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Learning to Love Kale

July 26th, 2011

The first time I grew kale in the garden was 3 years ago. I planted some ‘Red Russian’ kale in my winter garden after reading Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. It overwintered beautifully, seeded down, and I’ve had an abundance of kale in my garden ever since. (seed source for Red Russian Kale: Baker Creek)

This year I also added ‘Lacinato’ Kale to my garden (seed source: Southern Exposure). The only problem is – I’m not a big fan of cooked kale. I don’t mind a few handfuls thrown into soup, but in general I have never been a big fan of cooked greens, something about the texture. I love cabbage and other brassicas, but kale has always been at the bottom of the list. I’ll keep trying different ways of cooking it.I am determined, however, to not let my dislike of specific things hold me back from eating things that are healthy and good for me. So I keep growing kale, and I keep trying different cooking methods.

Kale is a member of the brassica family along with: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, arugula, rutabaga, radish and mustard. Along with other brassicas, kale is a powerhouse vegetable. It provides more nutritional value per calorie than almost any other food around. It contains over 45 different flavanoids, vitamins A, K, C, magnesium, copper, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, and many more. It also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, macronutrients, and cancer-preventive nutrients called glucosinolates. Cooked kale is healthier than raw kale, so it’s important to cook it lightly and with some fat to make the vitamins more available and more easily absorbed. Here’s a great article on the health benefits of kale if you’d like to learn more. Kale is also easy to grow in the garden, especially here in NE Ohio where our summers can be fickle and can easily cause broccoli and cauliflower to bolt before them produce heads. Kale seems not to mind the warm weather, although it’s flavor is mellowed by frost and cool weather. Kale overwinters beautifully without any protection at all. I have had Red Russian kale growing in my front flowerbed for the past three years. It survives the winter, flowers in spring, seeds itself down and I have a nice crop for harvesting throughout fall, winter and spring.

Last week we had kale braised in bacon grease with garlic with eggs poached on top. It was pretty good, not my favorite food, but that’s OK – sometimes eating is about nourishing yourself and not about loving what you eat. I hope that someday I will love kale, but I’m not sure that will happen. Another way I’ve discovered that’s pretty good is to make a very garlicky chicken stock and throw lots of kale in about 5 minutes before you’re going to serve it. I’ve also got a batch of kale kimchi brewing at the moment and we’ll see if we like that as much as cabbage kimchi.

How do you feel about cooked greens? Any great recipes to share? Do you grow anything in your garden that you’re not particularly fond of eating?

59 Comments to “Learning to Love Kale”
  1. KimH on July 26, 2011 at 5:19 am

    I love greens.. all of them. I never met a green I didnt like.. but I like them prepared the way they do in “the south”.

    Mine isnt quite as good as some I’ve eaten so I missing something I think but I use bacon grease, onion, a tablespoon of sugar, a few squirts of hot sauce such as Louisiana Hot Sauce (or Petes), and apple cider vinegar. I’ve often eaten it with bacon or ham pieces in there too.. Good stuff.

    Just had a mess of kale & chard greens day before yesterday. Gotta say, I do love t hem!

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Lisa on July 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      That’s a mighty fine southern greens recipe! My momma just pressure cooked greens with a “ham hock”(a smoked joint bone from a pig) and a big plop of bacon grease out of the Maxwell house coffee can in the fridge. After served, sprinkle with pickled hot pepper juice.

      Reply to Lisa's comment

  2. Christy on July 26, 2011 at 5:33 am

    i’m about to try cooking it as ‘crisps’, covered in olive oil, then baked in the oven till crisp, then eaten with a little added salt, seems like it has potential to me…

    am continuing to enjoy your blog, thanks for your efforts with it, the daily posting is impressive!

    Reply to Christy's comment

  3. Christine on July 26, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Like Christy posted above, kale “chips” are yummy! I love them with salt and balsamic vinegar, tossed in olive oil.

    Reply to Christine's comment

  4. Jennifer Fisk on July 26, 2011 at 6:30 am

    I love Kale especially Winterbore. One of my favorite self designed dish is pasta and kale. While the whole wheat pasta is cooking in a 3qt pot the kale is being steamed above it. I drain the pasta and put it back into the pot with olive oil and then add the kale. I mix it well and dump into a pasta bowl. I sprinkle it liberally with Parmesan cheese and enjoy a pretty much guilt free feast My son who lives in Russia introduced me to steaming the kale and then using Balsamic vinegar on it. Very good.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2011 at 8:18 am

      I do love vinegar (especially balsamic) on just about anything.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Toni on July 26, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I love how you will admit that you don’t necessarily love eating kale and other greens! I am in complete agreement. But, as you are, also willing to keep trying to find a way to like them. I am determined to not just tolerate greens, but actually enjoy eating them. I have tried kale chips and liked them but just don’t over-bake them or your kitchen will smell awful!

