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Woodworking: A salute to mighty kale

My wife returned from Minneapolis with a gift from her friend Sharon Eddleston, a master

gardener who works at a garden center.

"Look, look," she exclaimed, "at all the transplants Sharon gave me, overruns from the

garden where she works!"

"Um," said I. "Is that one a KALE plant?"

"Yes, isn't it wonderfully green and healthy?"

Thanks loads, Sharon. To say that kale is my least favorite veggie would be the understatement of our young century. With one exception I detest the curly monument to bitter flavor and barbed-wire texture.

So, as Ruth toiled in the garden I dozed on my duff and dreamed of gagging on the latest fad among yupfoodies, who are raving about something called "Kale chips." Yes, that's right, a healthy alternative to Lay's potato chips, in which kale leaves are baked in an oven until crisp and even more inedible than their original form.

One morning later, Ruth came in from the garden, after our neighbor Howie Nelson told her he'd seen rabbits in our garden. "Oh woe is me," exclaimed my bride. "Some darned rabbit chewed up my Kale transplant."

I tried to conceal my glee and said, "Oh, ah, too bad."

"And that's not the worst of it," she continued. "After the bunnie chewed it up, SHE SPIT


And folks say that yuppies are smarter than bunnies. Go figure.

Years ago, we had no idea that Kale was a vegetable, usually figuring it was a reference to the famous driver Kale Yarborough. So when seeds became readily available, we planted a row, only to find it exploding in the garden. Cooked? It was hopeless, and raw it was unchewable. I mentioned it to Jerry Benda, owner of The Little Wagon, where I dined frequently. Jerry opined that he might be able to use it as a garnish for plates coming out of the kitchen. So I brought him a 40 quart garbage bag full of raw Kale in August. In December, I asked Jerry if he needed more because it was growing through a snow cover.

"Nah," said Dan. "We still have half a bagful left. It hasn't changed in texture or appearance since you brought it in August, still greenandunwiltable."

So, we concluded, kale has to be useful for something. Perhaps butcher shops can remove the plastic fernlike stuff they place between rows of chops and use Kale, as sort of nod to healthy nutrition.

Conclusion: Don't spit it out or throw it away like our Walnut Street bunnie. You can also ingest it if you ever go to Portugal. In that exotic place, you get a bowl of "caldo verde" as an appetizer whether you order it or not. "Caldo verde" means "Hot green" because its main ingredient is Kale, which grows in abundance everywhere (wouldn't you know?). It's rather tasty and it freezes well for the cold months ahead. Here's how to make it.

Chop finely a pound or so of kale.

Chop finely a pound or so of waxy (red) peeled potatoes

Chop finely a pound or so of yellow onions

Slice thinly 1⁄4 pound or so of your favorite smoked sausage Polish, Pepperoni or Mexican


Boil several quarts of chicken broth made with "Better Than Boullion" paste.

When broth comes to a boil, add first four ingredients and cook until all is tender.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowl with crusty bread. Sprinkle with Louisiana hot sauce or a dollop of sour cream if you so desire.

Hail, kale, we who are about to dine, salute you.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715 426-9554.