Kale: Superfood or sufferable roughage or Eat well: All you need is love
by Scott Nystrom, BA, RHN
November 15, 2016
I remember the first time I ate kale. Someone told me this crisp curly leaf, once the disposable backdrop for the display cases at the butcher and delicatessen, was superfood gold, jam packed with more nutrition than any other garden green. So naturally, I wanted in on a piece of the action. I purchased the largest, hardiest leaves I could find, took them home and tore them by hand like I would my romaine lettuce, drizzled them in my favorite vinaigrette, and proceeded to chew. And chew. And chew. For what seemed like a sad eternity, I masticated those fibrous leaves, feeling like a cow chewing its cud, the flavor only tasting more and more vegetal and unsatisfying with each bite. But this superfood was supposed to be healthy for me, right? So I kept on chewing, suffering through that stiff salad in the name of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Well that was no fun! It didn’t taste that good, sure wasn’t a pleasure to eat, and kind of gave me a touch of indigestion as my body didn’t really enjoy all that sufferable roughage. So I hit the internet and did some research. It’s a wonder what you can find with a few keywords like “best kale ever” or “why does my kale salad taste like cardboard.” What I found was enlightening.
All you need is love
Kale, like so many other unique and nutritious ingredients, needs a little love to release the full potential of its awesomeness. Oddly enough, unlike most other delicate greens like arugula and romaine, kale likes a little rough handling to bruise it up (or a sensual massage if you prefer a more romantic approach). When you manhandle romaine lettuce and bruise the leaves, it turns into a wilted soggy mess — but when you give your kale salad a sturdy squeeze and rubdown, it crushes all those dense fibers and relaxes those stiff chewy leaves into something delightful.
It helps to first remove the thick stems and julienne cut the leaves into thin ribbons, before giving your greens a good glug of high quality oil, like extra virgin olive, walnut or avocado oil. The healthy fats in the dressing are vital here. They help neutralize the bitterness of the greens, soften the leaves for easier digestion, but more importantly they allow your body to absorb all of the fat-soluble vitamins in the kale. If you eat your kale without any fat (i.e. steamed or dehydrated) you miss half of the nutrition, as you cant absorb those fat-soluble vitamins without some sort of fat as a carrier. So get some grass-fed butter on your sautéed kale or a drizzle of melted coconut oil on your addictive kale chips before they hit the dehydrator. But back to our super salad!
The Spa Treatment
Really rub that oil into the leaves (no delicate dainty fingers here) scuffing the mix between your palms, allowing the kale to wilt and soften (you will notice the leaves get darker in color). You aren’t aiming for a super squeeze pounding like when making sauerkraut – kale likes less of a shiatsu deep tissue massage and more of a relaxing backrub. Give your kale a rest and you will find it has transformed into something akin to leaf lettuce, so much more delicate than when you started, and so much more succulent and satisfying in your salad bowl.
“If you sing while you cook, the food is going to be happy.” – Pasquale
Kale is a great example of how our food needs a little love to spark a metamorphosis into something glorious. The physical input of getting your hands in there, adding kinetic energy and focused intention as you mix your supper, infuses your food with a secret ingredient. Love. And you can taste it when that ingredient is in short supply. A meal made with reluctance and resentment, that you tolerate because you “have to,” because “it’s good for you,” will necessarily fall short. You should never suffer through a meal for the sake of nutrition. Good food should taste good! This a vital tenet of holistic nutrition. You have to feed your body, mind, AND spirit to be nourished, and flavor and enjoyability of your food are essential factors in getting your body, mind, and spirit on board with new foods and changing diets. Otherwise you will be chewing until the cows come home.
Use the internet to search a world of recipes for new unfamiliar ingredients and discover how to get the most out of your food, and most importantly, make it taste delicious, and nutritious. Satisfying food is at your fingertips. All you need is love.
Scott Nystrom is a registered holistic nutritionist and chef in Kelowna, British Columbia, working with clients to reconnect them with their food, educating and enticing healthy appetites as he serves up world inspired food made with love and local ingredients. Connect with Chef Scott today to dish up some edible wellness and cultivate your nourished life. When we share food, we share life, laughter, love. Eat well.
Back To Basics Issue – Winter 2017