    Reply to Toni's comment

  6. TreeHugginMomma on July 26, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I also do not like cooked greens. When I use greens in Fritatta, soup, or casserole, it is added at the end so it softens and wilts just a little. Have you tried eating it raw? How about Kale Chips? In smoothies?

    Reply to TreeHugginMomma's comment

  7. Kathi on July 26, 2011 at 7:40 am

    I also grow alot of kale for my daughter who loves it, but I really don’t care for it however ,it is easy to grow and looks attractive mixed in withh other flowers and vegetabales. I do love swiss chard though. A friend just told me about the kale chips so I will try that this weekend. I like it in quiche also.

    Reply to Kathi's comment

  8. Sande on July 26, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I grew Red Russian kale in my heated garage studio all winter under a simple daylight flourescent light and it did great. We ate the kale chopped up fresh as a salad addition. Now it’s growing outside still in the same container. I also have, new, Nero di Toscana which is like the Dinosaur kale you have and a beautiful plant. It is also good fresh in salads. But I did not know kale should be lightly cooked, as you mention in this article. Like you, I am not a fan of cooked greens.

    Reply to Sande's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2011 at 8:15 am

      I think marinading it for a few minutes in vinegar will also help make the nutrients and vitamins more available if you like to eat it fresh. Kind of like making kimchi or sauerkraut which helps make brassicas more digestible.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Melissa on July 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

    The kale chips are really good, one of the reasons I’m adding kale to my fall/winter garden this year! My personal favorite way to eat it is a quick saute with garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Swiss chard is fabulous this way too!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2011 at 8:14 am

      I’ve always thought about making kale chips but have yet to get around to it. I’ll have to try that and blog about it someday this fall/winter.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. Mistresseve on July 26, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Hmm…Kale chips…I’ll need to give that some thought…

    Reply to Mistresseve's comment

  11. kristin @ going country on July 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Must be my southern heritage that makes me really dislike undercooked greens. And by “undercooked” I mean not cooked until they’re limp and dead. This whole cooking until just bright green? No way. Especially crunchy stuff like kale.

    We just ate some kale the other night, but I really much prefer it after a frost. Too bitter in the summer for me. Oddly, my generally vegetable-hating husband will ALWAYS eat greens. So I cook a lot of them. Chard, turnip greens, collards, kale, spinach . . . we always have a big bag of some kind of greens in the refrigerator.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  12. Kat on July 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I actually LOVE raw kale, mostly in massaged kale salads. I drizzle the kale with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and massage it with my hands for a minute or so. Then I make the rest of my meal, and by that time, the kale acquires almost a cooked texture. I sometimes squeeze half a lemon into it, and like to include onions and tomatoes. It’s a great salad! I didn’t like kale until I tried it.

    Reply to Kat's comment

    • Jenny on July 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      Yes, raw kale slads are great. I toss thinly ribboned lacinato with an asian viniagrette–ginger, tamari, rice vinegar, a little sesame oil and some olive oi. Let it all macerate together for at least an hour. Top with toasted sesame seeds or tamari almonds. Yum!

      Reply to Jenny's comment

  13. Virginia on July 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

    My husband and I have never been big lovers of cooked greens either. Several years ago, we tried a recipe from a cookbook titled The Herbal Kitchen, and the recipe was so good it went into our regular food rotation (when kale is in season). It starts with several slices of good bacon, garlic, red pepper flakes, and some fresh oregano that are sauteed together. Then you add a bunch of kale and let it wilt down. In the meantime, you cook some orrechiette pasta. When the pasta is finished, add it to the kale mixture along with some parmesan cheese and a little pasta cooking liquid. It is a spicy, slightly cheesy dish with the benefits of kale. Give it a try!

