If you’ve ever gone to a restaurant and ordered a tuna sandwich, you might recognize kale without even knowing it. Likewise, if you’ve seen the numerous gardens around Chicago, you might recognize it, too. Remember that green and purple frilly piece of vegetable garnishing your plate or accenting those petunias? That’s it.
Kale is a type of cabbage that does not grow into a head. It can be either green or purple and is in the same species as other more recognizable vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.
The vegetable itself is known to be extremely high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamins C and K and calcium. Kale also has indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. So, eat up.
The plant itself has a fairly short grow time, needing only about two months until harvest. It can be grown in warmer climates, but prefers cooler climates best. That being said, kale can essentially be grown almost everywhere in the United States, although the Southern states might not fare too well. Kale is a minor vegetable in the United States, but an important crop for Virginia.
There are numerous ways to cook kale. You can boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it… I don’t know if you can do kale kabobs, have to try that out (Forrest Gump, anyone?). I bought a big bunch of kale at Meijer (hint: if you are ever looking for an uncommon vegetable, Meijer is definitely the place to look. Their produce department is better stocked than some places in Chicago), and decided that I would make kale chips.
Kale chips are exactly what they sound like, just kale covered in a little bit of olive oil and salt (or not), and thrown into an oven until crispy. They’re a great snack and really light. It’s also a great way to maintain the vitamin content of the vegetable. Methods like boiling pull all the nutrients out, unless you’re putting it into a soup.
- Olive oil
- Salt (optional)
Wash the kale thoroughly and preheat oven to 350°. Slice the large stems off the kale and cut the large leaves in half, width-wise. Then, in a bowl, drizzle olive oil over the leaves to coat and toss with salt to taste (optional). Place the leaves onto a cookie sheet, leaving some space in between so they don’t stick, for about 12 – 18 minutes, or until crispy and a touch brown.
Next week’s veggie is leeks, a relative to the onion with a milder taste. Very delicious sautéed in butter. Until then, eat your kale. It’s good for you, really.