Mother Nature is a funny farmer.
On the surface, it's a bitter, coarse plant that gets stuck in your teeth. Ideally, this would not be something humans eat. But it turns out kale is packed with nutrients that make you hale and hearty. Accordingly, over the past decade, health nuts have zeroed in on kale — plucking it from its former position as Pizza Hut 's salad bar garnish of choice — and dumped it en masse into smoothies, salads, rice bowls and even crispy chips.
Nevertheless, for most of us, kale remains a fad food that, whether we like it or not, holds the high level of vitamins (more C than an orange), fiber, fatty acids and magnesium our diets somehow lack. And so we eat it, begrudgingly.
Which is why we're over the moon that a group scientists are on a mission to make kale suck less for us Americans. Because, hell, sometimes you’ve got to surrender to win.
As NPR reported, scientists at Cornell University have been doing focus groups with kale lovers and haters to zero in how to make the leafy green more delicious. Predictably, the stuff that makes kale so damn healthy is the very stuff that also makes it stiff and bitter.
To be less desirable to bugs and birds, it needs to be bitter. And all of those nutrients are what make it bitter. It’s also a winter vegetable, which means it grows better in the cold, so it needs to be stiff to withstand the freezing temps. In fact, it grows better when it’s freezing.
Given how long it would take to develop and grow a new strain, we’re looking at eight years until a new, more delicious kale is available.
This news sparked some discussion between us editors at InsideHook, and even challenged a long-held view your humble editor held that kale had to be cooked to be healthy. Some nutritionists believe that it can inhibit iodine uptake, which is bad for your thyroid and may lead to weight gain, kidney stones and inflammation. Also, kale contains raffinose, a sugar that’s difficult for our bodies to digest so much of the plant’s vim is flushed from our system before it’s absorbed.
“Not 100 percent true,” says nutritionist Derek Johnson of New Metabolism. “A healthy stomach is designed to break down raw vegetables as long as that person does not have a sensitivity or allergy to them. The benefits to press juicing kale are enormous, that also goes for adding to smoothies where you keep the fiber of the plant.”
Of course, nutrition, as a science, is barely 100 years old, so we’ll temper any of this with a grain of, er, salt.
Either way, eat your veggies.