    Reply to Virginia's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks for the recipe – sounds great – especially since it has bacon and cheese!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  14. Daedre Craig on July 26, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I was never served cooked greens as a kid because my parents didn’t like them, but I wish they had! I grew kale for the first time this year and I’ve been really enjoying it sauteed with garlic or on top of homemade pizzas.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      On pizzas is a great idea – I’ll often put spinach or arugula on pizza and in omelets.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Allison on July 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I love Kale…and for some reason, have yet to plant it in my garden! I need to get some in, for sure, for Fall!

    I have a wonderful recipe for Kale & Chickpea soup I need to dig up and I can share.

    Reply to Allison's comment

  16. Lisa on July 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

    My favorite greens cookbook is Greens Glorious Greens! by Johnna Albi & Catherine Walthers. It’s just chock full of tasty recipes for preparing all kinds of “greens” from spinach, arugula, chard, beet greens, dandelion, bok choy to kale and more. Check it out:

    Reply to Lisa's comment

    • KimH on July 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks Lisa.. Im definitely going to check it out!

      Reply to KimH's comment

  17. Margaret on July 26, 2011 at 9:16 am

    We put kale in beef stew in the winter time, with mushrooms, onion, garlic and carrots. Just put the kale in for the last few minutes, so that it wilts but stays green.

    Reply to Margaret's comment

  18. Louise on July 26, 2011 at 9:23 am

    The Dutch mash it in potatoes ( called Boerenkool Stamppot), great with sausage or crisp bacon bits on top. See recipe : }

    Susy, do you cover all your winter veggies with a plastic cover, or are they exposed to the elements?

    Reply to Louise's comment

  19. Barefeet In The Kitchen on July 26, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I still haven’t cooked kale. We use it all the time in smoothies, but that’s about it for me. I keep planning to cook it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Reply to Barefeet In The Kitchen's comment

  20. Andrea on July 26, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I grew kale last year. It was beautiful. I had read a lot of great things about kale chips and decided to try them.

    Wash the leaves. Bake after drizzling with balsamic vinegar and salt. They turned out like the they should have, but they tasted terrible to me.

    I don’t think I’ll probably ever try kale again. I took al I had grown and sold it at a local produce auction :)

    Reply to Andrea's comment

  21. risa on July 26, 2011 at 10:58 am

    We love kale, grow way too much of it so the poultry get a generous share and so does the dehydrator. It’s the primary ingredient in our “veggie crumble” — dried side-leaves of greens, with a few dried herbs, which we use in everything — soups, breads, stir fries, quiches, rice, pasta …

    Reply to risa's comment

  22. Teresa on July 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I adore kale and other cooked greens! This year something ate my first crop of kale and I’ve been mourning it ever since. There’s more coming, but it’s still tiny.

    It’s nice to crave something unambiguously healthy and low in calories, as opposed to my more typical chocolate and cheese cravings.

    Reply to Teresa's comment

  23. Estelle on July 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I love Lacinato kale! I add it tp tomato-based soups like minestrone in lieu of spinach. It hols its shape beautifully and is delicious. As someone pointed out, balsamic vinegar really tames the bitterness of kale and I love a nice splash on kale to make it yummier. Another way I like to eat Lacinato kale is raw and massaged with avocados, it is so good!!! Here is a similar recipe:

    Reply to Estelle's comment

  24. SixBalloons on July 26, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I would love to see a post on kale chips if you do in fact experiment with it!

    Reply to SixBalloons's comment

  25. Debbie on July 26, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I’m not really a kale lover either but this is my favourite way to eat kale.
    Pick kale after first frost is a definite plus. The frost tends to sweeten it. Chop it up and boil it. Along side, in another pot boil potatoes. When potatoes are cooked mash them up with potato masher. Drain cooked kale, reserving the water. Chop up kale, add to mashed potatoes, mix well. Add some reserved water if the potato mixture is a bit dry. My mom served the reserved water at the table since some people liked this a little more moist than others. We had this mixed served with a milk butter sauce and a side of smoked sausage. As a kid I called it Boerenkool Pizza. Found a picture to show you on the net.

    Try it you just might like it. :)

    Reply to Debbie's comment

  26. foodies at home on July 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I love kale pesto!! Just quickly steam it and then using a food processor, break it down with some fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil!! It’s delish!!

