Monday, April 8, 2013

Kale-Nutritional Powerhouse

Red Russian and Tuscan Kale
I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, but an organic gardener and a food snob fanatic (I dislike the word foodie, but that what I am), so what I write about nutrition are my opinions supported by facts I have read here and there.  I also cooked for a living for a while, but that is another story....

I guess I was spoiled since my mom bought fresh ingredients almost daily at a local farmers' market.  My mom didn't know much about nutrition, neither did my grandparents, but we ate unprocessed food, mostly vegetables, and little sweets.  My grandparents never took vitamins, ate a balanced diet and lived a healthy life.  My maternal grandmother lived to be 93 despite her emphysema, caused by her smoking, the only bad habit she had. 

Few years ago I had a food epiphany when I went to my garden, picked some snap peas that I quickly sauteed with spring onions and some parsley, also homegrown, and proceeded to toss some pasts with them, it was the best pasta sauce I ever had, the peas were so tender and full of flavor.  As soon as a plant is picked it starts losing nutrients so if you can grow your own, do it, even if you don't strictly have a vegetable garden, many edibles can be inter-planted with ornamental plants for stunning combinations. 

Kale, or Brassica oleracea, belongs to the cruciferae or brassicaceae family, together with cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.  There are few kale varieties, Lacinato or Tuscan kale, the main ingredient of the Ribollita soup, might be the best known, but other beautiful varieties are Red Russian, Curly, and RedborKale is a heavy feeder so it needs good draining soil with plenty of organic matter.  Kale is a biannual plant, it can be seeded in late summer/early fall or early spring, and it will bloom and die the second year.  Kale will cross pollinate with other varieties so if you want to collect true seeds for next year harvest, you need to either self pollinate and cover the flowers or keep only one kale variety.  Kale plants love to be munched by slugs and snails, and the little seedlings may have to be protected by hungry birdsAphids starts attacking kale in the spring, but they can be kept under control by beneficial insects.  One time I left an aphid infested plant up as food for the beneficial insects that came in droves, such as the soldier beetle below. 

Soldier beetle munching on kale aphids
Kale’s health benefits are due to the high concentration of antioxidant and vitamins A, C, and K.  Kale also contains lots of fibers, calcium, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

Click here for a tasty kale frittata recipe.

So tasty!