A leafy vegetable considered by some to look too healthy and green to taste good, kale has won converts all over the world. Here in Hawaii, kale is now grown by a number of local farmers including MA‘O Organic Farms, a non-profit certified organic farm in the heart of Waianae Valley. Led by Gary Maunakea-Forth and his wife Kukui, MA‘O – an acronym for mala (garden) ‘ai (food) ‘opio (youth), or youth food garden -- grows 40 to 50 types of produce, some of which are delivered fresh to select Foodland stores each week. Interestingly, kale is the farm’s most popular item!
Farm manager Kaui Sana hadn’t tried kale until she started working as a student intern at MA‘O at age 17 and began bringing kale home to her family. It wasn’t a big hit at first, so Kaui had a secret weapon to win everyone over. “The first thing I did was stir fry it with bacon,” she explains. That got them interested!” Now one of her mom’s favorite dishes is kalua pig and kale!
Try It, You’ll Like It!
Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons why you should make kale a part of your weekly diet – plus some tips on how to make sure it tastes great too!
• It’s Super! Kale is a “superfood.” Considered one of the healthiest vegetables in the world, kale is exceptionally nutrient rich, loaded with beneficial compounds, and especially stands out for its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer nutrients.
• One kale or another? Different varieties of kale have different taste, texture and color. Curly kale is bright green with ruffled edges and has a pungent flavor with peppery and slightly bitter qualities, while Lacinato or dinosaur kale has bluish green leaves, firm texture, and a flavor that is deep and earthy with nutty sweetness.
• Tough Love. Kale’s strong, tough taste and texture helps it stand up to other intense flavors. “You can pair it with real strong cheese like feta. Or bacon bits,” suggests Gary. And because kale leaves don’t wilt easily, it makes a great choice for a picnic salad.
• Give it a massage. Kale’s toughness can be broken down with a little time and tender, loving care. Massage it with a bit of oil and lemon juice and wait a few minutes. “It’ll break down into a light-colored green. Then add some cheese and fresh-ground pepper,” says Kaui.
• Luau Style. Gary compares kale’s earthy taste and versatility to luau leaf. He and Kaui agree it goes particularly well with pork. Try lau lau wrapped in kale or kalua pig with kale instead of cabbage.
• Work Up Some Steam! Unlike spinach or Chinese choys which lose a lot of volume when steamed, mighty kale holds up. Gary suggests stir-frying it with garlic and onions, then steaming it down with a bit of wine “to add a bit of sweetness.”
• Kale, yes! Kale can be used in a variety of ways so experiment and have some fun. “My dad makes smoothies with it,” says Kaui. “I wilted it in pasta for my family. Once I started loving it, I would make kale chips.”
Did You Know?
You can tell how old kale is by the feel of its leaves. “If the leaves break off really quickly or are fragile that means it’s older,” says MA‘O Organic Farms’ Kaui Sana. Older kale is fine for cooking, but for a raw dish look for leaves that are crisp, but still a little bit tender with vibrant color.
Hearty Kale Panzanella
This rustic meal salad is a great way to use up day-old bread. You can even use leftover Thanksgiving stuffing!
Lay the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven to dry out. Bake until the bread is dry and crisp, approximately 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, herbs, pomegranate, persimmon, cranberries, celery, red onion and kale. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Toss with olive oil and vinegar to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Transfer to a platter, grate fresh Parmesan over top and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve immediately.
*Any type of bread will do, but hearty wheat or whole-grain breads work best. Try leftover stuffing for an extra flavorful twist! (It may need some extra time in the oven to dry out.)
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