    Reply to foodies at home's comment

  27. MAYBELLINE on July 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Life is too short to bother growing things I don’t like on purpose. I grow plenty of things unintentionally that I don’t like. I call them weeds.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  28. blake on July 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    wow, kale kimchi? sign me up. my tuscan kale trick is to cook it probably a bit more than you are: it softens up greatly and gets very sweet. I initially sautée it (roughly chopped) with garlic, chili flakes and chopped onion, then open-pan braise it until it’s very tender. Basically, once the initial sautée is done, salt & pepper, then tip in 1/2 c hot water/stock and cook on high until the water is gone. Repeat 3-4 times. It’ll be so sweet and delicious, you’ll want to eat it on toast :) Oh, a little parmesan on top never hurts.

    Reply to blake's comment

  29. Chris on July 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Hi guys! I didn’t (honestly) read all the comments, so if this has already been posted as a recipe then sorry for the redundancy… :) We actually very much love this Kale Sausage soup…

    :) Good luck finding a recipe that makes you fall in love with kale! :)

    Reply to Chris's comment

  30. goatpod2 on July 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    My parent’s and I have had Kale different ways and that is the name of one of our bucks (male goat).


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  31. Corrie on July 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I grow turnips and beets and eggplant, even though I don’t like to eat them. My neighbor and mom and friends like to eat them, so I just give it all to them. I get a lot of joy out of giving my produce to the people I love, and I enjoy trying different things in the garden. Plus it helps with the rotation of crops.

    Reply to Corrie's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      I’m the same with eggplant – not a huge fan. I’ve tried it so many different ways. If I make ratatouille and chopped and mixed in with spaghetti sauce or in vegetable lasagna – but I’ve never been a fan of them cooked as a main dish.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  32. Carrie on July 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Smoothies! Mixed berries, ice, yogurt, and a few leaves. Don’t even know its there!

    Reply to Carrie's comment

  33. Paloma Calderon on July 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Here in northern Spain people have been eating kale (the taller variety, about 1,5 m) for centuries, in fact it was the only vegetable during the winter. The traditional way is to make a stew with beans or chickpeas, potatoes and some meat. We keep it altogether cooking really slowly till the beans are cooked. A lot of the vitamins disappear from the kale but stay in the soup and the flavour is much more pleasant. It’s curious because you don’t usually find it in the markets because nowadays is considered animal food (lucky them) in the cities but in the small towns everybody grows and eats them. It’s a strong taste, not going to deny it, but once you get used to it cabbage becomes tasteless. And if you want a real boost of vitamin C, make kale juice with honey. Greetings from Spain.

    Reply to Paloma Calderon's comment

  34. Lisa on July 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Google kale chips, very yummy. I also make soup with chicken stock, veggies, white beans and kale.

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  35. rhonda hetzel on July 26, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    My husband loves kale and we grow it specifically for his annual pork and kale cook up – it’s a traditional German dish. It’s several types of smokes pork cuts, boiled for a couple of hours with kale and served with boiled potatoes. He cooks enough for a week and says it gets better every day. I don’t eat it with him.

    I wanted to comment on your egg and kale dish – I love that. It’s very similar to the German Spinat mit Spiegelei (spinach and fried egg), which is love and I think it much healthier than boiling the kale for hours. We use the curly (scottish) kale for most of our kale dishes but we also grow Cavolo (black kale). I like that very young, in salad.

    Reply to rhonda hetzel's comment

  36. Kris @ Attainable Sustainable on July 26, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I do not like cooked greens. At all. There are two ways I like kale. One is baked kale chips. They’re super simple and surprisingly good, offering a little bit of salty goodness. The other is a raw kale salad. The secret is in the dressing. If you google “hail to the kale” you’ll find it (probably a video; I know, I hate recipes on video). The dressing is a peanutty dream, kind of like a satay sauce, but it’s totally fat free and SO good.

    Now if I could just get my chickens to stay away from the kale in my garden…

    Reply to Kris @ Attainable Sustainable's comment

  37. AGinPA on July 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    The book Serving Up the Harvest (Andrea Chesman) has a great recipe for kale calzone. It uses lots of basil which goes really well with the kale. I also really like the kale “chips” that have been mentioned.

    Reply to AGinPA's comment

  38. Lisa on July 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    You dislike of kale may be genetic. The ability to taste phenothiocarbamide is a recessive trait and it is a bitter compound found in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, brussel sprouts, greens, etc). The bitterness can’t be cooked out if you are a taster. And if you are a non-taster, brussell sprouts are yummy, buttery petite heads of lettuce. To us supertasters, they are like supersonic ASPIRIN. Foul and nasty. I beat the bitterness with animal fat (texture and mouth feel), tart (vinegar) and spice (red pepper). But…you just might never LIKE greens…and it might be in your genes.

