Kale Is The King of Cold Weather Greens

Russian Red Kale in cold frames, December 2012.

Russian Red Kale in cold frames, December 2012.

It’s time for a tasty and versatile seasonal goodie – kale! Cold weather is when kale comes into its glory and following our recent holiday feasting, it is a healthy addition to the menu.

Kale, like most greens, is happiest in cool weather and a frost will make it much sweeter as starches turn to sugars. As late as last December, the Red Russian Kale was still flourishing in my various cold frames (see photo) and depending on the temperatures, I normally can continue harvesting this hardy green through the dead of winter.

In my market garden, kale definitely wins the prize for being the “hot” vegetable for 2012 and customer demand meant that the plants were often picked clean. Some folks use it to make kale chips as an alternative to potato chips by drizzling torn leaves with olive oil plus a sprinkle of salt  and baking at 350 for 12-14 minutes till crisp.

Locally produced and unpasturized, Tonn's Honey has been a favorite for generations in our area. Now available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Locally produced and unpasturized, Tonn’s Honey has been a favorite for generations in our area. Now available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

It’s also ideal for juicing or for making the newly popular green smoothie. I used to think only weird people made this health drink but now I am among them and love that my kids are eating salad for breakfast. There are many variations of green smoothies but the most common at our house is yogurt, frozen fruit, flax seed, natural sweetener like honey or molasses and several leaves of kale whirled in the blender.

My most faithful kale customer is the wife of one of Lehman’s VPs. She and her husband love to cook healthy, seasonal food, and she shared the recipe she uses frequently for her family as well as dinner guests below.

“Asian Kale”
A gallon bag of kale, washed, spun dry, large ribs removed and torn into bite-sized pieces.
1 medium sweet onion thinly sliced
½ cup olive oil (part sesame oil if desired)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 flavor packet from a package of Ramen noodles

Mix dressing ingredients and pour over greens and onions approximately 10 minutes before you are ready to serve. Just before serving, crumble Ramen noodles from the package into small pieces and sprinkle into salad. Enjoy!

Available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Simply In Season is available now!  Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Kale And Potato Soup
One of our family’s favorite ways to eat kale is with potato soup. Chop kale finely and add just before serving to any kind of soup. Allow the greens to turn bright green and serve immediately. If they begin to get dark, they’ve overcooked.

During the winter when it is the most plentiful green from our backyard, I add it to many other dishes like baked beans, lasagna, rice and even mashed potatoes. See Simply in Season cookbook for more creative ideas for putting kale on the supper table.

This time of year you should be able to locate kale at an indoor farmers market or natural food store and it’s even becoming common in the produce department of mainstream grocery stores.

Four-Season Harvest is available now at Lehman's in Kidron, OH, or Lehmans.com.

Four-Season Harvest is available now at Lehman’s in Kidron, OH, or Lehmans.com.

Growing Kale
It is a very easy green to grow so add a pack of Red Russian Kale from Seed Savers (available in Lehman’s retail store) to your garden plans.

If you want to get adventuresome, try the Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale. You can start plants indoors to get a head start or simply sprinkle seed directly in the ground early spring and thin to 6-8″ between plants. The kale is great in the spring, gets a bit strong-flavored over summer but returns to good flavor in the fall.

To learn more about keeping it going all winter, check out Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest which is where I first learned about kale a dozen years ago. Now I can’t imagine living without this wonderful winter green.

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