Article published Feb 2, 2014
Weekly Planet column
All Hail the Mighty Kale
Driving south on Interstate 95 requires extraordinary concentration.
It’s not just the 18-wheelers barreling by at 80 mph or the tedium of flat roads and unremarkable scenery that demand your full attention. It’s also those ubiquitous billboards: mile after mile of stern-faced lawyers promising “big cash settlements,” smiling waitresses hawking an “all you can eat buffet” and, once you get south of the Mason-Dixon line, Bible quotations exhorting you to “believe and follow.”
And don’t even get me started on the callousness of the billboard calling Ponce de León Florida’s “first tourist.”
Maybe Vermonters are more distracted than most by the endless cavalcade of highway billboards; after all, our state’s ban is nearly as old as I am. But it’s hard to believe that anyone, no matter how jaded, would not be sidetracked by these relentless messages of consumerism and religiosity.
So imagine my surprise when the words “Hail the Mighty Kale” arose from the landscape, as if Vermont’s own “Eat More Kale” had graduated from one-at-a-time-design to the big time. Take that, Chick-fil-A, with all your billboards along the way!
OK, the mighty kale billboard was actually hawking a health insurance company, but it was still heartening to realize that kale now warrants such celebrity.
It was kismet to see this billboard. We were enjoying our annual camping trip through the southern states, and for the first time ever it was incredibly easy to find kale wherever we shopped. Local farm stands, farmers markets and most grocery stores were awash in this amazing green.
As such, kale became the staple around our campfire. Breakfast was kale and eggs. Wilt as much kale as fits in our too-small camp saucepan, while sautéing onions and garlic brought from home in our just-right frying pan. Add the kale and cook until flavors meld. Crack a few eggs, scrambled or not, and cook them amongst the veggies.
Lunch meant raw kale salads or kale inside wraps or added to sandwiches. We were pleasantly surprised to realize that even grocery store kale was sweet and tender enough to enjoy uncooked. Dinner could be a side of sautéed kale, another kale salad or our favorite — kale with pasta.
Wilt as much kale as possible, even if it means making several batches in a too-small saucepan. Using a bit more olive oil than usual, sauté onions, garlic, and whatever veggies you have on hand.
Since zucchinis and tomatoes were in season down south, these were our standards, along with the carrots we brought from home. Once the veggies are soft and the flavors have melded, start cooking the pasta. Now here’s the trick — before draining the pasta, add enough of the pasta water to the cooked veggies to make a sauce.
As eaters, we know the power of kale as a nutritional champion. Kale is chock full of vitamins A, C, and K, iron and calcium. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef, more calcium than milk and more vitamin C than spinach.
Kale is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer virtues. It also has cardiovascular, digestive, and detoxification benefits. Wow! And it tastes great. Double wow!
As farmers, we know the power of kale as a champion food source. Kale can be grown in a wide variety of soils, and it does quite well in spring, summer and fall. With the proliferation of unheated high tunnels, kale can be harvested long into the winter months — even in our northern climes. Imagine, a leafy green vegetable that is in-season in December, in both Florida and Vermont.
Carol Tashie, co-owner of Radical Roots Farm, lives in Rutland City and tries hard to find a balance between what is possible and what is impossible to ignore. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.