What’s the Deal With Kale?

Let’s have a little chat about kale. You know, that stuff that every recipe seems to be based around these days. What is the deal exactly?

Why did this one leafy green become an overly trendy vegetable? Who knows. Maybe it’s because it’s super easy to grow, maybe it’s because it’s good for you, maybe it’s because people secretly like green smoothies, maybe it’s because some of us like putting vegetables into a chocolate cake, or maybe it’s simply because kale has a good PR team?

But more importantly, who cares? Forget why kale is popular, the important thing is that it’s delicious, ridiculously good for you and stupidly simple to grow yourself. If you’re not eating kale, you’re missing out.

While kale might seem all the rage however, there are plenty of people that aren’t quite yet on board the kale train. Yes, hard as it might be to believe, while some of us are growing it on our window balconies, there are still people in the world who don’t eat kale, and it’s not just the French.

Which is why people are working hard to support the good-for-you-green. Like National Kale Day, a movement to make October 2 a national kale-celebrating holiday. If you ask me, it’s a hell of a lot better than National Cupcake Day. 

Launched by the people behind the book Fifty Shades of Kale (yes, you probably need this cookbook), with National Kale Day, Dr. Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh have set out to promote the leafy green, touting its health benefits and encouraging people to not only cook with it, but grow it themselves. 

In order to figure out what the deal with kale is, I figured there were no two better people to ask, so I caught up with Dr. Drew and Jennifer to learn more about the movement and why kale is having its 15 minutes of fame.

Why Kale? What about chard and broccoli and spinach?

Jennifer: Chard can’t compare nutritionally speaking to kale, about half the nutrient load in fact, but spinach is a mighty superfood, just like kale- although kale does score higher on the ORAC scale kale, 1,770; spinach, 1,260. The reason we are championing kale has to do with the fact that it’s a lot less expensive, easy to grow, hearty, and transports well- which are all considerations for people who want to eat healthier on a budget. Even Organic kale is easy to grow, making it an affordable organic. Local kale starts around 99cent for a large bunch and a world of nutrition.

What inspired the idea for National Kale Day? What are its main goals?

Dr. Drew:  Kale is a perfect example of a food that helps our health and our food system. We hope to raise awareness and help people celebrate kale. 

Jennifer: Dr. Drew and I created National Kale Day as a way to bolster awareness around this amazing superfood. The website that we created with our own grass roots efforts is good enough to eat. Apart from having the petition signed, to designate October 2nd as National Kale Day, we hope to get people excited about kale, bring it into New York City and New Jersey schools.

What are the top 5 benefits of kale?

Dr. Drew:

1. Phytonutrients – These are molecules only found in health. We think of them as “antioxidants”, but they are much more than this. They influence the way our genes get express and this is how we think they promote health. Kale is very high in sulfurphane, quercetin and dozens more.

2. Megadose of Vitamin K – Like vitamin D, Vitamin K protects fat. We are learning it plays some vital roles in the brain. One cup of kale has 600

3. Fiber – A healthy gut is essential for a health brian and body. Kale is great at promoting healthy gut flora.

4. Easy way to have a more “plant-based” diet as it is so versatile. I always have a bunch in the fridge and I use a little with eggs, with a smoothie, for a quick side.

5. Minerals like calcium and iron as well as a good dose of vitamin B9 aka folate.

Kale is obviously having its 15 minutes of fame, how do we use the popularity of a single ingredient to talk about changes in our diets and our food system overall?

Jennifer: I’m not at all about food fads, but the scientific research out there about kale is so incredible. As a classically trained chef, I see a million possibilities for cooking with kale, so for me, I treat it as a base for you meal or an add-in. For example if I’m craving bacon- I have it!  I make a hot bacon kale salad. The other day I made eggplant manicotti, and just stirred sliced kale into it. It’s an easy and cheap way to super charge meals with nutrition while keeping them calorie friendly. America needs more of that, so bring on the kale I say!

Dr Drew: Kale is popular now and a great way to frame the discussion of food and health. The goal of National Kale Day is to solidify kale as a part of people’s dietary habits. It’s not like one needs to eat kale every day but rather use it regularly. 

What is the most creative use of kale you have ever seen?

Jennifer: My neighbor, Chris (a confirmed kale hater), calls me the “Kale Queen” so I think I’d probably be credited for the most unusual uses.   Our Kale fudge pop for one – oh and then there’s Dr. Drew’s Kale coffee with a touch of milk, which we call “Lacinato” after macchiato. I even tricked friends and neighbors into enjoying it but adding it to my eggplant manicotti.

The National Kale Day website is full of good information all about kale. Be sure to check it out!

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