Great Outdoors by James Murray. (File photo)

Great Outdoors by James Murray. (File photo)

Column: Kale, a vegetable worthy of admiration

Great Outdoors by James Murray

There is something sad, almost forlorn, about a garden in winter.

Plants that no longer bear fruit or flowers, rows of stems and stalks that should have been pulled up bending and bowing in defeat, leaves once a luscious green now wilted and brown. Yes, the garden appears in a pretty sorry state – except for one of the raised wooden garden beds right at the very back which is still producing fresh kale. Not my favourite vegetable by a long shot, but one I have learned to enjoy because of all its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Kale is a dark green leafy vegetable of the Brassica family that provides many nutrients, including beta carotene, vitamins K and C, lutein and calcium. Not only is kale a nutrient-rich, low-calorie food, it is in its peak season during the winter months when fresh quality green foods can seem impossible to find. Kale is easy to grow and will self-seed once planted, thus providing food year after year with little care and attention. My kind of vegetable.

Kale can be harvested as a baby green or micro green in about 30 days, as well as allowed to grow to full maturity. It can be eaten raw in salads (especially the small, tender new shoots and leaves), steamed , mixed into a stir fry, added to soups or mixed into casseroles. It can be served year-round.

Read more: Column: Realizing the dream of sustainable living in the Shuswap

Read more: Interest in gardening grows in the Shuswap amid COVID-19 crisis

I quite often select and pick the leaves, blanche them in hot water, place them in plastic baggies and freeze them. When I take them out and thaw, they are softer and easier to eat. Raw kale tends to be a bit too chewy for my liking.

Kale, which has even been dubbed a modern superfood by many nutritionists, is one of the most nutrient-dense greens in existence, and has been grown and harvested for thousands of years. Yet most people don’t really know how to prepare it for the table – myself included.

Having said that, I have found several books that have not only enabled me to learn a lot about growing different varieties of kale, but also how to prepare it for eating. I often add kale to soups, stews and even chilis. Leaves that are too large and have matured beyond the point of a micro green can be made into kale chips. Simply wash the leaves in cold water, dry thoroughly and spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and then place in the oven at 325 degrees for about half an hour or until they are nice and crispy. Dried kale without the oil and salt can be crushed and sprinkled on many other foods in a similar manner as dried parsley.

In a way I guess I have come to admire kale. In part because of all its health and wellness benefits, but also –and maybe mostly –because every time I look out at my garden it is the last man standing.

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