Smart, food-savvy NH people have the scoop on kale, the 'super food'

Special to the Union Leader
May 06. 2014 4:00PM
At Blue Bell Greenhouse in Lee, Yuda Daskal said kale can survive New Hampshire's tough growing season when other plants wither. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

DURHAM -- What’s tough and green and loves a good massage?

Well, if you ask Annie Steeves, leader of the University of New Hampshire Real Food Challenge Campaign and student ambassador to the Food Systems Task Force at the UNH Sustainability Institute, the answer is kale.

“It’s a superfood,” Steeves said. “It’s so good for you.”

Kale, which belongs to the same family as broccoli, is a hearty green that’s been around for a very long time but has in recent years caught the attention of those looking for fresh, local produce that provides a big nutritional bang for the buck.

“Kale is, very strangely, weirdly hip right now, which is very cool,” said Steeves. “It’s a wonderful food. I love kale.”

Steeves said that many people turn their backs on kale because the green is so tough when it’s fresh, but there are ways to beat the toughness.

Baby kale is a great alternative to grown-up kale, and “is tender as tender can be,” said Steeves. “It’s like spinach,” she said, and can be eaten in salads or on sandwiches and wraps.

But to get mature kale into shape for being eaten raw, all the green needs is a little bit of love.

“People don’t realize this, but if you massage kale with a little bit of olive oil for one minute, it becomes a silky green that’s perfect to eat,” said Steeves, who realizes it sounds a bit odd to play masseuse to a head of kale.

“My mom is a massage therapist, and she thinks it’s hysterical that I massage kale.”

John Moulton, owner of Moulton Farm in Meredith, said the green is increasing in popularity and the customers at his market bake it into kale chips, use it for soup, toss it in the juicer or eat it fresh.

It doesn’t matter how people eat their kale, though, Steeves said. What matters is that they do: Kale has a high fiber content, and is chock full of vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, and K.

For farmers and gardeners, kale is a crop that was made for New Hampshire.

Yuda Daskal, owner of Blue Bell Greenhouse in Lee, said kale can go in the ground in early spring and will keep growing through the fall, yielding plenty of greens (both young and mature) to go around.

“It’s very reliable,” Daskal said. “If everything else fails, kale will be there. It’s something everyone can trust and rely on.”

Like all superheroes, kale has had its share of controversy, including a lawsuit between a Vermont farmer and fast-food giant Chick-fil-A. Several years ago, Bo Muller-Moore started slapping the slogan “Eat More Kale” onto T-shirts and bumper stickers to bring attention to the neglected green. But his slogan may have run afoul of copyright laws because it’s close to Chick-fil-A’s slogan, “Eat Mor Chikin.” The courts are now in the process of deciding who owns the words “Eat More...”

In the meantime, supporters of the farmer, including Steeves, have begun wearing T-shirts that say “Kale isn’t Chikin.”

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