Kale has become a super star in the health food world. There are T-shirts and bumper stickers encouraging us to eat more kale. There are entire cookbooks for kale recipes and web sites devoted to kale. Indeed it is the superstar of the green leafy vegetables and one of the reasons is because it’s extremely high in vitamin K.
Vitamin K is mostly known for its importance in blood clotting. That’s why people who take blood thinning medication are told to avoid kale. The lesser known functions of vitamin K are the role it plays in bone and heart health. Studies show that a diet high in vitamin K increases bone density and reduces the risk of hip fracture. Vitamin K may also help to prevent calcification of the arteries.
Kale is one of the leafy greens, along with Swiss chard, collards, beet greens and others, that is often referred to as a “cooking” green. They can certainly be eaten raw, especially when young or sold as “baby greens”, but they are generally tougher than spinach and lettuce, so they are much easier to chew when cooked.
The quickest way to cook kale is to boil if for about 5 minutes. Yes, you will lose some vitamins when you boil kale, but there is more than enough, so don’t worry about it. One half cup of boiled kale has over 1000% daily value (DV) vitamin K, 175% DV vitamin A, 45% DV vitamin C and 27% DV manganese.
So try adding kale to your soups, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice pilaf. Or simply saute it in a skillet with a little liquid and top it with a squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.
The recipe below can be served as a side dish or a whole meal. This recipe is from the “Farmers’ Market Favorite Recipes” cookbook available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market and Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ballston Spa, as well as other retail outlets.
Kale with Caramelized Onions and Barley
8 cups fresh kale leaves*
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small or 1 large onion*, finely chopped
1 cup barley
2¾ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup feta cheese* (optional)
½ teaspoon black pepper
Clean the kale, remove the stems, and tear leaves into small pieces. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Caramelize the onion by sautéing it for five to 10 minutes until golden brown. Add barley, stirring to coat.
Add water, kale and salt; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes or until barley is cooked, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in feta cheese, if desired, and black pepper.
Makes 8 servings.
Per Serving: 170 calories; 6 g fat (1.5 g sat); 5 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 6 g fiber; 390 mg sodium. Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (210% daily value), Vitamin C (140% dv), Calcium (15% dv).
Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market on High Rock Avenue. For information about food and nutrition contact Diane Whitten at Cornell Cooperative Extension at 885-8995or firstname.lastname@example.org.