I guess some things just aren't meant to be.
Earlier this spring I made a commitment to kale. We never ate it when I was a kid, so I was never too familiar with it and didn't really give it a second thought for years. Besides, the only way I knew to eat greens was steamed with a sprinkling of vinegar, and if you already have and like chard, why do you need kale?
Thanks to Linda Akaogi and our CSA with her a few years ago, I finally had reason to get familiar with kale. I still tended to be rather timid in my uses of it and stuck to steamed and the occasional addition to soups and stews. Then, with additional encouragement from Farm 2 School and the Veggie of the Month program at Academy School, as well as a neighbor who loves kale, I decided that this was a vegetable to get to know better.
Over the winter in an attempt to keep our family interested in new vegetables that are super-nutritious (kale is a great source of fiber, iron, vitamins A, K and C as well as calcium), I decided to try making a "fad" recipe - kale chips. About as simple as can be, I hoped that these would replace the fat-laden potato favorites as a snack or casual side dish.
While both my husband and I really liked them (once I figured out the learning curve of not burning them), the kids could not be persuaded. They tried them and pretty much declared them inedible. Was it the knowledge that they were supposed to be good for them? Or was it the pure kale-iness
I did come upon a winner with Marielle, our 12-year old, when I introduced colcannon one cold, winter evening. A fan of mashed potatoes, she loved the addition of onions and kale. Margot still wasn't convinced, leaving a messy pile of the greens on the edge of her plate while picking through eating only the potatoes.
This spring I decided that in order to continue my kale experiments, as well as to keep enough kale in the freezer for colcannon this coming winter, we would need to set aside a spot in the garden. Lilac Ridge had some lovely varieties and I settled on a couple six-packs of each, carted them home and happily planted them along the deck near the beans and lettuces, where I was sure they would thrive.
Ha! You may recall that we have chickens, four of them. And while they aren't the best of layers any more (roughly 1 egg a day between them all), one of my greatest joys during the summer months is watching those ladies run pell-mell toward the house upon hearing the sliding door open, hoping for some scraps, or scratching, tails up around the edges of the lawn. I should've known.
Out checking on the garden last week, everything looked great, thriving, even, which made me happy as it seemed as though we'd had more rain than necessary and far too little sun. Then I noticed that there seemed to be a big bare patch - why on earth would I have left that spot open? What had I forgotten to plant? Looking a bit closer, I realized that there was something trying to grow there - straggling, leafless stalks in straight rows that could only have been planted! My mind did a quick check. Oh no, that was the kale! Or rather, what was left of the kale.
Unfortunately I have learned a little too late that the chickens will have to be kept in their pen a bit earlier in the season. I learned the hard way last year that they just loved our new ripening raspberries and the year before that about their fondness for the first blush of red on our tomatoes. While bemoaning the kale, I also noticed that those chickens have dug a lovely dirt bath right in the midst of the carrot row. Lesson learned, I'm off to find more kale, or perhaps some seed, to get out kale for the winter. And hopefully with the proper penning the kale will thrive so we can avoid my husband's threat to the birds: "Eat more kale, and we'll eat more chicken!"
Wash and thoroughly dry 1 head of kale. Remove the center rib and chop or tear leaves into bite-sized pieces. Toss leaves lightly with a bit of olive oil - maybe 2 tablespoons - they should be just coated, not greasy. Bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes, spread out on a cookie sheet so that the pieces are not touching. When crisp and just beginning to brown, remove from oven and salt, if desired.
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn't have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.