Off your kail

It’s been a great week so far. Our truck is back from its extended repairs after last year’s accident. The CSA in partnership with the Sustainability Institute and Slow Food Cape Town has reached its target and will be running from this week. One of our directors is getting married. And I’ve discovered the wonders of cloves for an infected wisdom tooth.

This week we had a request about kale from someone who didn’t like the taste, and was wondering what to do with it.

As someone who had my first glass of kale juice recently, and, when I’d finally managed to force it down, loudly announced that “I don’t like wheatgrass”, I can sympathise.

Kale was widely eaten in the Middle Ages, and in Scotland, the word is synonymous with food. Being “off your kail” has nothing to do with consuming too much malted whiskey – it means you’re too sick to eat. Kale is a descendant of wild cabbage, and is therefore also related to broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Being closer to the original wild cabbage, kale has retained some of its wild relative’s hardiness. It flourishes in most types of soil, and prefers cooler climates. It’s said that frost will produce kale with much sweeter leaves, which would explain the absence of sweetness in our local kale!

Kale is a superb food nutritionally – a true green wonder. If superfoods such as chocolate and ginger can have entire books written about them, surely kale is equally worthy, and certainly in need of the image makeover.

Much of the nutritional excitement around kale is to do with the various phyto-nutrients, and their cancer-preventative effects. Although what kale does is well-accepted, just how it does it is a little less clear. It seems that sulforaphane, a substance formed when kale is chewed or chopped, actually triggers the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes. So not only are the antioxidants in kale going straight to work, it’s actually encouraging the body to produce more.

As to what kale does – marked decreases in breast, ovarian, colon, lung and bladder cancer have been demonstrated. The benefits to smokers are particularly pronounced. A Singapore study showed that eating cruciferous vegetables lowered risk of lung cancer by 30% in non-smokers, and 69% in smokers. If kale was a pharmaceutical drug, you can be sure “miracle wonder cure” would be plastered on every billboard, and your email spam filters would be full of offers to buy cheap kale online.

Of course it’s not just good for cancer prevention. The vitamin C in kale helps with rheumatoid arthritis, and the Vitamin A with emphysema. There’s research indicating that the reason some smokers seem to show few ill-effects from their smoking has to do with their high Vitamin A intake from plants such as kale. A single cup of kale contains almost 200% of the vitamin A daily value.

I’d been told before that raw fooders, who eat a diet high in raw food and green juice, seem to suffer minimal sunburn damage. In researching kale, I discovered that it’s well-known for its carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. These prevent damage from excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, and are particularly beneficial against cataracts.

There’s much much more about the nutritional benefits of kale, but, as one description says, “the beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavour”, using a term which sadly still retains a negative sense of plain, crude and unsophisticated. So although it’s great for you, does it taste good?

Some people seem to think so. In north-western Germany, the “Grünkohlfahrt” (kale tour) is apparently a regular feature in January, visiting an inn to consume large quantities of kale, schnapps and sausage (not necessarily in that order).

Kale and mashed potatoes are the basis for the traditional Irish meal, colcannon.

Right now I’m having kale in my favourite format – juice. I’ve “got back on the horse” after my first experience with kale juice, and now find I can appreciate its earthy delights. Kale juices nicely, and if you find the taste unpleasant, you can moderate it with some lemon, or apple for sweetness.

But in case you don’t have a juicer, or aren’t a fan, you may want some alternatives. There’s a website devoted to kale, containing numerous recipes. And I’ve posted a video by chef Jennifer Cornbleet preparing a kale dish.

To order head on over to

Have a great week,
the Co-op team.

Comments ( 4 )

  1. Delfina Correia

    Quoting Delfina Correia > Here's an easy, delicious Portuguese kale soup recipe called CALDO VERDE > (meaning GREEN BROTH): > (I hope we'll get kale in winter!) > > 1kg potatoes (peeled & sliced) > 2 onions (sliced) > 1 clove garlic (crushed) > 1.5L water > salt > 20 - 25ml olive oil > 6 - 8 kale leaves (shredded or sliced very thinly) > OPTIONAL: sausage slices (or chourico - Portuguese sausage) ... the soup > tastes great without the sausage, too! > > METHOD: > Boil all the ingredients together, except the kale & sausage > When cooked, mash the potatoes & onion > Add more water if necessary (if it's too thick) > Add the kale and cook further for 5 - 10 min. > Add the sliced sausage > > This soup also tastes great luke warm - it doesn't have to be the middle of > winter! > > From Delfina Correia

  2. Bronwen Trupp

    > Thought you might be interested in this website as it also offers > amazing recipes for veg box contents > > > > Personally I treat kale the same as spinach and the kids love a kale > and feta pasty. > > cheers > > Bronwen >

  3. Charlene Pereira

    I've been eating kale my entire life and I've always loved it - even as a child when I hated most veggies! In my family, we've grown our own kale in our backyards for as long as I can remember. I've known about it's benefits for a long time and have been waiting for SA to catch on... Glad it's finally happening - thanks for spreading the word! Oh, and Delfina's soup recipe above is one of my all-time favourites as well. You can use kale in just about any stew and is awesome in savoury rice. Charlene