I have way too much. Like the crunchy, liberal New Englander I am, I get a weekly farm share. Massachusetts has a relatively short growing season – California, we ain’t – and therefore my farm share is limited to what grows here, which apparently is lots of kale. It’s exceptionally hardy, as anyone knows who has ever tried to chew it. Kale is not for the weak-jawed.
Every Thursday afternoon I gather my reusable bags, slip on my Birkenstocks, and drive my Subaru over to my CSA pick-up location. My car stands out as the one that’s NOT a Prius, and also because I don’t have a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker or a magnetic paw that asks the rhetorical “Who Rescued Whom?” If anyone suspected I don’t love kale, I’d probably be chased away by an angry mob tossing kohlrabi at my head. If you aren’t sure what kohlrabi is, you definitely don’t have a farm share.
Despite the kale, I love my farm share. I go all in with the add-ons: bread and homemade granola from an artisan bakery, whatever fruit is in season, and eggs from what I have to assume are the most pampered chickens in America given what I pay for a half dozen. I love the lettuce, the fresh garlic and peppers, and the endless tomatoes from late July through early September. You might as well not celebrate summer if you aren’t eating sliced tomatoes with salt on a regular basis. Mine taste even better because I didn’t have to grow them myself (I’m about as good at gardening as I am at appreciating kale).
My first year in the program, I asked a fellow CSA member what she did with kale. “Kale chips are the best,” she swore. “Just toss them with olive oil and salt and bake them – they are just like potato chips!”
Here’s what I learned (spoiler alert if you’re preheating your oven right now to cook up a tasty batch): kale chips are to potato chips what a vegan tofu loaf is to filet mignon. Anyone who thinks one is an acceptable substitute for the other is either a dirty liar or an unfortunate misfit who probably never gets invited to potluck suppers. The kale chips did not get an encore in my kitchen.
So I tried pureeing my kale in a savory potato cheese soup, but even my trusty hand blender couldn’t break down the stringy fibers, which were kind of a buzz-kill to the velvety mouth-feel of potato cheese soup. I also tried ripping my kale into tiny pieces and added it to a stir-fry, which seemed fine but only confirmed that kale is not spinach. It would not yield to heat or sauce; it continued to vex me with its impenetrable strength.
Finally I tried to replicate a fairly palatable kale salad I’d had in a local restaurant, and that was OK until I paid attention to how much olive oil and shaved parmesan were required to make the aforementioned salad taste good. In the end, the salad was decent, but it probably had more calories than a Big Mac Super-sized Value Meal. Foiled again.
So here I am, cooking up my other farm share delights like garlic scapes and cabbage and spinach. I’m toasting the rustic farm bread and topping it with a very precious golden egg, adding a sprinkling of fresh herbs over the creamy yolk. My kale sits forlornly aside, but it will not go to waste.
For I have found a lovely solution to my “too much kale” problem. I have recently become acquainted with a delightful young guinea pig named Petunia. Apparently, she and others of her ilk do not believe one can ever have too much kale. I look forward to a symbiotic summer with Miss Petunia, and am grateful to her for helping me out with my little problem.
Now if only I can find an animal that likes kohlrabi.