Kale had its moment in the spotlight in the early 2010s. All of a sudden it’s everywhere: chips, salads, and slaw. Though it may seem like a recent trend, there are places where kale has been a staple food for centuries.

Kale — Part of the Scottish Diet for Centuries

In Scotland, the traditional diet is so rich with kale that the word ‘kale’ (also spelled ‘kail’) is the same as the word for ‘food.’ There is a common saying that when someone isn’t feeling well enough to eat that person is “off one’s kale.”

Maybe the Scots just love their nutrient-dense leafy greens, or maybe they eat so much kale out of necessity. It is very hearty and able to stand up to the Highland winters. It can survive snow, ice and temperatures as low as 10 degrees below zero. In fact, a heavy frost actually enhances its flavor. Why? It encourages the plant to transform starches in its leaves to sugars. It is easy to grow in cooler climates. At the same time, it is nutritious and versatile, making it the go-to vegetable of the Scottish diet. In fact, the common term for a small kitchen garden containing vegetables is referred to as the “kailyard.”

How to Cook Kale

Traditionally, kale is prepared by boiling it with a bone, such as a beef or lamb bone, for added flavor. Then, you mash it until smooth with cream and butter.

The Scottish have a play on Ireland’s Colcannon (mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage). It a nourishing side dish called Rumbledthumps. It combines mashed potatoes and turnips with cooked and finely sliced kale. Combine the ingredients in a baking dish, cover with a sprinkling of cheese, and bake in the oven until golden brown. Kale is also a standard addition to soups and stews, where it is accompanied by other vegetables and meat in a rich broth.

This Month’s Featured Recipe

This month’s featured recipe is simple and allows the kale’s flavor to come through. Just a quick sauté with garlic, kale, and summer squash, some thyme, salt, and pepper and you have a side dish that can be served with anything. Spread over a cheese pizza (fresh or frozen) before baking to ramp up the nutrition. Or, mix it in with whole grain pasta and top with a little parmesan cheese for a super easy dinner.

Yellow Squash With Kale

  • 3/4lbkale, stemmed, washed and chopped, slightly damp
  • 1Tbspolive oil
  • 1lbyellow summer squash, sliced
  • 2cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1tspfresh thyme leaves OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2cupwater or vegetable stock
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add squash and cook, for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly brown and translucent.
  2. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds then add kale and continue to cook and stir for about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add salt, thyme and 1/4 cup of water or stock and continue to cook and stir another 5 minutes until squash and greens are tender. Add more water or stock if the mixture seems dry or sticks to pan.
  4. Season to taste and serve.
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For more on kale including recipes, book recommendations, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website.

Get more recipes from the UVM Medical Center. View our Recipe Collection by clicking here. 

Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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