Every now and then, a food item that has been around for a long time, sometimes even centuries, is raised up to the position of superfood. In the last decade, it has been Kale’s fortune to be declared a superfood. And so far, the reputation has held.
BTW, have you read ‘Fifty Shades of Kale’?
Though there is no scientific definition of a superfood, usually it is when it contains high levels of nutrients, offers major health benefits, or has some specific advantages like inducing weight loss or curing some disease. Or it could be when some PR agency takes on the case and goes into a propaganda drive to increase the popularity of a food item. There is an interesting story about kale. Originally it was believed that the American Kale Association hired a PR agent to boost it in the markets of NYC. However, it turned out that a PR agent who loved kale created the whole project, including the existence of an imaginary kale association, on their own.
Stories apart, kale’s claim to fame as being highly nutritious is all true.
Kale has been cultivated for food in the Mediterranean beginning 2000 BC. And it has been popular in Europe for a long time as well. Kale was introduced into the United States in the 19th century. Initially kale was used for decorative purposes – think lining salad platters – in the US, but its popularity as an edible vegetable grew as its nutritional value began to be recognized.
Health benefits of kale include Vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, as well as Folate, a B vitamin. Kale also has alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green color), and minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc.
There are several types of kale available in the market today, with more varieties being available in Farmers’ Markets. The flavors vary slightly based on the type.
The types include:
- Curly kale: bright green ruffled leaves, the most common type of kale
- Dinosaur kale: narrow, wrinkly green leaves attached to a thick stem
- Redbor kale: ruffled leaves that vary in color from deep red to purple
- Russian kale: less common, and has flat leaves with a fringe that range from green to red to purple
Kale belongs to the brassica family which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
Boiled, baked, steamed, or sautéed, kale can be cooked many ways. (Here is a great recipe for kale with coconut and garbanzo.) Kale chips are an easy snack, easy to make… tear destemmed leaves into pieces, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Tada, a crispy snack is ready!
Germans have a festival dedicated to kale, called Grünkohlfahrt, where a lot of beer is drunk and kale is eaten. And the person who ate the most kale is crowned Kohlkönig (Kale King).
Today we are using kale in a soup fortifies with sausage and potatoes. Very hearty!
Kale Soup With Potatoes and Sausage
- 1 pound uncured Spanish chorizo, cut across into -¼ inch-thick slices
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped, about 4 cups
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
- Smear the bottom of a largish pot with oil and heat the pot over medium heat.
- Add the sausage pieces and cook till they start to brown.
- Add the onion and cook till onion turns soft.
- Add the garlic and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the kale and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes longer.
- Add the chicken broth and vinegar.
- Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
- Add the tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes more.
- Ladle into bowls and serve hot.