I've heard a lot about kale recently, much of it negative. It seems like it's become like quiche in the 1970's and 80's--liking it is a sign that someone is wimpy or girly. I recall a McDonalds' commercial that openly scoffed at the idea of someone putting kale on a burger. This animosity from meat-based restaurants/products actually makes quite a bit of sense, as kale is touted as being a "super food," or even The Super Food, by vegetarians and vegans, and those of their ilk. The type of people that the stereotypical "bro" macho guys call "pussies."
Anyway, I figured it was high time I weighed in on this. As even semi-regular readers of this blog know, I'm no vegetarian. On the other hand, I'm willing to try alternative foods, I think the fairly recent "bacon, bacon, bacon" mindset is wildly exaggerated, and I fail to see how eating, or avoiding certain foods makes you unmanly. (I don't know if there's a similar issue among women. If they taunt other women for not eating meat, and if so what insults they use. Probably something like "dirty hippie," or "commie," or along those lines.)
What I discussed in last week's post about goji berries applies readily to kale, too. Kale is undeniably nutrient-packed--it has significant amounts of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, and K, as well as iron, potassium, antioxidants, and phosphorus (some of which are apparently diminished if the kale is cooked). However, folks who maintain that it will cure or prevent serious diseases like cancer are engaging in wishful thinking, or at least are believing things that are unproven by scientific research to date. So it's definitely not a bad idea to eat kale, but if you do, don't start throwing out the medicines for your diseases and conditions just yet.
It's not definitively known, but some food historians think that kale cultivation originated in Asia Minor, and spread to Europe by 600 B.C. Whenever it was, it sure kicked off in popularity on that continent. It's also readily enjoyed in parts of Asia and Africa. And despite the Beef Council's efforts, I suppose, even North America. There are five main species of kale, and several subtypes. I bring this up only because one of the types has a very inexplicable and disturbing name--"rape kale." Don't know if this is related to "rapeseed," whose oil manufacturers wisely changed its title to "canola oil." It's most often eaten as a raw green, but it's also put into soups, drunk as a juice (in Japan), and eaten with mashed potatoes and sometimes bacon and sausage, in both Ireland and the Netherlands. (The Dutch one has an amazing name--"boerenkoolstumppot.") Some people even grow it as a decoration, as various kinds produce pretty leaves and an almost literal rainbow of colors.
I found my kale in a farmer's market, and then the alternative aisle in a local grocery. All were kale "chips," meaning I didn't have to break down and prepare or cook anything, as is my strong preference. The description on the bag said these are, "air-crisped under low heat, which maintains their natural enzymes and maximizes their raw nutritional potency." Also, I believe this product has a record number of those marketing symbols--"raw," "certified gluten-free," "good source of fiber," "good source of protein," "vegan," "excellent source of Vitamins A and K," "non-GMO verified," and "USDA organic." All were made by Rhythm Superfoods out of Austin, Texas.
These are rated using the U.S. scholastic system of "A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, and "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as necessary.
Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips, Original flavor: B-. Oddly this had more calories than the cool ranch kind. Green crunchy chunks with brownish-yellow seasoning on them. Okay, but not great.
Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips, Cool Ranch flavor: B-. Didn't have strong cool ranch taste to them. Kind of grew on me, though. Also pretty good but not spectacular.
Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips, Bombay Curry flavor: B+. The best of the bunch. Nice spicy bite to them, but not overly so. Since I like curry, and Indian food in general, this wasn't a surprise.
I was also amused to see that kale has figured into a couple of popular culture items. During World War II, growing kale (along with other garden crops and raising livestock) was encouraged in the English propaganda film, "Dig for Victory." And in 2013 Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh wrote a book called "50 Shades of Kale." Alas, it's evidently just recipes, and a not a poorly written novel about S&M acts using a certain green leafy vegetable. Which is a shame given that "rape kale" would have easily lent itself to such a theme.
So, in closing, I thought the kale chips were pretty good. They're not as great as potato chips, and other bad-for-you crunchy snacks, but not revolting or even disappointing. I think I'll have them again. If I see kale on a menu, or in other forms that don't require me to use the oven, I'll probably give them a try, too. And I'd recommend kale to others. Maybe just don't serve it when you've invited Ted Nugent to dinner.