I am privileged to live for the past 12 years in the land of the giants: the Netherlands. Literally, the Dutch are the tallest nation in the world. That often makes me feel like a midget, but also wonder what made them so mighty. I used to think it must be the enormous amounts of milk and cheese they consume with all that fat and vitamin D, but recently the penny has dropped; it’s not the milk- it’s the KALE!
Kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. The Greeks, Romans and ancient Egyptians grew and ate it as their main leafy green vegetable. This was also the case in much of Europe until the Middle Ages when cabbage became more popular. Historically it has been particularly important in colder regions due to its resistance to frost. During the Middle Ages, it became so popular in England and Scotland that the word ‘kale’ actually meant ‘dinner’.
Though almost as ancient and traditional as the human civilization, Kale has been recently pronounced as the healthiest vegetable on earth, and won many prestigious titles such as ‘super food’, ‘the new beef’, ‘the queen of greens’ and ‘a nutritional powerhouse’.
Looking at its nutritional content it’s not hard to figure out why those titles were given to kale:
One cup of shredded kale gives 684% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin K, so important to bone health, vitamin D absorption and blood clotting. This vitamin is not commonly found in food.
One cup of shredded kale gives 206% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A.
One cup of shredded kale gives 134% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
The phytonutrient indole-3-carbinol aids in DNA cell repair, while at the same time slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Excellent source of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium and many more minerals.
One cup shredded kale will yield 3 grams of protein, with all the essential amino acids that is easily digested and available to the human body.
Contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect your eyes from macular degeneration.
One serving of kale contains 121 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids*.
Coming from a Mediterranean country, this vegetable was alien to me. For years I ignored it, not knowing what to do with these funny looking tough leaves. In most Dutch households kale (boerenkool in Dutch) is simply shredded and mixed into mashed potatoes. This is really farmer’s food and they eat it for centuries. Nowadays kale is a staple ingredient in my kitchen and we all love it, in any form and shape. We even grow it in our little veg patch and it lasts through the cold Dutch winter.
And here is what I usually make of it:
Juice: together with cucumber, celery, pineapple or apple, ginger and lemon it make the perfect daily green juice.
Smoothie: banana or mango, a handful of raw nuts, coconut water or nut milk and plenty of shredded kale makes fantastic green smoothie. Add your favorite super foods like Maca, Chia seeds or Spirulina to enhance nutritional density.
Stir fry: add a large handful of coarsely shredded kale to any of your stir fry recipes.
Soups: any vegetable soup will happily accept an addition of shredded kale.
Patties: add shredded kale to any cooked and mashed vegetable (sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower etc.), add eggs and (gluten free) flour, season and shape to small patties to be shallow fried in coconut oil. Big favorite with children!
Salads: wash and drain well. Discard the tough middle stems, tear to bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and then massage the leaves gently with your fingers. This will soften the kale and make it so much nicer to chew on without cooking it first. Now add it to any of your salad recipes.
And here is my version of kale slaw:
4 large kale leaves, washed and drained, coarse stems removed and torn bite size
1 red beet, in fine julienne
1 chioggia beet, in fine julienne
1 large yellow or orange carrot, in fine julienne
1 small apple, in fine julienne
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
5 tbsp virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Slat and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp raw honey
1/2 cup hazelnuts or almonds, slightly roasted and roughly chopped
Place the torn kale in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with one spoon of the oil, sprinkle a little salt and use your fingers to massage the leave till they become soft and a little transparent.
Add the rest of the cut vegetables, apple and parsley.
In a small bowl, mix the rest of the oil, the lemon juice, salt and pepper and honey to a smooth dressing. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.
Scatter the nuts over the salad and serve!