Aley Chubeza 137, December 3rd-5th 2012

The Headless Cabbage

For a few weeks now, you’ve been receiving these strange leaves which are surely a mystery to some Chubeza clients. They look like this:

These are kale leaves, aka borecole–a magical vegetable with super powers, albeit bitter, tough, and possessing a taste that must be acquired. But I assure you, after you overcome those obstacles and fall in love, there is no looking back. You’re addicted.

Kale belongs to the venerable Brassica oleracea family, the makers of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kohlrabi. Of all the family members, kale is the most primitive and definitely the heartiest. It survives beautifully in all types of earth, providing it enjoys good drainage. Kale is really the primal cabbage, the first of its genus before it developed into the leaves of a cabbage head, the inflorescence of broccoli or cauliflower or the thickening of its stem to kohlrabi or Brussels sprouts. All these developments occurred in the Brassica family over the cultivation of farming, as a result of farmers’ meticulous choices. But kale remained as is, and it’s a good thing, too! Kale’s Latin name is Brassica oleracea acephala, meaning “a headless cabbage.”

Cold and wintery weather does not deter Mr. Kale. On the contrary, he thrives well in the cold, and even gets sweeter. Pests and diseases are not attracted to kale, and when they are, they hardly faze him. Last year, our kale fell victim to an aphid attack, which was pretty scary. At some point all its youthful leaves were covered with the tiny black creatures. We thought this was goodbye, but a vegetable like kale does not go gently into the good night. When cold weather came, scaring away the aphids, the kale experienced a miraculous recovery. The leaves revived to renew the crop with a fresh, strong and completely clean yield.

This strength is evident in kale’s health virtues. It is considered to be one of the healthiest foods, containing a huge quantity of Vitamin A, in addition to good amounts of calcium, Vitamin C, folic acid, Vitamin K, lutein, dietary fibers and cancer-fighting antioxidants. To make a long list short, it’s good for our eyes, bones, digestion, and fortifying the body against various diseases.

And, over the years, kale has protected those who have grown it in their gardens: saving frozen Europeans from starvation in frosty winters when nothing else would grow, and black slaves who grew it easily in their yards and cooked kale with scraps of meat from their white master’s kitchen to stave off malnourishment. During WWII, kale was promoted in the Dig for Victory campaign, aimed at encouraging the urban Brits to plant gardens anywhere possible to produce their own food for times of siege and distress. Today, once more, within the leanness of our opulence, among all the processed and preserved food, kale is gaining new vigor in a host of recipes of all types.

In Israel, kale is also gaining popularity. When I wrote about it ten years ago in the first (!) Chubeza newsletter, I had no Hebrew sources and all the recipes had to be translated. When I researched kale this week, I found a variety of excellent “local” suggestions for its yummy and joyful use. We have not lost hope. And truly, kale is a multi-versatile vegetable. Use it as a stuffing leaf, in a filling, wintery soup, in a rich salad, in veggie fritters, as baked chips, processed into green crackers, in a dish of greens, and even a green shake. (First, try the kale and make sure its bitter, dominant taste blends in.) We have many recipes for you today.

Kale has a large number of varieties, differing in color (from dark green to light, pink and purple), in size, texture (curly, straight, frizzy) and somewhat in taste. Here is a pretty picture from the “Kings’ Seeds” blog.

After experimenting with a number of types of kale over Chubeza’s first year, we have been growing the Red Russian variety for the past nine years. The title was given in America, where it was brought by Russian merchants. Its purplish-red hue completed the picture. This species has softer thinner leaves which are less bitter and thus “user friendly.”

So true, for those of you who are not yet acquainted with kale, it requires some getting used to, some searches for the right recipe, and as always, an open mind. But those who open their hearts and mouths to this vegetable will find it to be good and nutritious and healthy. Definitely worth it!

Wishing you a week of experimenting, of daring to take a chance, and of surprisingly good flavors.

Happy holiday to our Thai workers, in honor of “The King’s day'” taking place this Wednesday.

Alon, Bat Ami, Ya’ara and the Chubeza team

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WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?

Monday: Lettuce, arugula, kale/Swiss chard, tomatoes, radishes/daikon, dill, Dutch cucumbers, cauliflower or cabbage, fennel/turnips, sweet potatoes, broccoli (small boxes only)

In the large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichoke, carrots, celery, scallions

Wednesday: broccoli or cauliflower, tatsoi, lettuce, chive/garlic chive, leek, dill or cilantro, Dutch cucumbers, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, turnip or fennel, daikon, Red Russian kale – small boxes only

In the large box, in addition: Jerusalem artichoke, celery, cabbage or eggplant, spinach or Swiss chard

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: granola and cookies, flour, sprouts, goat dairies, fruits, honey, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, eggs and bakery products too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order systemthere’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!

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Kale recipies (many many more are out there on the web, look for yourself)

Squash and kale tart

Red Russian kale and red cabbage slaw

Kale and pecan side dish

Creamy polenta with red Russian kale and mushrooms

Red Russian kale and pea soup

Kale pesto

Kale chips (krispy kale)

White beans, kale and butternut pizza

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