– shared from Veraveg.org
Go to any salad bar or fast sandwich place and chances are, if you’re going to see something green and leafy, it’s likely going to be iceberg lettuce. Now, there’s nothing wrrrrong with iceberg lettuce, but if your goal is to add more greens and nutrition to your diet, you’re just not getting much vitamin or mineral bang for your buck.
In fact, if you’re at that same salad bar, chances are, you’d be better off eating the fresh leafy garnish that the bowl of iceberg lettuce is sitting on because it’s likely kale!
This dark leafy green comes in a variety of types, but they’re all packed with power and, comparatively, make iceberg lettuce seem about as worthwhile as munching cardboard. If you’re curious, just click the links to compare the nutritional value of 1 cup of iceberg lettuce compared to 1 cup of kale. Scroll through and compare the vitamins and minerals for each of these leafy greens! You’ll see that kale is by far the winner. You can also see how much more kale will do for you to reduce inflammation in your body. It’s a fabulous leafy green to help with detoxification! (Speaking of which, keep reading and find out how you could win a free detox program!!)
Yet, everywhere you look, it’s good old iceberg lettuce that people eat and recognize most often. But did you know that kale, yes kale, used to be the green champion and choice of vegetables throughout Europe?
So… what happened???
Kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. In much of Europe it was the most widely eaten green vegetable until the Middle Ages when cabbages became more popular. Historically it has been particularly important in colder regions due to its resistance to frost. In nineteenth century Scotland kail was used as a generic term for ‘dinner’ and all kitchens featured a kail-pot for cooking.
Our common cabbage-like vegetables provide an excellent example of remarkable crop improvements that was accomplished by simple long-term selection with no real goal in mind, but simply by people growing those plants that had the features that they most desired.
Although they appear very different, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all the same species of plant. These plants are all known botanically as members of the species Brassica oleracea. The only difference between these plants are the differences that were introduced over thousands of years of human cultivation and selective propagating.
In the wild, the Brassica oleracea plant is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, and is somewhat similar in appearance to a leafy canola plant. Sometime, soon after the domestication of plants began, people in the Mediterranean region began growing this first ancient “cabbage” plant as a leafy vegetable. Because leaves were the part of the plant which were consumed, it was natural that those plants with the largest leaves would be selectively propagated for next year’s crop. This resulted in large and larger-leafed plants slowly being developed as the seed from the largest-leafed plants was favoured.
By the 5th century B.C., continued preference for ever-larger leaves had led to the development of the vegetable we now know as kale. Kale is known botanically by the name Brassica oleracea variety acephala which translates to mean “cabbage of the vegetable garden without a head.”
Kale continued to be grown as a leafy vegetable for thousands of years, and is still grown today. As time passed, however, some people began to express a preference for those plants with a tight cluster of tender young leaves in the centre of the plant at the top of the stem.
Because of this preference for plants in which there were a large number of tender leaves closely packed into the terminal bud at the top of the stem, these plants were selected and propagated more frequently. A continued favouritism of these plants for hundreds of successive generations resulted in the gradual formation of a more and more dense cluster of leaves at the top of the plant. Eventually, the cluster of leaves became so large, it tended to dominate the whole plant, and the cabbage “head” we know today was born.
Kale was grown as a staple crop in the the Scottish Islands due to its extreme hardiness, and was given protection from the elements in purpose built “Kale Yards”. Indeed, almost every house had a kale yard and preserved kale in barrels of salt, similar to sourkraut in Germany. They also fed it to livestock through the winter. Kale continued to be extremely important until potatoes came to the Islands towards the end of the 18th century.
Scorr Kale yard on the Isle of Skye remains in remarkably good condition with walls over 4 feet high, and with all doorways and gateways well defined but is a sad reminder of the depopulation of Skye in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Early in the twentieth century, Kailyard (kale field) was a disparaging term used to describe a school of Scottish writers, including Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, whose writing featured sentimental nostalgia for rural Scottish life.
Many thanks to the Vectis Road Allotments Association, affectionately known as VERA to its members, for sharing their cultivated history of veggies! We look forward to sharing more education with you from them about the leaves we love!
Situated in the heart of historic East Cowes, the VERA allotments offer fun, friendship, peace, tranquility and, if you’re prepared to make the effort, the opportunity to grow and eat your own, fantastic veg.
Enjoy green smoothie recipes with the power-packing nutrition and detoxifying benefit of kale when you take part in the 21-Day Green Smoothie Detox!
Find out how you could take the program for free below!
ENTER TO WIN A FREE DETOX:
Let’s talk green! From now until the start of our spring 21-Day Green Smoothie Detox, you can win a chance to join our LIVE, Full-Support program featuring Victoria Boutenko, just by contributing your thoughts to one of our “Green Buzz” suggestions on the blog. (Be sure to include a valid name and e-mail address with your blog comment so that we can contact you). We’ll select a winner who shares a thoughtful comment on any new GSQ blog post between Feb. 28th and March 19th, 2011. All comments will be approved before appearing. (Attention Facebook/Twitter readers: Comments must be made on the GSQ blog site to be entered in the draw!)
TODAY’S “GREEN BUZZ” TOPICS
- Tell us your idea for making kale more popular than iceberg lettuce!
- What’s your favourite way to eat kale?
- Tell us why you love cruciferous vegetables!