Updated: May 17
Which vegetable is the king of the greens, whose origin dates back over 4000 years and was most quietly eaten in the Middle Ages?
It is kale.
My discovery of kale started when I lived in Portugal. Kale is a staple in many countries, including Portugal, Italy, Scotland, Kenya and Denmark. The most famous Portuguese kale dish is caldo verde, a soup. From there it travelled to Brazil where it also became a hit.
To be honest, I hated kale at first. I think it is the same feeling that many people have when they first encounter a plant or food or a new dish. You hate it at first, then you become addicted. This is how my kale journey began. Now I love eating kale as the base in a poke bowl, or as chips baked in the oven, or with puree, and of course in caldo verde.
Discovering every detail of a plant or ingredient for me is quite fun and informative. We should be aware of what we eat and for what reason. Because whatever you eat affects all your organs, especially your brain. After doing my little research, I have found out very interesting things about kale.
Kale was cultivated by ancient Greeks by 2000 BC. They boiled kale and used it as a hangover cure. It had originated in the eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. This variety of kale thrived in hot climates and was described as Sabellian kale. This ancestral kale had larger and thicker leaves than the ones we eat today.
Early Roman manuscripts include references to “brassica,” a word that encompassed wild turnips, cabbages and many kale-like plants.
In Europe, people consumed a lot of kale, until cabbage became popular during the Middle Ages. It has long been a favorite in Scotland. During the World Wars, cultivation of kale was encouraged because it was easy to grow, resistant to cold temperatures and even frost, and it is full of nutrients.
The Russians produced kale in colors ranging from pink to purple. These could survive the snows and were subsequently introduced in Canada and the USA. This type of Russian kale was called Winter Red.
During my research I discovered Drew Ramsey, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and a kale evangelist. His idea is to make American minds healthier. He created a National Kale Day which he celebrates every year on October 2nd. He has a kale video, he calls kale as one of the brain food.
There is a kale promoter who has become famous selling “Eat More Kale” t-shirts. His name is Bo Muller-Moore and I am thinking buying one of his kale t-shirts. :)
His website: https://www.eatmorekale.com/
Lacinato kale or Dinosaur kale (Palmkool)
Lacinato kale is a variety of kale with long, sturdy dark green leaves and a mild flavor. I recently started to work as a neighborhood coordinator at Rechtstreex in the Netherlands. I was curious about this green leafy vegetable that is weekly purchased by my one of my customers. When she dropped by to pick up her groceries from me, I asked her in which dishes she uses this vegetable. She replied, in feijoada! She told me this type of kale is similar to that they have in Brazil. This vegetable is called palmkool in Dutch.
After this food-friendly conversation with my customer, it drove me to recheck the e-mail I had received from Happy DIY Home a few months ago. The fun fact about it is, this kale turned out to be the exact type of kale that was the subject of Happy DIY Home’s comprehensive guide on growing lacinato kale.
Lacinato kale is a type of kale that has a similar taste to Dutch kale. It is also called Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale according to the article published at Happy DIY Décor. Dropping the link here so you can read further how to grow lacinato kale.
What benefits does kale offer us?
Kale is king of potassium in the Brassica genus. Leaves have various colors and textures depending on the variety and its origins. Scottish leaves are green and curly, Russian leaves are blue-green and purple-red, Siberian ones are large and green.
Kale is of the species Brassica oleracea, which also includes the cultivars of cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, collard greens and brussels sprouts. Kale grows from September until March in the Netherlands.
Kale is rich in nutrients – fiber, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins (especially B6 or folate), beta carotene, selenium, iron and manganese, among others. If you have high sodium in your body, kale is a great source for balancing the sodium with potassium. Kale is a friendly food for losing weight. Kale is high in fiber and water and helps to prevent constipation.
How do you eat kale?
A popular kale snack is kale chips, which are low in calories. Roast kale with olive oil or avocado oil with some salt for 20 minutes at 120°C in the oven, and that's it. You can eat kale raw in poke salad, as the Portuguese soup Caldo Verde, with French puree, as kale pesto – which I have not yet tried, in salads, smoothies and in the traditional Dutch dish Boerenkool Stamppot (mashed potatoes with kale and sausage). Boerenkool means farmer’s cabbage in Dutch.
Kale is a comfort food in northern Europe. Scotland has an expression about kale. “To be off one's kail" is to feel too ill to eat. In Italy kale is an ingredient of the Tuscan soup ribollita. In Ireland they eat kale with mashed potatoes on Halloween.
The best kale you can find in Rotterdam is at Oogstmarkt.