This Sturdy Vegetable Yields Cauldrons of Food as Medicine for Canadian Kitchens
When I was a kid, my grandma was always quipping that “kale is good for whatever ails you,” which is why we cultivated row upon row of the hardy plant in our backyard garden. Kale belongs to the ‘brassica’ family and thus is related to broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, collard greens, and mustard. Recent studies have cited kale as a powerful food for helping to ward off various types of cancer and other body invaders. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood glucose (helping to protect against, and control, diabetes), and lowers high blood pressure.(1)
Grandma’s journal notes say that kale is “good for keeping your system running regular, building strong blood, teeth and bones, helping you breathe easier….and even for making skin clear and hair shiny.” This super green is packed with protein, iron, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs in order to keep in top shape.
A word of caution: Those taking beta-blockers (drugs commonly prescribed for heart disease) and those with kidney problems are strongly advised to talk to their doctor before consuming too much kale as it contains potassium, which could create harmful side effects.
Cultivation and Preparation
Kale is easy to grow and thrives well in colder zones; it can even be nipped by frost without suffering damage. Grandma actually claimed that frost made the leaves sweeter and more tender! Once it takes root, kale needs very little pampering.It is a biennial or ‘short-lived’ perennial, which means it is grown as an annual, but must be allowed to hold ground for a second year in order to produce seeds. Kale will replant itself if a few plants are allowed to ‘go to seed’ at the end of the growing season, thus kale can run amok if you don’t keep up with it in the kitchen. This isn’t hard to do in my house since I use in it in everything from grandma’s medicinal tonics, to old-fashioned country dishes like wilts, to trendy wraps.The good news is that, even if you don’t grow kale in your garden like grandma did (and I still do), you can buy it at local farmers’ markets throughout its growing season, or at supermarkets throughout the winter. Its prime commercial season is from mid-fall through early spring.
There are various types of kale, but the most common one found in Canadian stores is curly kale. At farmers’ markets and vegetable stands you might find other types that are popular with gardeners, such as Redbar, Red Russian, Vates, Lacinato, Dinosaur, and Hanover Salad – all interchangeable in any recipe. When it comes to kale (or any produce), buy organically grown for the sake of your health.Choose kale with firm leaves and crisp stems. Avoid wilted leaves and those with brown or yellow spots. Smaller leaves are more tender than larger ones, and younger kale has a milder flavour than older plants. Wash kale thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Tear off leaves from the thick stock, then chop or shred according to recipe (save the tough stocks and ribs for vegetable stock, or discard; with the smaller, tender leaves, just trim away base of the stock). Store kale in the refrigerator for up to a week. Use it as soon as possible as it can turn slightly bitter if stored for too long.
- What’s New and Beneficial About Kale: https://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38
Kale Power Drink
This great kale smoothie will kickstart your morning with a nutritious bang! (Makes a 2 cup serving.)
- 2 cups kale, finely chopped
- ¾ cup frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blues or blacks)
- 1 ripe banana (or ½ ripe avocado or ¼ cup pineapple chunks)
- 1 Tbsp flax seeds
- 1 Tbsp liquid honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar)
- 1 cup chosen milk (soy, almond, rice)
In a blender, combine kale, berries, banana, flax seeds, and honey. Blend on low, slowly adding milk until well mixed. Turn up the speed and blend until smooth, adding more milk as needed.
Game Night Kale Chips
I make these light, crispy chips on family game night and nobody gets “bored with the board”; a healthy snack you can enjoy without sneaking. (Makes 4 – 6 cups)
- 4 – 6 cups kale
- 3 Tbsp virgin olive oil
- Suggested seasonings: crushed dried basil or dill, ground cumin, curry, paprika, onion or garlic powder
Tear kale into chip-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with olive oil. Place on baking sheets and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Bake in preheated 275ºF oven for 10 minutes. Flip leaves with spatula and bake another 10 minutes or until crispy. Cool and serve. Optional: Sprinkle with suggested seasonings, or any others you like.
Garlicky-Good Sautéed Kale
Grandma’s version of this dish, which is eaten hot or cold, is called a ‘wilt’. (Serves 4)
- 6 cups prepared kale leaves
- 1½ Tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup water
- Pinch sea salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp apple cider (or balsamic vinegar)
- 1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
Chop kale leaves. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté kale until wilted. Add garlic and sauté until soft. Add water, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer until kale is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in apple cider and honey. Return to heat and cook until liquid is reduced to desired thickness. Cover and steep until serving time. Serve in small bowls as a side-dish.
Kale ‘Detox’ Tea
In grandma’s old doctoring journals, she’s written that “a cup of kale tea is a good tonic for flushing impurities out of the system.” If you’re making this medicinal tea as a treatment for cold and ‘flu, grandma’s notes say that a pinch of fresh grated ginger root, a wedge of lemon, and a squirt of honey added to the pot speeds up the cure. Here’s her special ‘detox’ kale tea recipe.
- 1½ cups water
- 1 handful of kale, shredded
Put shredded kale into a small saucepan. Cover with 1½ cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from stove, cover and steep for 5 minutes. Pour tea into a mug and serve with a spoon in order to ‘get up’ the spent leaves for good measure after the tea is drunk. You can strain the tea, if you wish, but grandma wouldn’t hear of letting the dregs go to waste!
Kale ‘Picker-Upper’ Soup
To make this super quick ‘picker-upper’ soup, first prepare kale tea as above.
My kids love these – for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (Makes 8 wraps.)
Kale and Lima Bean Soup
This is so good and so easy to make. (Makes 8 servings – enough to fill a large tureen. Leftover soup can be stored in the fridge.)
Kale and Quinoa Salad
I had never heard of quinoa when I was a kid, but I sure love it today. (Serves 6 to 8)
Kale and Sweet Potato ‘Speckled’ Soup
In grandma’s house, this creamy puree was called Speckled Soup. (Makes a full tureen)