Kale: The Most “Used to Be” Loved Green Veggie of All!

– shared from Veraveg.org


Go to any salad bar or fast sandwich place and chances are, if you’re going to see something green and leafy, it’s likely going to be iceberg lettuce.  Now, there’s nothing wrrrrong with iceberg lettuce, but if your goal is to add more greens and nutrition to your diet, you’re just not getting much vitamin or mineral bang for your buck.

In fact, if you’re at that same salad bar, chances are, you’d be better off eating the fresh leafy garnish that the bowl of iceberg lettuce is sitting on because it’s likely kale!

This dark leafy green comes in a variety of types, but they’re all packed with power and, comparatively, make iceberg lettuce seem about as  worthwhile as munching cardboard.  If you’re curious, just click the links to compare the nutritional value of 1 cup of iceberg lettuce compared to 1 cup of kale. Scroll through and compare the vitamins and minerals for each of these leafy greens!  You’ll see that kale is by far the winner.  You can also see how much more kale will do for you to reduce inflammation in your body.  It’s a fabulous leafy green to help with detoxification! (Speaking of which, keep reading and find out how you could win a free detox program!!)

Yet, everywhere you look, it’s good old iceberg lettuce that people eat and recognize most often.  But did you know that kale, yes kale, used to be the green champion and choice of vegetables throughout Europe?

So… what happened??? 

dino kaleKale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. In much of Europe it was the most widely eaten green vegetable until the Middle Ages when cabbages became more popular. Historically it has been particularly important in colder regions due to its resistance to frost. In nineteenth century Scotland kail was used as a generic term for ‘dinner’ and all kitchens featured a kail-pot for cooking.

Our common cabbage-like vegetables provide an excellent example of remarkable crop improvements that was accomplished by simple long-term selection with no real goal in mind, but simply by people growing those plants that had the features that they most desired.

cruciferous vegetablesAlthough they appear very different, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all the same species of plant. These plants are all known botanically as members of the species Brassica oleracea. The only difference between these plants are the differences that were introduced over thousands of years of human cultivation and selective propagating.

In the wild, the Brassica oleracea plant is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, and is somewhat similar in appearance to a leafy canola plant. Sometime, soon after the domestication of plants began, people in the Mediterranean region began growing this first ancient “cabbage” plant as a leafy vegetable. Because leaves were the part of the plant which were consumed, it was natural that those plants with the largest leaves would be selectively propagated for next year’s crop. This resulted in large and larger-leafed plants slowly being developed as the seed from the largest-leafed plants was favoured.

leafy kaleBy the 5th century B.C., continued preference for ever-larger leaves had led to the development of the vegetable we now know as kale. Kale is known botanically by the name Brassica oleracea variety acephala which translates to mean “cabbage of the vegetable garden without a head.”

Kale continued to be grown as a leafy vegetable for thousands of years, and is still grown today. As time passed, however, some people began to express a preference for those plants with a tight cluster of tender young leaves in the centre of the plant at the top of the stem.

Because of this preference for plants in which there were a large number of tender leaves closely packed into the terminal bud at the top of the stem, these plants were selected and propagated more frequently. A continued favouritism of these plants for hundreds of successive generations resulted in the gradual formation of a more and more dense cluster of leaves at the top of the plant. Eventually, the cluster of leaves became so large, it tended to dominate the whole plant, and the cabbage “head” we know today was born.

Kale was grown as a staple crop in the the Scottish Islands due to its extreme hardiness, and was given protection from the elements in purpose built “Kale Yards”. Indeed, almost every house had a kale yard and preserved kale in barrels of salt, similar to sourkraut in Germany. They also fed it to livestock through the winter. Kale continued to be extremely important until potatoes came to the Islands towards the end of the 18th century.

kale yard

Scorr Kale yard on the Isle of Skye remains in remarkably good condition with walls over 4 feet high, and with all doorways and gateways well defined but is a sad reminder of the depopulation of Skye in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Early in the twentieth century, Kailyard (kale field) was a disparaging term used to describe a school of Scottish writers, including Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, whose writing featured sentimental nostalgia for rural Scottish life.


Many thanks to the Vectis Road Allotments Association, affectionately known as VERA to its members, for sharing their cultivated history of veggies!  We look forward to sharing more education with you from them about the leaves we love!

Situated in the heart of historic East Cowes, the VERA allotments offer fun, friendship, peace, tranquility and, if you’re prepared to make the effort, the opportunity to grow and eat your own, fantastic veg.


Enjoy green smoothie recipes with the power-packing nutrition and detoxifying benefit of kale when you take part in the 21-Day Green Smoothie Detox!

Find out how you could take the program for free below!

The 21-Day Green Smoothie Detox - Spring Back to Life!



