Why you should grow (and eat) your kale and 13 other garden superfoods
Credit: Christina Symons

Why you should grow (and eat) your kale and 13 other garden superfoods

Click through the slideshow for delicious kale recipes.

Planting a bit of kale is such a simple act. But what an extraordinary difference it can make: This is what both Sharon Hanna (author of The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood) and I (contributing editor to this book and the editor of GardenWise magazine) learned over years of determining what we could plant in our gardens to truly impact our nutrition and daily food.

Incredibly easy to grow and harvest, kale is bursting with antioxidants and phytonutrients. And if you pluck it straight from the earth, it’s at its most healthful. Lasting in most gardens right through the year – even sweetening after a winter’s frost – kale is delectable raw or cooked, in salads, sides, soups and meal mainstays, and an unexpectedly good addition to sweet treats like cakes, cookies and ice pops. It is versatile, providing buckets of delicious buds through spring, edible flowers that support bees, and an almost infinite supply of lush organic greens. Plus, it seeds itself!

Once we had embraced kale as what we think to be the most important food crop to include in family food gardens, we wondered what other superfoods we could easily grow to add nourishment and flavour to our daily life and help sustain our struggling pollinators.

So we asked ourselves what makes a plant a superfood. We believe this extends to more than how healthy a food is – although, naturally, this matters too. As earth-advocate Wendell Berry puts it, “Eating is an agricultural act.” When considering what might be a superfood, we went to the garden to evaluate how positively a plant impacts bees and our ecosystem in general, how easy it is to grow organically, in just a bit of earth or a few pots.

In the kitchen, we asked whether or not it can help us to eat better for less. And can it be enjoyed with simple preparation, allowing us to slow down, spend time together and savour the meal?

Following another year of thinking about easy-to-grow superfoods, Sharon and I sat down to write The Book of Kale & Friends: 14 Easy-to-Grow Superfoods – again with everything you need to know about growing and eating kale in its many forms, and also with 13 other plant picks that can be enjoyed every day in beautiful and wholesome ways: arugula, basil (easy to grow all year!), chives, cilantro/coriander, herb fennel, garlic (harvested in four ways), lovage, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme. And we elaborate on this with growing information, dozens of quick meal ideas and 130 full recipes.

Tucked into the garden together, these plants strengthen each other against pests and disease – making it easy to grow them organically – and support our pollinators while feeding us in the most life-affirming way. In short, these edibles are the ultimate superfoods for those who want unmatched flavour and the potent health benefits of fresh food, ease of care and growing, and the chance to do something extremely positive for this planet.

Potato-Crusted Kale and Smoked Salmon Tart
Credit: Christina Symons

Potato-Crusted Kale and Smoked Salmon Tart

Here’s the story of this sumptuous supper, as told by its creator, Stan Garrod:

In Cafe Talia, on Salt Spring Island, there was a sign that read “gluten-free quiche.” The barista told me the crust contained potatoes, oil, rosemary and salt. As a practitioner of food jazz, I figured I could riff on this theme to make something for my wife, Joi, who is avoiding gluten.

Stan used Yukon Gold potatoes, and we recommend these or any other firm potatoes rather than “new” potatoes. Use all milk or all cream to make this dish as rich (or not) as you like. If it’s garlic scape time, finely chop two to four scapes and substitute them for the garlic and shallot. Total preparation time, including baking, is just over an hour. Accompany this tart with salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

• 2 medium to large potatoes, grated
• ¼ cup (60 mL) grated Parmigiano
• 1 Tbsp (15 mL) or more chopped rosemary and thyme leaves
• 2 Tbsp (30 mL) melted butter or olive oil
• ½ tsp (2.5 mL) sea salt
• ¼  tsp (1 mL) baking soda
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 1 generous cup (250 mL) chopped leeks
• 1 shallot, minced
• 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
• 2–4 garlic cloves, minced
• 4 cups (1 L) chopped kale
• 3 small or 2 large eggs
• ½ cup (125 mL) milk or cream
• Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• A few grindings of pepper
• Chopped fresh dill (optional)
• 6 oz (170 g) smoked salmon in bits
• ½ cup (125 mL) crumbled goat’s cheese

Grate potatoes into a medium-sized bowl. Add Parmigiano, herbs, melted butter, salt, baking soda and lemon juice, and mix with your hands. Press mixture evenly into an oiled pie plate. Bake at 375F (190C) for 15 minutes. Set aside on a rack.

