Paddock to Plate
Crinkly, wrinkly winter time
Why is kale never lonesome?
Because it always comes in a bunch.
Kale is a member of the cabbage family, perhaps one of the earliest types of cabbage.
The early Greeks and Romans had a dark green leafy cabbage that they believed would cure a headache after drinking too much wine – could it be kale, the first super food?
Kale and its varieties were once the most widely-eaten winter vegetable across Northern Europe.
Most plants stop growing when the weather is cold, but kale – no rain, no frost, no snow can stop it. Kale keeps going.
In fact, the name for all cabbage types was once ‘Cole’. Remember Old King Cole, the merry old soul? He must have been eating his kale!
It’s not easy being green
Kale comes in all the cabbage-y colours, from light green to darkest green, almost black (cavalo nero means ‘black cabbage’). There’s Russian kale, which is green and purple, and red kale too. There are big frilly kales, paper-thin red leafed kales, and even kale bred by Italian growers with ‘dinosaur scales’. Roar!
In Australia, kale grows in the cooler months. Plant seeds when the soil is still warm in late summer or autumn, then water well, and you’ll have kale all through the winter.
Kale can bolt and grow super tall – taller than you – with a puff of yellow flowers at the top.
When this happens, don’t bother eating the leaves, they’ll be tough. Wait until the seeds are brown and dry, then either shake the plant or take the seeds and carefully sow them again.
Crispy kale chips are easy to make. Rip pieces of kale leaf off the stems, wash and dry them realty well. Pop them all in a big bowl, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil. A pinch of paprika is also nice.
Spread out the crinkly bits on a baking tray and place in a preheated 150˚C oven. Bake until they’re crisp, which should take about 10 minutes. You don’t want burned bitter bits, just brownish-greenish crispy goodness. So – watch them like a hawk!
Colour me kale
Kale’s colour is stable, which means it does not change when it is cooked. (Some greens go brown.) It makes a great natural food colouring! Here’s how:
• Take half a bunch of kale and shred the leaves.
• If you have a blender, blend them (this is optional).
• Place them in a saucepan with 4 cups of water.
• Have an adult turn on the stove and heat the water to boiling.
• Cook it on medium for 30 minutes without a lid.
• Put on a lid and leave it until it cools.
• When it’s cold, strain the green sludge into a fine-meshed sieve – you’ll get dark green liquid!
Use the safe edible green liquid as dye for icing, or to bake a pale green cake!
You can also soak cotton fabric in it overnight, and it will come out pale green. Ask an adult to iron the fabric to ‘set’ the colour.