Let’s talk green!  From now until the start of our spring 21-Day Green Smoothie Detox, you can win a chance to join our LIVE, Full-Support program featuring Victoria Boutenko, just by contributing your thoughts to one of our “Green Buzz” suggestions on the blog. (Be sure to include a valid name and e-mail address with your blog comment so that we can contact you). We’ll select a winner who shares a thoughtful comment on any new GSQ blog post between Feb. 28th and March 19th, 2011.  All comments will be approved before appearing.  (Attention Facebook/Twitter readers: Comments must be made on the GSQ blog site to be entered in the draw!)


  • Tell us your idea for making kale more popular  than iceberg lettuce!
  • What’s your favourite way to eat kale?
  • Tell us why you love cruciferous vegetables!


  1. Kim says

    I love my green smoothies, however I am addicted to making Cheesy Kale Chips, in my dehydrator. It is so easy and better than buying from a store not knowing how old they are! Yummy!!!!!! One Batch is gone within hours…. :(


  2. Casi Leigh says

    I love the idea of illustrating to people just how accessible of a “superfood” kale is! I mean, just look at that nutritional profile. Plus, it is super easy to grow, readily available in tons of markets around the world, and unbelievably tasty in so many different ways. It is so versatile: in one week, I make healthy kale chips to snack on instead of oily processed packaged things, saute it with white beans and garlic to make a delicious dinner entree, and stuff my blender full of it to turn my smoothies my favorite color, GREEN!


  3. says

    I have gardened in the past and have grown kale but was limited to just putting them in salads. I grew up with the typical meat and potatoes with veg on the side meals. I am learning so much more of what to do with the greens and am excited as I implement more into my family’s diet and educate my kids. They are learning a lot. Thanks!


  4. Sierra says

    I love kale! Personally, I prefer to eat the curly kale raw, but the best way to make it popular is definitely kale chips. I make kale chips with a bit of nutritional yeast and everyone loves them!


  5. Keri B says

    My favorite way to eat kale is in a big smoothie with lots of banana and mango! makes it nice and deep deep green so that all my coworkers question what the heck am I drinking?!?!


  6. says

    My favorite way to eat Kale is by massaging it with himalayan sea salt and extra virgin olive oil and then adding avocados and some cherry tomatoes and some freshly squeezed lemon juice . Simply the best


  7. LORI says

    my favorite way to eat kale is in my morning smoothies. 1 banana, some berries, coconut, 1cup water, and heaping handful of kale, and blend away in the vitamix.


  8. says

    To make kale more popular make everybody massaged kale avocado salads. That’s my fav way to have it never met someone who doesn’t like it! Yummy. Kale.

    Thank you for s chance to detox and change my life!!


  9. Jessica Calderwood says

    I use Kale in smoothies with spinach, berries, bananas and stevia to sweeten it. My kids don’t even know they are drinking something super good for them!


  10. Melissa Haddon says

    I have just discovered kale and it is becoming my new favorite. So far I have used it in soup (I know not RAW!), my smoothies, and eating it as is. I’m not sure on how to make it more popular other than possibly requesting it in more local places to get the word out :)


  11. Vanessa says

    I use Kale in green juices, along with cucumbers and celery. I also love to saute up some garlic, onion and kale and eat it over some brown rice or stir it into some brown quiona. I had a really simple kale salad with pomegranate at a potluck a few weeks back. And I especially love me some kale chips with “cheesy” nutritional yeast. Yum!


  12. Tia says

    I’m so excited that I’ve rediscovered kale this year! I tried it for the first time in 2009 while doing the Green Smoothie Challenge. I was not impressed. I don’t know if I bought a bad batch or if my taste buds just needed time to adjust. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad I tried it again in January because I do love it! My current favorite way to eat it is with pico de gallo on top. It’s my “taco”! Yum!


  13. says

    Here’s why I love cruciferous veggies: profound and proven prevention of breast cancer: See British Journal of Nutrition 2009; support for reproduction health; See myriad studies in Indol Carbonate 3; anti-esteriol properties right where you need them for men’s health; and when you roast them, you cry while you eat – they are that sensuous. For brain oxidation, skin clarity and eye precision, cruciferous! Hippocrates built his famous hospital near a stream in order to grow the most tender of the crucifers: watercress. Feed the animal body first, and the sensual body blooms!


  14. Kim Smith says

    To be honest, I’ve never tried Kale. However, this article was so interesting and seeing how healthy kale is, I can’t wait until the next time I go to the market so I can get some and try a green smoothie with it. I absolutely LOVE broccoli and cauliflower! They are so yummy! I love cabbage too, but have only had it cooked so I would like to try some raw cabbage recipes, like a good wholesome raw coleslaw.