Sauté leeks and shallot in 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and kale, and continue to stir-fry for another few minutes until kale wilts. Add a splash of water, then cover and steam for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, nutmeg, pepper and dill, if using. Add the slightly cooled kale mixture.

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).Distribute salmon pieces over the potato crust. Spoon kale mixture on top. Dot with goat’s cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until tart appears set. Transfer to a rack and allow tart to cool for at least an hour so it holds together when you cut it.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

 

B.C. Bud with Little Ears and Smoked Salmon
Credit: iStock, Orecchiette, aka "little ears" pasta

B.C. Bud with Little Ears and Smoked Salmon

Not that kind of bud, naughty reader. We’re talking about those sweet kale buds that grace the tops and sides of our hard-working kale from April through late June. If it’s fennel season, harvest a tiny clump of the gorgeous little yellowish florets (before seeds form) or a tiny sprig of the ferny foliage to use for garnish, along with the parsley. The anise-flavoured liqueur will pick up on the fennel. Otherwise, go with the parsley and white wine. If you don’t like the idea of eating ears, use another cut pasta such as penne or “little radiators” (radiatore).

*GF

• ½ lb (225 g) orecchiette (little ears) pasta
• 1 Tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
• 1 good-sized shallot, minced
• 1 Tbsp (15 mL) Fennel Huckleberry Shrub (see The Book of Kale and Friends, page 97), sambuca or Pernod, or 2 Tbsp (30 mL) good white wine
• ½  cup (125 mL) whipping cream
• Salt to taste
• 1 cup (250 mL) kale buds
• 4 oz (about 100 g) smoked salmon (uncooked), thinly sliced and roughly chopped
• A few grindings of pepper
• Chopped parsley for garnish
• Soft fennel florets or a sprig of foliage for garnish
*gluten free if gluten-free pasta is used

In a large pot, bring lots of water to a boil, salt it and add the pasta. The pasta ears are small but thick, so they take a little longer to cook than you’d think—up to 12 minutes, maybe. Follow the directions on the package.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the shallot for a few minutes, then add the liqueur. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Pour in the cream, give the sauce a few stirs, sprinkle in a little salt (remember that the salmon is a little salty) and keep sauce warm on the stove.

Preheat a pasta serving bowl (with a little water in it) in the microwave or by pouring a little boiling water into the bowl, swirling the water around, then pouring it out.

When the pasta approaches doneness but is a minute away from al dente, add the kale buds. Boil for another minute—not much longer. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Transfer pasta mixture to the heated serving dish. Very gently fold in the smoked salmon pieces and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) or so of the cooking water, and pour the sauce over all.

Add a few grindings of pepper, and garnish with parsley and a few fennel florets or sprigs of foliage. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings
 

Salmon Kale Cakes with Fennel & Rosemary
Credit: iStock

Salmon Kale Cakes with Fennel & Rosemary

Fast and fabulous, these salmon kale cakes are easy to make whenever you have ground salmon on hand. If you don’t, you can always use a food processor to mince a cut-up fillet or two, but that will take a little more time. For starter servings, make tiny patties and serve three to a plate with a dab of Lovage Sauce, Chimichurri or Browned Butter & Sage (see The Book of Kale & Friends, pages 109, 110 and 111). Make the patties bigger if you’re planning to serve salmon burgers for supper.

*GF

• ½ cup (125 mL) soft herbs, such as parsley, chervil, chives, basil
• 1 Tbsp (15 mL) tender fennel foliage
• 1 Tbsp (15 mL) rosemary leaves
• 1 egg
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 1 cup (250 mL) kale
• ½ smallish sweet onion
• 1 lb (454 g) ground salmon
• 1 tsp (5 mL) fennel seeds
• ½ tsp (2.5 mL) salt
• A few grindings of pepper
• ½ cup (125 mL) panko or fine bread crumbs
• 1 Tbsp (15 mL) grapeseed oil

*gluten free if gluten-free panko or fine bread crumbs are used


Roughly chop the soft herbs, fennel foliage and rosemary leaves. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Add the egg and lemon juice, and pulse again until herbs are even finer and egg well beaten. Rough chop the kale and onion, add to the food processor and pulse until chopped, but do not let the onion turn into mush—it should be in little chunks. Scrape everything into a good-sized mixing bowl.

Add salmon, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix well. Form the mixture into balls—as big or small as you wish—and roll each one in panko.

Heat a little of the grapeseed oil in a frying pan. Flatten each patty in the hot pan and fry until golden and cooked right through the centre. Add a little oil, as needed, between batches of patties.

Makes 4 burgers or 12 appetizers