    Reply to Lisa's comment

    • Sarah Jane on July 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Liking cilantro is supposed to be similar. It’s genetic whether or not it tastes bad. To me and my mom, and others with the gene, it tastes like soap. I only don’t notice with garlic or onion, so thankfully pico de gallo is still yummy.

      Reply to Sarah Jane's comment

  39. Lisa on July 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Plus, they say brassicas will keep deer away b/c they won’t eat the bitter leaves.

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  40. Sincerely, Emily on July 26, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I grew up eating cooked chard – still love it. Also like it fresh in salads, on pizza, in quiche, bulgar wheat stir fry… I have been growing Russian Red kale a few years now & I use it the same way. Mine doesn’t grow through the summer, but I will be planting it soon for the fall and winter. I planted lacinato kale too late this spring. one has managed to survive under the cover the zucchini has, but it hasn’t grown much. I am hoping it will hang on and kick in to high gear in a few months.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  41. Sincerely, Emily on July 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Had this salad recently. I hope that is ok to post here. Enjoy!
    Mediterranean Kale Salad
    2 small bunches kale(long stemmed curly)
    2 T evoo, 2 T fresh lemon or lime juice
    1/2 tsp salt, 1 red bell pepper
    1/4 C walnuts or pine nuts
    1/4 C olives of choice
    cucumber, avocado

    Stack 2 of kale leaves w/the stem end facing you.
    Fold in half length wise and roll tightly like a cigar.
    Slice crosswise into thin strips. Repeat w/the remaining leaves.
    Chop the strips crosswise a few times, so they aren’t too long.
    Place in a mixing bowl along with the evoo juice and salt. Massage well with your hands working the dressing into the kale (tough part’s getting it off your fingers). Add remaining ingredients and mix.
    Serve at room temp.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

    • Susy on July 27, 2011 at 6:51 am

      Thanks so much for this recipe. Walnuts sound like a great addition to kale!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  42. Tammey on July 27, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Susie I am so sorry you do not care for kale..I love it.. and all cooked greens. I found out I really liked them when I was dating my husband 30 years ago. His mom cooked supper for us a lot, and I was not about to tell her I did not like something she cooked! However…I was “just stuffed”, and “could not possibly eat another bite” the night she had liver and onions…so I am impressed that you continue to eat greens even if you don’t like them!

    Reply to Tammey's comment

    • Susy on July 27, 2011 at 6:48 am

      I do love love love liver & onions – one of my favorite meals since I was a kid!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  43. Miranda on July 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Gosh, i couldn’t disagree more….. i could eat nothing but kale in the winter! I LOVE LOVE kale. Kale chips. Sauteed kale. Pesto kale. Kale spaghetti. Kale quiche. Even my dog loves kale! You can’t beat something full of that much calcium and other goodness, and i love that it holds its texture so much better than chard or spinach. Try some kale chips slathered in olive oil and your favorite spices….. you might be won over ;)

    Reply to Miranda's comment

  44. sarah on July 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I really like to make kale (or other greens) by sauteeing for just a minute or two in olive oil with some garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Maybe a splash of white wine vinegar at the end. I agree that the texture leaves something to be desired but I always eat it with fresh bread and a cold bean salad (my favorite is white beans with garlic scapes and scallions, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper – you can make it days ahead). Something about the hot kale, cold beans and squishy bread is just right.

    Reply to sarah's comment

  45. Aubrey on July 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I like kale cut off the big stem in the middle and then chopped up, on a baking sheet lay over in a thick layer on a mild fish (tilapia works great). Drizzle with olive oil sprinkle with capers or chopped kalamata olives and diced caned tomatoes. top with sea salt and fresh grated parm and then cover with foil. Bake in the oven until fish is done. VERY good even my little kids love it and its super healthy!!

    Reply to Aubrey's comment

  46. Jeannette on July 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Grew kale for the first time this year. I really enjoyed it in a Colcannon Recipe I found on Simply I chose to add a little sauteed garlic to the recipe. It was fabulous!

    Reply to Jeannette's comment

  47. Karla on July 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    What I love about kale is that you can slice it somewhat finely (maybe 1/4″ strips) mix it with some lemon juice, oil, and some seasonings, and it’s good for salad for a few days. I’m hoping that it turns up in my CSA share eventually, and plan to grow it in my garden next year.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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