  15. tanya says

    I do my best to put greens in my kids and my food whenever i can. I cut it up really small and mix it with salads or in homemade juice. Kids are picky and greens are not most kids fav! so being sneaky is the way to go! lol. I have also steamed it and melted cheese on it and they liked that:)Its very important for my kids to have greens as both cant handle dairy..nor can i so greens are the way to go for calcium. I think more food chains need to start making healthier salads and soups to get more people used to eating healthy greens like kale. I make a point to tell everyone about kale as im hoping to make it one day become the new iceburg! hehe. Cruciferous veggies can cause gas so start small and work your way up to more as the weeks go by. Beano really helps when starting out:)


  16. DeAndra says

    One way to get more people to like Kale is to start them on it when they are young. Last week my 4th grade son had to give a speech to his class. He chose to talk about Green Smoothies! He showed the class pictures of a green smoothie and they all wanted to try one. (Next time he’ll have to take samples.) He told them how the GS helps him run faster in soccer and helps him grow bigger. He told them his favorite GS had kale, oranges, and cinnamon in it. Here’s that recipe: water, kale, swiss chard, baby spinach, 2 naval oranges, 4 large chunks of fresh pineapple, 2 frozen bananas, frozen mango, medjool dates, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash of vanilla, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Blend in a large Vitamix container and add more water as needed. So yummy! We love green smoothies at our house and now my son’s classmates know something about them as well!


  17. Christie says

    I have enjoyed cooked kale with garlic, tomato and maybe some tempeh served over quinoa for years. Then recently I have discovered green smoothies and now I enjoy kale in my morning green smoothie with some fruit added in for sweetness. What a treat to consume something so vibrant with life giving properties. Hey, I have never made kale chips. They sound tasty.


  18. Merilyn Parker Armitage says

    Thanks for helping me find and appreciate kale on the 21 day detox in January. As a resident of the UK it is plentiful in January and February and because its grown locally has low airmiles. (Most other greens are shipped in from Southern Europe and Kenya in our winter). What’s more I really enjoyed it in the smoothies. I loved the post about the history of kale so thanks to VERA and couldn’t believe how huge the leaves grow in our climate in the West of England. Brilliant.


  19. Frances says

    I love making a green smoothie everyday with Kale,spinach and a handful of fruit, DE-lish!..Ive also made a portuguese kale and potatoe soup. I have cut it up small and have added it to my salad of mixed greens.


  20. Holly says

    Homemade kale chips have become my new favorite winter treat! I grew up in a gardening family. We were considered poor because meat was the side dish, veggies grown from our own garden the main. Funny how things change and how healthy my ‘poor’ family REALLY was!


  21. christie says

    I have not tried the Kale chips…..I need to put that on my to do list for the week.
    I put Kale in our smoothies……It is amazing to know my son is drinking something that is doing great things for his body. :)


  22. Amanda Jane says

    I LOVE Kale. I usually put it in my smoothies with some oranges, strawberries, and spinach. Super good in the morning and it gives me a huge burst of energy that lasts all day (or so it seems!). I also like juicing it to add to other fruit & veggies juices. SO good!

    My daughter actually prefers kale over any other greens. She loves when I make juices and smoothies for her. 😀


  23. Naraleska says

    This info has been so helpful for me ot understand why I cannot actually find kale in the place where I live!!!. I am living in the south of Germany and I have heard that kale is loved on the north but not as much on the south. I have searched and searched market after market for kale and have not been able to find ANY. I can only find cabbage but now I know why!!! Awesome info! thanks


  24. Lynne says

    No problem finding kale where I live and so am able to have it quite frequently, in smoothies and “chips”. I’m going to try growing it in my garden this year. Wish me luck!


  25. Tanya Burgoyne says

    Great article!! I have just recently learned to like kale. I have to admit that it took me a while to get up my nerve to use it in a smoothie, but once I did, I was hooked. I think the taste is less strong than some of the other greens I have used. I also noticed that I feel better when I use kale. Now I know why. Thanks for sharing.


  26. Karen Graham says

    I like to use kale in my smoothies every morning along with kefir and fruit with some dates to contrast the tartness of the kefir.


  27. Kim G says

    I love being able to hide the nutrition of kale behind berries, bananas, mangos and pineapple in a smoothie. Sometimes I even juice my greens to use in a smoothie, I know it’s better to get the fiber but at times I want a less thick texture, this works well for me. I love your website and all the great articles and ideas, it’s really helped me a lot!


  28. Eileen says

    Hi! I love combining kale, wheatgrass, bananas, and strawberries in my green smoothies. I am also very passionately “addicted” to making kale chips in my Excalibur! YUM! Also, I hope to win the 21-day detox and/or that super Blend-tec!
    Thanks for all your wonderful articles and recipes :)


  29. Susanne says

    kale…I was so worried kale was going to be so hard to get down I started with lots of berries in the mix. Now I’ll make smoothies with just kale and a few other greens…yum!



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