By Brian L. Lichorowic

I’m told it rises up first, through snow if necessary, defiant and dignified. As if to say: “You call that a winter?”

Kale. Brassica oleracea.  Around the Piedmont, it’s everywhere. A non-hearting type of cabbage, meaning it doesn’t curl into a ball. Most commonly rolled into the “greens” category. Rich in calcium, heavy in C &; B vitamins, I eat kale because local, regional food is tastiest and the best for our bodies, as well as abundantly available seasonally. I believe that eating organic local produce, particularly in the spring, helps relieve my environmental allergies, as does local honey.

It’s an important winter vegetable in British cuisine and at the heart of “soul” cooking.

My first impression was not, however, prudent.  Our family restaurant used kale as a decorative garnish on one of our most popular banquet entrees, the Roast Turkey Dinner, which was a favorite of the lady shoppers on the tour buses stopping over for a quick bite before hitting the Oneida Silversmiths Factory Store en masse.

One leaf, trimmed with an orange slice and half of a maraschino cherry in the middle on the afore mentioned Turkey dish accompanied with homemade sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and two (2!) hot vegetables with a choice of soup or salad and bread; $4.99.

If we ran out, we’d run kale through our commercial dishwasher, then dunk it in iced salt water for an hour only to be topped again with an orange slice and cherry and returned to the masses (a vicious circle…but good Karma, right?)  None of the blue hairs on the buses knew or cared. Equivalent to the wedding favors strategically placed at the hostess stand for them to pilfer as they exited. 300 small plastic top hats filled with small almonds and mints. Leftover from the Mentzer wedding. We left them out for a reason. Not one would remain and no one would care that the little plastic hat read, “Susan & Mark- Love Lasts Forever– July 9, 1977.”

As a garnish, it was indestructible. We never gave any thought to eating it. It wasn’t until a few years later, my freshman year at Boston University, when I dined at Perce Alston’s, my roommate’s parent’s home, did I realize that my family had treated it unfairly.

The Farmer’s Market is opening soon and kale will be there.  First in line in fact. Simplicity is key I’ve found with kale. Try it with another dominant flavor or spice. Its nutrients are undeniable.
[Ed. note: Recipes after the jump] Continue reading