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All About Kale

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 7:00am

Today, we’re talking “All about Kale.” Hello, I’m Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm & Family.  Today, we’re speaking with Linsey Radford, a Dietetic Intern at Mississippi State University, with the MSU extension service.  Linsey, Thank you for joining us today!

Linsey: Thanks for having me, Amy. I’m happy to be here!

Amy: So, this nutrient-dense vegetable is an essential to addition to your diet. We all know vegetables are vital for our health. Why should we eat kale? Why does it stand out above other fruits and vegetables?

Linsey: You’re right. Vegetables are essential to maintaining good health and I chose kale because of its “superfood” qualities.”Superfood” is basically just a fancy word for nutrient packed and really good for you. I love its versatility in cooking. There are so many ways to use it! It’s also one of the few vegetables that can withstand pretty harsh temperatures. Which is good to be aware of when looking to plant in these colder months. So there’s a lot to love with this leafy vegetable.

Amy: You mentioned it’s packed with nutrients. What are some of the benefits we get from kale?

Linsey: Absolutely. There’s so much we get from kale. In just one cup of raw kale you’re going to get nearly 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, Vitamin A, C, and K, Folate (also known as vitamin B6), small amounts of Alpha-liolenic acid which is an omega-3, Alpha-lipoid acid which is an antioxidant, Lutein and zeaxanthin which are carotenoids, and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc.

Amy: I know kale has definitely been picking up in popularity here in Mississippi, with a common phrase being “Kale State”! But I know the bitter flavor can be a little harsh. How do you recommend preparing kale to make it a little easier to consume?

Linsey: Of course. I know what you mean. Kale can be a bit tough and that bitter flavor doesn’t always sound appealing, but there are several ways you can prepare kale to help with that. One way I like to prepare kale is by first washing and removing the tough stem and then gently massaging the leaves between my fingers until the color begins to darken and the texture becomes slightly silky feeling. This breaks down those tough fibers that make eating kale less enjoyable. Preparing kale this way is perfect to use in your favorite salads! You can add something sweet like strawberries or apple slices to help cut that bitter taste.  I also recommend citrus-bases salad dressings, or even peanut seasame salad dressing, if you’re not allergic.

After washing and removing the stem, you can also freeze the leaves to maintain freshness and use in smoothies or soups. This is a good option if you don’t like the taste or texture of kale. You can add some bananas and peanut butter with the kale, along with almond milk and have a nutritious smoothie packed with all those good vitamins and minerals. Perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack!

Amy: For those interested in gardening, you had mentioned that this is a good vegetable to plant during colder months. When exactly should kale be planted, for the best yield?

Linsey: Yes. Kale definitely does better in cooler environments. It’s best to plant kale in early fall or early spring. Kale can actually survive temperatures in the low 20s. So in warmer states such as Mississippi, kale might even last through the winter. An interesting side note is that kale gets sweeter once it has gone through a few frosts and many people actually prefer the flavor it offers after those cold temperatures.

Amy: Now that we know when to plant kale, is it hard to grow?

Linsey: Kale is actually relatively low-maintenance. It does need about 6 hours of sunlight a day so you want to make sure to plant the kale in a place that will get lots of sunlight. It also needs to be watered regularly but you want to avoid overwatering. It will grow the best when the soil is moist. And when you go to harvest your kale you want to make sure to take the leaves on the outside and leave the center bud so it can continue to grow and produce.

Amy: Thanks for all the info! Is there anything else we need to know about kale?

Linsey: I actually have a fun fact about kale to share. As we mentioned before, kale has a bitter flavor that can be a turnoff to some. But that bitter flavor actually comes from phytocompounds which is kale’s natural defense mechanism to ward off animals and insects from eating its leaves. Even though the bitterness sometimes keeps us from wanting to consume it, research has shown that those phytocompounds actually have a lot of heart health benefits. So, hopefully that will help us not mind the bitterness as much.

Amy: Yes, hopefully having a better understanding of the nutritional value will help sweeten up the bitterness! Where can our listeners go to find more information on kale?

Linsey: Mississippi State University’s Extension Services is a great resource to find more on kale and other fruits and vegetables. Their website is extension.msstate.edu.

Amy: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Linsey Radford, Mississippi State University Dietetic Intern. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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