Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Collards, broccoli, cabbage and kale #3

If you haven't been following this blog from the start, you might enjoy reading the first one I wrote about my four favorite vegetables and see why I think they are so great.

Today I went out to the garden to harvest for my Purple Porch co-op deliveries tonight.  It is just so easy to harvest at this time of year!  The garden is in slow motion, so if I don't get down there for a week, no harm done.  And the temperature is the equivalent of keeping everything in the fridge.  I'm still harvesting lovely leaf lettuce.  None of the lettuces are bolting in this weather, so it is quite safe to ignore them.  Each week, there are more orders for my Russian kale.  I think it is gaining a reputation.  And well it should!   Did you know that you can make crunchy kale chips?  Remove the ribs from a leaf of kale, spray it lightly with olive oil, kiss it with a bit of sea salt, cut in 1" to 2" squares, put on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350ยบ oven for a few minutes.  They are delightful, and much better for you than potato chips. 

I wouldn't have eaten kale when I was a kid if you had paid me.  I never even tasted it until I moved out here to Indiana.  Where I came from, we just didn't eat greens.  It wasn't "our kind of food."  Isn't that funny?  My mom and dad were certainly not prejudiced, taught us that everyone was equal, until it came to meals.  The hired man ate all of his food with a knife, even peas.  It was quite a trick.  We were all fascinated but were instructed not to stare, and also not to try it on our own at the supper table.  We were to understand that Tony didn't know any better.  But what is "better" about eating your peas with a fork?  It was as if there was some measure of our social worth in how we pick up our utensils.  And greens, well, they were poor people's food.  If you you were a landowner (we were, but we were hardly rolling in money), then you didn't eat cooked greens -- lettuce was okay, and maybe even spinach because my mom knew it had a lot of iron in it.  But collards?   Never.  And I never even heard of kale until I was an adult.

Kale fascinates me, kind of like Lucy milking herself.  It's almost as if it has a very special vegetable brain.  Kale doesn't just grow, get harvested and it's all over.  It grows and grows and grows.  As you pick off leaves, more come to take their place.  I don't think kale bolts - at least I have never seen it happen - so it's okay to ignore it.  (When a plant bolts, it sends up flowers and makes seeds.  The flavor of the leaves become very bitter, pretty much inedible.)  Kale changes its flavor over the season.  It is good in the summer, but it is even better in the fall, getting sweeter after a hard frost or two.  It's obviously not afraid of the cold, and I have harvested it in December.  I'm going to use row covers this year and try for some January kale.  Now here is the very best part.  It will regrow next spring.  The old plant appears to be dead, but if you just leave it alone, it will sprout and begin providing leaves all over again.  This means no little round seeds to plant, and it also means that you will have kale even earlier in the season. 

And in case you think kale isn't a gourmet food, try making kale and white bean soup.  There is just nothing better.  The next time you are down to the rind of your Parmesan cheese, save it and go to, look up their kale and white bean soup recipe, which uses that rind, and enjoy! 

Sigh . . .  I just love kale!


  1. Keep this up and we'll have to begin searching for a Kale-addicts 12-Step program for you!