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Kale 101
Kale comes packed with nutrients, but few calories and virtually no fat. One cup of chopped raw kale contains 33 calories, yet contains twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. It also contains more than a full day’s supply of vitamin C and almost seven times the daily dose of vitamin K. Kale also is rich in vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. Plus it provides a lot of fiber.
Because it’s so dense in nutrients, kale is considered among the best “superfoods.” It contains 45 flavonoids; those antioxidants help fight cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate. Steamed kale also may help lower cholesterol levels.
On the down side, kale contains high concentrates of oxalates. People with kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid kale. Selection
Look for dark, firm leaves and moist, sturdy stems. Leaves should not appear wilted, yellow or full of little holes. Smaller leaves tend to be milder and more tender than large leaves. Because of its high water content, kale greatly reduces when cooking; 1 cup raw becomes 1/4 cup cooked. Before preparation, allow a half-pound raw per person. Storage
Kale looks tough, but wilts easily. Keep it cold. In the refrigerator crisper drawer, store unwashed kale in a plastic bag; squeeze out as much air as possible. Kale will keep at least five days; the longer the storage, the more bitter it becomes. Wash just before using. Kale also can be blanched and frozen for later use. Preparation
Because of its curly texture, kale needs to be washed carefully to remove grit. Rinse under running water one leaf at a time.
To get the most health benefits out of kale, wash the leaves, sprinkle them with lemon juice, then let them sit at least five minutes before using. That little squeeze of lemon can enhance kale’s concentration of phytonutrients and also improves flavor. Kale chips
The key to crisp kale chips: dry leaves. Use a salad spinner. Pat with paper towels. Get the moisture out of those curly cracks.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove large stems and center rib from leaves. Cut leaves into 2-inch pieces. Toss leaves in 2 tablespoons olive oil and arrange pieces in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp but not brown around the edges. Sprinkle with salt and serve. Kale lore
A cabbage cousin, today’s kale descended from wild cabbages in Asia Minor. Celtic travelers are believed to have introduced kale to Europe before 600 B.C.
The ancient Romans farmed curly kale. That also was a major vegetable for peasants in the Middle Ages. In the 1600s, English immigrants brought kale with them to the New World.
For centuries, kale has been synonymous with Scotland. Traditionally, every country garden should have a patch (called a “kaleyard”). If a Scotsman invites you “to kale,” he means come to dinner.
Kale is a nutritious plant.


Ruffled leaves of ‘superfood’ pack nutritious, tasty punch

Once it was only cabbage’s pretty cousin – all ornamental cuteness with no culinary career. Ruffled and often purple, it sat purely as decoration in winter flower gardens. Occasionally, it would make a guest appearance as garnish on a plate as a splashier alternative to parsley.

Now, kale is known as a vegetable powerhouse. Its bountiful antioxidants have been linked to fighting several cancers and conquering myriad maladies. It’s even become a healthy fast-food alternative as crunchy kale chips.

“Kale chips are something of a culinary miracle: A harsh, bitter green becomes a paper-thin chip that melts in your mouth,” said Lindsay Landis, author of “Breakfast for Dinner” (Quirk Books, $19.95). “The key to making these snacks extra crisp is drying them completely before baking.”

Anything spinach can do, kale can do, often with more vitamins and minerals. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef and more calcium than milk.

In addition to the dark green curly kinds, look for Russian red kale, smooth-leafed Siberian kale and Tuscan (aka lacinato) kale with long, straight leaves.

Lentils with Kale and Butternut Squash

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash

Olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup lentils

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, diced small

1 rib celery, diced small

1/2 onion, diced small

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/2 pound chopped kale, about 6 cups

1 clove garlic, minced

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel and seed the squash and cut it into roughly 3/4 -inch dice. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and mound the squash in the center. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, and mix well.

Roast until the squash is tender enough to be pierced with a sharp knife, about 15 minutes.

Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Season generously with salt and bring just to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but firm, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse well. Stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion and dried red pepper flakes, and cook until the onions and celery are translucent, about 5 minutes. Rinse the kale under water and add it, still dripping, to the skillet in heaping handfuls. Add the minced garlic and salt to taste, and stir to mix well.

Cover the pan, leaving the lid ajar, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is soft, dark and frazzled-looking, about 30 minutes. It should be very sweet.

Stir the lentils into the cooked kale, taste and adjust seasoning for salt, pepper and vinegar.

Gently stir in about 2 cups of the roasted squash before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Tuscan Kale With Raisins

For best results, use the smaller leaves toward the center of the plant. Recommended as a side dish with salmon and baked potatoes.

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup marsala wine or cream sherry (not dry sherry)

1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

8 ounces young Tuscan kale leaves, stemmed and chopped (about 8 cups)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the raisins and the wine in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until most the liquid has evaporated, about five minutes. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over very low heat, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and pale tan but not browned, three to five minutes. Watch them carefully because pine nuts burn quickly. Remove the nuts from the skillet and set them aside.

Pour the olive oil into the skillet, add the garlic and stir over low heat until the garlic has cooked slightly without browning, 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring water to a simmer in bottom of a vegetable steamer. Add the kale to steamer basket, cover and steam until it is tender, about 5 minutes.

Combine the kale, reserved raisins and pine nuts and the garlic olive oil in a warmed bowl, and mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

– “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook” (Workman, $22.95, 496 pages) by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman.