Often I wonder why it is that certain foods rise to popularity while others linger in utter obscurity. Certainly processed food marketing prowess is an obvious perpetrator when it comes to building excitement for foodstuffs destined for heat lamps, microwaves and all sorts of strange packaging, but what about when it comes to those unlabeled, unpackaged fruits and vegetables? Why is it that kale has become a culinary darling while equally as delicious and comparably nutritious collards and chard receive little such praise? And it's not just in the supermarket, either. Even in my own garden, kale towers over chard, speeds past strawberries and dwarfs tomatoes. It's on a mission, it seems, and I for one, love it!
Kale is exceptionally easy to grow. While it's not necessarily the most expensive item at the supermarket or farmers market, thus saving you tons by growing your own (compare to the price of heirloom tomatoes or organic fruits), its nutrition benefits make it an important choice to grow and eat regularly, especially when we're at a time in this country where rates of obesity are still on the rise and our food choices are still making us sick. In fact, if I don't eat something leafy and green every single day, I feel off.
Here's how it happened...
As the 2012 spring equinox prepared to bid us farewell, my partner crept into our bedroom with a tray, a watering can and seed packets. It was well after dark and I was ready for dreaming, but he had another plan in mind. We would plant the seeds for our kale garden ceremoniously on the first day (night) of spring. We dipped our fingers into the moist soil just enough to let the seeds feel warmth and wetness so they would miraculously find the strength to burst into all shades of leafy green.
For nearly a week, we watered the seedlings right there in the bedroom, blowing our carbon dioxide-rich breath of greetings and wishes for a safe journey through their shells. In just days, we were proud parents. Sprouts pushed up and out of the dirt to greet us for the beginning of a symbiotic, strange journey between human and plant.
Days later we made our way to our rooftop garden with the tender trays teeming with nutritious, bountiful life. We're working a potted garden this year, giving us flexibility when it comes to sun exposure and pest control. We transplanted our little sproutlings into a dozen or so pots with rich organic soil and organic fertilizer, careful not to shock the roots. We dampened the soil, breathed more heavy oxygen-less air onto their tiny leaves with wishes of a safe life in the outside world. Our babies were on their own now.
Several weeks ago, we ate our first kale leaves: A healthy, delicious mix of red kale and lacinato (dinosaur kale). We sautéed them up in California's finest organic olive oil (Napa Valley Olive Oil is simply the best) and served them with smashed pinto beans, sprouted grain tortilla and roasted dried chili peppers. Indeed, this is what love tastes like. I'm no farmer, by any means (I live in Mid-City Los Angeles, after all), but I do grow kale, lots of it, and I'm pretty sure you can call that love.
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Images: Jill Ettinger