Kale Yes! One Leafy Green's Many Merits

A doctor and chef team up to bring out the sexy side of kale.

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Fifty Shades of Kale

Fifty Shades of Kale

Under the Covers: The way Dr. Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh talk about kale is downright steamy. 

Photo by: Image courtesy of HarperWave

Image courtesy of HarperWave

Under the Covers: The way Dr. Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh talk about kale is downright steamy. 

Ever get the feeling someone is checking you out in the produce department? You’re innocently feeling up some watermelons and you feel the heat of their stare. You turn and, instead of looking away shyly, they meet your eyes, making their intentions clear. They want you. And they want you to want them. 

That’s right: We’re talking about a hot, steamy hookup with a gorgeous hunk of … kale. 

A psychiatrist and chef by trade, Dr. Drew Ramsey and Jennifer Iserloh decided to play off the racy theme of the popular book Fifty Shades of Grey, writing Fifty Shades of Kale—and found a way to make a vegetable most people don’t like or understand seem downright sexy. 

You'd be hard-pressed to find two people on earth more excited about this leafy green. When asked to share what’s so great about it in a recent interview, they both gushed at length, sometimes talking at the same time out of pure excitement. They’re even petitioning Congress to create National Kale Day on the first Wednesday in October. Here are the dirty details of their love affair with kale:

What inspired you to play off the book Fifty Shades of Grey?

Dr. Drew: The title just popped into my head and I thought, there are so many women excited about this book. What would happen if 20 million women started eating more kale? I mentioned the idea to Jennifer and five days later she sent me 36 kale recipes. 

Jennifer: When you say kale, sex doesn’t come to mind. But when I serve these recipes, people say they’re gorgeous and delicious. They have a lot of sex appeal. But it’s not all about taste and look—it’s about the intake of health. 

You make some pretty serious claims: kale fights cancer, helps moods, slims your body, boosts sex drive and banishes brain fog. How does one vegetable do all that? 

Dr. Drew: Kale has nutrient-dense fibers. It has vitamin K, which is a powerful antioxidant. It has lots of carotenoids and flavonoids that are profoundly health-promoting to the brain, and the main fat in kale is an omega-3, which is linked to a number of health benefits. There are 2.2 grams of protein in a cup of kale and 33 calories, which rivals meat. And that’s not even the half of it.

Jennifer: I’ve struggled with weight and come from a family whose members are obese. I call kale an uber superfood because it’s high in fiber and protein and has what I call magic molecules, which fight off terminal diseases. More calcium is absorbed from kale than dairy. 

I’m 5’ 2” and 120 pounds, but I have a pretty mean appetite. The fiber and protein in kale help keep cravings away and fills you up. Instead of noodles or bread, I use chopped kale as a base for my plate and put the goodies—like meat or eggs—on top. And yes, I do eat kale every day. 

What’s the best way to care for kale?

Jennifer: Kale is very hearty, but I advise people not to prewash it. I put my kale in a plastic or paper bag and put it in the crisper. Kale from the farmer’s market can last up to 3 weeks, which is much longer than kale from the grocery store lasts. If it’s damp, I leave the water on but tuck a paper towel in the bag to absorb moisture and avoid rot. 

Does organic kale make a difference?

Dr. Drew: Organic kale is the way to go because conventional kale is on the dirty dozen list of vegetables with high pesticide residue. 

Do you grow your own?

Dr. Drew: I have an organic farm in Indiana and have enjoyed learning about different varieties and testing them out with seeds from Adaptive Seed Company. There are at least 50 different varieties, and there have been some standouts in the garden this year, including True Siberian, Gulag Stars, Russian Frills, Western Front—all with broad, ornate green leaves.

Any growing tips? 

Dr. Drew: My main tip for growing kale is just to put some seeds in some well-drained soil … in your yard, a window planter or a pot. 

Kale is most productive in cooler weather so it usually peaks in June and again in October. You can start plants indoors or directly sow outside. Leave the plants in your garden through the winter: kale is very cold tolerant with some varietals surviving below zero degrees. You can get fresh greens all winter long and the leaves become a bit sweeter after the frost. 

Be alert for aphids and Mexican bean beetles, which you'll know are present when you see "skeletonized" leaves, i.e., all the leaf is eaten except for the veins.

How did you make kale work in so many different recipes?

Jennifer: Kale has a mild taste and a salty bite to it. It has a bit of a spicy hot flavor. When it hits heat, it becomes sweet. And when you add it to other foods it doesn’t disrupt the flavor profile. So I looked for ways to mellow it and ways to sharpen or sweeten it. To sharpen it, I use acids like citrus. To mellow it, I paired it with fats like grass-fed dairy, beef and Parmesan. And for sweetness, kale works really well with cherries and cocoa. The goal isn’t to mask the flavor of kale. 

How familiar were you with kale before you started this cookbook?

Jennifer: Drew was really the kale-ophile. My granny had a garden and I grew up eating all kinds of vegetables, but I didn’t know about the versatility until we really started to push the envelope. I’d had kale chips and that was my first inclination that we could reach into other applications. 

What are some of your favorite recipes in the book? 

Dr. Drew: I’m a huge gazpacho fan, so I love the kale kiwi gazpacho. If I was going to deconstruct the taste of a tomato, I’d never think to use kiwi and green pepper, but it totally works. 

What other ways are you seeing people celebrate the new coolness of kale?

Dr. Drew: Ladies are using it in their wedding bouquets—gorgeous pink and red varieties with roses in the center. They’re also using it in their headpieces.

All Hail Kale: 5 Reasons Kale Is the Hottest Leaf in the Garden

  1. It’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow. 
  2. It's high in fiber and protein and packed with phytonutrient molecules that help fight obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
  3. It travels well and lasts for a week in the crisper.
  4. 1 cup of kale is approximately 33 calories and provides more than 100 percent of your daily needs of vitamins A and C.
  5. It’s an affordable organic.

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