Gardener's Grapevine 2016.07.13


Some weeks I sit down to write this column and think, “what do I write about that is not going to bore everyone to tears?”

I love gardening and nature. Learning new things is always interesting to me and usually I’m a sucker to try them out. Thank goodness my husband Art is the same way as we have grown some humdingers in the past. You know what I mean—you’re in the seed aisle or out in the greenhouse and go “ooh that looks interesting, let’s try it.” Then it produces something you have no idea what to do with. Admit it, you’ve done it at least once.

Well, thank goodness for Google as we now know what to do with everything. Sometimes that includes tossing the whole mess and taking note not to plant that again. Exhibit A would be habañero peppers, a big no-no at this house.

This year’s “lets give it a try” plant is kale. I’m sure some of you have eaten this leafy green food that is touted as the wonder food by many. I worked with a woman who was an extreme fitness nut and she swore that kale chips were so awesome she could eat a whole cookie sheet herself. Wow, that’s something to say for a person who treats refined sugar like poison.

Here’s my take on kale chips, which we have now made twice. By the way, this plant produces at a monstrous rate. The first time we had kale chips Art looked  up how to make them on Google and being the great cook he is, tweeks the recipe a lot. In his defense, there was no way of knowing that huge pile of kale leaves on that cookie sheet would shrink down to a tiny little pile. So he sprinkled them with olive oil, salted them like you would when making potato chips and sprinkled a generous amount of garlic powder on. Into the oven they went, and come out this tiny little pile of dried fragile leaves.

Wow are they pretty, all shiny from the oil and with crystals of sea salt all over them. Of course I grab a great big one, which in terms of kale chips is not very big, and pop it in my mouth. I hear, “honey, are they any good?” “No, not really, a little salty,” which is a complete understatement. They were like sticking your tongue in the can of sea salt. We pitched the entire thing.

Tonight we gave kale chips another go, using a lot less of everything and they were excellent. They have a very distinct taste that I can’t really compare to anything else. 

What exactly is kale? It is a leaf cabbage that grows on long stems instead of compact heads. There are 33 calories in one cup of kale. There are a ton of vitamins packed in those leaves. There are 45 different flavonoids, these combine antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to help avoid chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.

Kale can provide you with some cholesterol lowering benefits if you cook it via steaming. The fiber related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive track when they are steamed. It makes the bile acids easier to excrete, resulting in lower cholesterol levels.

Of course kale has risk lowering benefits for bladder, breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer. I could tell you how, but I read it and it’s a bunch of long scientific names that do the trick, so you will have to trust that I read this fact. 

I read that you should eat kale two to five times a week to get optimal health benefits. I like it, but five times a week? We would need to plant a lot more. I like it, just maybe not that much.