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Reviving wilted kale. October 7, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I love kale. I love kale raw in salads and cooked, sauteed in olive oil with garlic and onions, steam-cooked in the drops of water from rinsing the leaves and splashed with balsamic vinegar just before serving, added to pasta dishes or soups, or tucked into phyllo pastry spanakopita-style. Yum!

Admittedly, I wasn’t always a kale fan. Where I grew up in the South, kale was unheard of. I was the best speller in my elementary school, able to spell “chandelier” by age six. I always looked forward to spelling bees. But when my Northern teacher gave me “kale” to spell at one bee (something I’m sure she thought was a no-brainer), I was totally stumped. After pondering this for some time and deciding that it must be a Celtic word (think ceilidh, pronounced “caylee”), I ventured “cail.” Fail! “Don’t you know what kale is?!” my horrified teacher asked. Well, no, as a matter of fact.

But now I do. And kale is the perfect fall/winter green, so I was crushed this past weekend to see a big bin marked “Kale” at a local Mennonite farm stand with just two wilted leaf remnants. Rats! Foiled again.

Then I saw a guy at the checkout stand with a giant armful of gorgeous kale. “Ah, so you’re the one who got all the kale!” I blurted out. “Well, there was a big bunch outside last time I looked,” he said. Outside? I was out the door before you could spell “kale,” and sure enough, there was a big bunch in an outside bin. A bunch with impressive curly leaves and long stems. A bunch that was still attached to its base, something I’d never before seen.

The problem was, it looked tired. It had clearly been harvested the same day that I visited the stand, but had been sitting in an open (though shaded) bin all day. But I had an idea for a way to revive those still-scrumptious-looking leaves, so seizing the bunch, I returned to the checkout stand. I thanked the guy, who was still there, and said I’d just need to revive the kale a bit. “Oh,” he said, “I just wrap the stems in damp paper towels and they stay fresh for days.”

This is, in fact, a great technique for herbs and stemmed greens like kale and chard that are already hydrated and plump. But my kale needed more than a damp paper towel or two to return to full, fresh life. Sort of the difference between a breather and CPR.

When I got my bunch of kale home, I reluctantly cut it off at the base and plunged the stems into a deep bowl of room-temperature water (I used the bowl from my rice cooker), just as you’d cut the bottoms off flower stems and then plunge them into a vase of water. I set the bowl in the sink and made sure all the kale stems were in the water and were propped up so they wouldn’t fall out of the bowl.

I knew my technique was working when our friend Ben, who had seen the initial bunch of kale, wandered into my office a couple of hours later and demanded to know what on earth I’d done to the kale. “Have you seen it?! It’s taking over the sink! It’s going to be coming for us at any moment!!!”

Heading to the kitchen, I saw what OFB meant. The formerly lackluster kale was now fully expanded, glossy, hydrated, happy. The transformation was incredible. And all it took was to create a cut-kale arrangement!

Now I’m ready to make all those salads and sautees and other scrumptious dishes. And I know my kale will be the best money can buy. Should you end up with a bunch of less-than-fresh kale, keep this technique in mind. And if your kale (or chard or whatever) looks great but you’re not going to use it for a day or two, wrapping the stem ends in damp paper towels is an excellent method to keep the leaves fresh and hydrated.

‘Til next time,




1. embiggenedsoul - September 2, 2014

I’m trying this right now! I’ll let you know how it goes…

Please do, and let us know how it works for you!

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