Kale… It’s the stuff of the devil

I might be a little over the top on this, but it’s purely a reaction to every celebrity chef on TV and the Net going gaga over green cabbage. Because that’s what it is: cabbage. 

A friend of mine called me last week to tell me about her first encounter with Kale. We live in France and the notion of “superfood” is and will always be second to the notion of taste. She found kale in her weekly vegetable delivery (like what I get every Friday), and the instructions said “cook for 2 minutes”. She told me she cooked it for ten and still found it to contain an awful lot of roughage. “Maybe it’s good for scouring your intestines?” she wondered.

I have eaten kale before, and liked it, but not to the point of elevating it to star status. I baked it in a hot oven, coated in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, like I eat broccolini. I have eaten it pan-fried, like I eat fresh spinach.

Then I heard about kale chips. Never thought about making those. I researched my subject and even watched a video of Martha Stewart making them on YouTube. I didn’t actually get to try them out because “kale” isn’t something I can get at my local market.

Or is it?

I went for a look around the ever more Harrods-y food hall at Globus in the heart of Geneva this week. Everything is beautifully fresh, beautifully presented, beautifully packaged, and a quick look at the prices and another at some of the customers, you just know you’re in high-end city… And there they were, sitting on a shelf: Kale Chips! Orangic! Made in Switzerland! And therefore labeled in several languages. And it says “Grünkohl” = green cabbage. No more fancy than that.

I was taken aback. I cook with green cabbage all winter long. Was I, in fact, super avant-garde and progressive? Nope. Just Irish. And if it’s one thing we Irish know about, it’s cabbage. And, of course, spuds.

The specific Kale chips I tried were from the Swiss brand called Chirpies and marketed as “Swiss Purefoods”. The shop sold three varieties: “Cool Dill”, “Cheese”, and “Bombay Curry”. I really would have preferred plain kale, simply salted, but you take what you get for the price of 3.80CHF for 55 grammes. Isn’t that reasonable, considering it is so very good for you?

How did it taste? Well, the kale itself was not awful. It just tasted green and was dried to a crisp, which wasn’t unpleasant as such. What bothered me was the stuff stuck to it which was supposed to give the kale it’s “Cool Dill” flavor. I took a look at the ingredients that included dill, thankfully, but also cashew nuts and peanut butter. No wonder there are kale chips strategically positioned over the calorie indication on the packaging in the product photo on the Chirpies website! Considering the whole health angle on the sale of kale, I can’t imagine this being a valid substitute for traditional potato chips. If you want to snack healthily, I’d say eat a carrot. Or raw kale. Without peanut butter.

The other criticism I would make is that the packaging – a large plastic tub, a sachet of silica gel to keep the crisps crisp, and a colour-printed cardboard sleeve are a lot for a snack it takes about 7 minutes to eat. Other brands handle the packaging differently, but I remain unconvinced.

And finally – and I decided to spare you the photo to illustrate my point – DON’T eat kale chips before you go on a date, to work or, in fact, anywhere BECAUSE YOU WILL HAVE GREEN BITS BETWEEN YOUR TEETH FOR AN HOUR after eating this overpriced, so-called healthy alternative to Pringles.

Am I anti-kale? No. As I said, I love cabbage, but I am anti-fads. There are surely many great ways to eat kale/cabbage, but I would say a smoothie is not one of them. I don’t know about you, but “smoothie” sounds like something nice and sweet and fruity to me. Raw potatoes, parsley root and kale have no business hanging out with raspberries and mango.

If you still want to eat kale and are looking for some quality kale recipes, go to Martha Stewart’s website or just google the word “kale”… there are literally hundreds of videos posted on YouTube that will see you through. You might even find a good recipe for kale chips that does not involve nuts or dill (Don’t do dill.)

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