All photos/art by Michael Piazza
Kale, once that overlooked dark and leafy sibling of broccoli and collard greens, has become the “It Girl” of the veggie world, and it’s an honor long overdue. Packed with fiber, manganese, vitamins, and antioxidant carotenoids, kale is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s easy to grow and can be harvested from spring through fall, earning it the title “Queen of Greens.”
Here in New England, we credit Paul Betz and Kate Camilletti of High Ledge Farm in East Calais, Vermont, for igniting what has arguably been kale’s largest public-awareness campaign to date. In 2000, faced with a surplus of greens but few takers, they asked Bo Muller-Moore, a local folk artist and fellow regular at Montpelier’s Capital City Farmers’ Market, to silkscreen the slogan “Eat More Kale” onto a few T-shirts for their family.
Muller-Moore agreed, and within weeks, additional requests for “Eat More Kale” T-shirts trickled in, which soon led to a full line of stickers and hooded sweatshirts. The slogan became something of a mantra in Vermont, and in August 2011, Muller-Moore applied for a trademark. Unfortunately, that drew the attention of the Atlanta-based fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. The company argued that the phrase was too close to its “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign. (In the company’s ads, a trio of semiliterate cows try to persuade consumers to eat less beef, more poultry.)
Undaunted, Muller-Moore held firm, and his plight was picked up by the media as a modern-day David-and-Goliath tale of local sustainable agriculture versus big business. With the national coverage, Muller-Moore’s sales exploded. The “Eat More Kale” slogan can now be spotted on supporters (and their vehicles) worldwide, and the artist has the photos on his Web site to prove it.
Local farmers agree that the ongoing “Eat More Kale” trademark debate might have a little something to do with the green’s popularity boost, but selling more greens is only one up side. “The biggest and most tangible benefit,” Paul Betz says, “is that people are getting excited about their food and where it comes from.”
They’re learning how to enjoy their kale, too. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and with its rich, nutty, slightly bitter flavor, it benefits from a bit of salt (goes great with bacon!) and shines when paired with nuts, alliums (including garlic, onion, and shallots), and sweet ingredients such as dried fruits and winter squash. For those who find the bitterness too strong, it’s worth noting that kale actually tastes sweeter after a frost. When purchasing kale, “look for leaves that are fairly firm,” Betz recommends. “The stem where the kale was picked should still look fresh.”
Although you can find recipes featuring kale blended into smoothies, sprinkled onto pizzas, and baked into crunchy chips, one of the easiest and tastiest ways to enjoy kale is in a simple, fresh salad.
Visit Bo Muller-Moore’s Web site, EatMoreKale.com, for gifts, photos, and meal suggestions.