kale chips

Has any vegetable ever been as popular as kale?

Spinach had its heyday when Popeye burst open cans of the stuff before performing great feats of strength. Bugs Bunny brought the carrot deserving attention as a food for the devilishly clever. But kale‘s trajectory is a different story. It’s never had the push of a fictional character, yet it has grown to become one of the top-selling vegetables at Whole Foods Market and grocery stores around the country. And it may have reached its highest point yet when Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell and First Lady Michelle Obama ate some kale chips on “The Tonight Show” last Thursday.

The skit called “Ew!“, which you’ve likely already seen as its gone viral, featured Fallon and Ferrell dressed up as teenage girls who have a pretty universal opinion on most things: “ew.”

kale chips

In what could have also been a successful skit on “Sesame Street”, the trio talked about the benefits of exercise (dancing totally counts), which the First Lady says she tries to do every single day. Then they discussed why potato chips are “ew” and kale chips are a healthier option. “They’re so green,” Fallon’s character Sara said as they all ate a kale chip provided by Mrs. Obama. The verdict? Totally not “ew.”

If you haven’t tried kale chips yet, your day may come soon. There are at least half a dozen brands of kale chips on the market with flavors ranging from sweet to nacho to ranch. And unlike potato chips that are fried or baked in vegetable oil, heavily salted and usually contain artificial and genetically modified ingredients, the kale chip category relies on whole food ingredients, often some considered superfoods (besides the kale itself) like almonds, cashews and even raw chocolate. Kale chips are typically low-temperature baked or dehydrated instead of fried. The First Lady was right on when she said kale chips aren’t “ew.” Even if you’re not a fan of kale in its most natural form, the kale chip delivers a familiar and flavorful mechanism for getting some greens into your diet (although a kale chip is not really a worthy substitute for a salad or steamed kale).

For the late night viewer more likely to be munching on potato chips than anything kale, perhaps the skit was a slight eye-opener. But the bigger achievement (besides seeing Will Ferrell make out with Will Ferrell) is that kale, which I once called “the new beef,” really is now, more accurately, the new potato chip, and millions of viewers now know it. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the skit appeared on “The Tonight Show” as Fallon just took over from Jay Leno. Out with the old and in with the new…snacks and all.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: prideandvegudice