Confession: I Really, Really (Really) Hate Kale



There was an audible gasp at our morning web meeting today when I admitted aloud that I, Emily Leaman, health and fitness editor of Philadelphia magazine, absolutely, positively, patently hate kale.

I’ll give you a minute to recover from your shock.



Here’s the thing: I feel like I’ve given kale a pretty good shake, but no matter how I dice it (or, more accurately, how I prepare it) I just can’t seem to get behind it. It tastes bitter and earthy to me, and there is absolutely nothing pleasant about chomping away at something that tastes like sour dirt. Honestly every time I eat it, I can’t fathom how other people choke it down so easily. And voluntarily.

It’s to the point that I suspect you’re all punking me. Like, everyone is secretly in on the joke that kale is disgusting, but you pretend it’s amazing and delicious just to make me feel bad. Either that, or kale is like cilantro, where some people (i.e. me) simply have some weird genetic mutation that causes kale to taste gross, while everyone else thinks it tastes like chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

So imagine my surprise when I reached out to Best of Philly dietician Krista Yoder Latortue, director or Family Food LLC, to talk to her about my kale aversion and to find out what the heck is wrong with me. “I have to admit I used to fall into the ‘I really hate kale category,’ too,” she wrote in an email. “So I can certainly empathize.”

“Ha!” I said both out loud and in my email response. “I’m not alone!” In fact, when I talked to Latortue earlier today, she says she hears from plenty of clients who, like me, say they’ve given kale a whirl but just can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

That fuss, by the way, she attributes to the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report, a key finding of which was that Americans aren’t eating enough—wait for it—dark leafy veggies. “For those of us already filling half our plates with veggies, the takeaway was that it’s important to look at the quality of our veggies,” says Latortue. “Two key things the report highlighted was the importance of dark orange veggies and dark green ones.”

So it’s no surprise that the kale boom followed quickly after. After all, kale hits all the right nutritional notes: It’s exploding with vitamins K, A and C; it’s a good source of fiber; it’s packed with antioxidants; and it’s an easy way to boost your folic acid quota. And so, seemingly everyone in the world started adding kale to their smoothies.

Everyone, of course, except for me. I’ve been a Team Spinach person for quite some time, so when I finally decided to give this whole kale situation a try by adding it to my own smoothie, I remember being perplexed by the fact that I couldn’t get it to pulverize as well as the spinach. I was left with a weird, thick, sinewy smoothie that tasted … like dirt. Yum!

This summer, I joined a CSA for the first time. For the first several weeks, we got greens upon greens upon greens, including bunches of kale. With my hatred of wastefulness outweighing my kale aversion, I faithfully plugged away in the kitchen, making batches of kale chips and trying to convince myself they were delicious. (They were not.) I tried sautéing the kale to create a delicious side dish. (It was not.) I even tried it in a smoothie again thinking I must have done something wrong the first time. (I had not.)

The good news is, if you can’t get on the kale train, either, Latortue says you have plenty of options in the leafy greens department, including spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, Swiss chard and even broccoli.

Still, I was curious about exactly how Latortue cracked the kale code for herself. Was she just pinching her nose, swallowing and praying? “Acidity,” she says. “Anything acidic that you add to it helps to cut the bitterness.”

I dunno. I’m still suspicious. Perhaps Latortue has simply joined your kale charade. But she swears her trick works—and she even proffered a kale salad dressing recipe to prove it, with the note, “Here is the recipe that made me love kale :)”

Hmm, we’ll see about that.

The Secret Salad-Dressing Recipe to Make Kale Haters Kale Lovers
via Family Food LLC

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.  Toss with 2 cups of kale and sprinkle with the cheese. Enjoy!

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