lot more grown up and taste awesome.
A good salad spinner full of tender young Kale leaves (use the rest for other dishes as they’ll be chewy rather than chippy!)
Olive oil, ghee, coconut oil or whatever you use for healthy frying
Sea salt or Murray River flaked salt
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees using a fan setting if available
Soak the picked leaves in water to remove any bugs (especially in home grown or organically purchased)
Cut the leaves of the kale away from the stems and then chop into bite sized pieces
Spin in a salad spinner really well a couple of times (until it’s well and truly dizzy!)
Place in a clean dry bowl and drizzle with olive or your favourite oil
Mix thoroughly and place onto a baking tray (don’t sprinkle with salt just yet as it will bring out moisture and make the chips soggy)
Place in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes checking they are crispy but not brown or still floppy
Sprinkle with salt and or sesame seeds and enjoy!