Community Kale, Garden in the Park, Fair Haven Heights, New Haven
This time of year my community garden is a forest of kale. The tomatoes are all gone as well as the corn, but there’s broccoli, an abundance peppers… and kale, kale, and more kale. Green curly, purple Russian and, my favorite, dinosaur or Lacinato kale.
Here’s one of my favorite ways of preparing:
Bunch of Kale
Minced Garlic (at least 3 cloves)
Earth Balance or other Vegan Butter
Ginger (I use powdered)
Ground Black Pepper
Nutritional Yeast (optional)
With kale, the trick is washing it so you won’t get gritty bitty surprises. I find it most effective to work with my hands. I also prefer to stem the leaves so I’m not gnawing on the bitter fiber. Leave them in if you prefer.
1. Stem and rip the leaves into bite-size pieces. Toss into a large bowl (I use a large tupperware bin) and fill with cold water. Swirl the leaves around and let stand a minute to allow the dirt to settle to the bottom. Scoop out greenery and put in a salad spinner. Repeat. Spin until the leaves are as dry as possible. Set aside.
2. Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet. Turn to medium-low heat. Toss in garlic and let simmer until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. (Reduce heat to low if it’s crackling. You don’t want garlic to burn.)
3. Add one or two tablespoons of ‘butter’ and let melt. Sprinkle in ginger (I use a lot, say, 5-7 shakes), add pepper (about 4 turns of the grinder), and just a spritz or two of Bragg’s. If you like, add one-half to one tablespoon or nutritional yeast and/or a handful of crushed walnuts (yum!). Stir and let sautee a minute or so until fragrant.
4. With clean hands, place a small amount of olive oil in one palm (dime-size) and rub your hands together, coating your palms and fingers. Massage the kale firmly for about half a minute until pliant and dark green. If you’d prefer less oil, just massage the damp leaves. This breaks down the fiber and reduces cooking time (so you get more nutritional benefits from the greens).
5. Toss a few handfuls of greens in the pan and gently stir and rub in the oil mixture, coating and heating the leaves (about one-two minutes). Tongs can be useful. Keep adding handfuls and turning and coating. The leaves should turn a glistening green. Serve immediately.
Makes two very generous portions served as the main dish perhaps with a side of rice & beans or mashed potatoes; or four side dishes.
There are few things more satisfying than working for a few hours at my community garden, then going home with a shopping bag stuffed with fresh-picked kale. I get a large portion of my weekly veggies and greens at the Garden in the Park in Fair Haven Heights, which is an urban farm and part of the New Haven Land Trust community garden program.
Community gardens are all over the country and usually concentrated in urban areas. New York City is full of them. You might be surprised to find a garden right around the corner where you can work a few hours in exchange for fresh, organic produce!
To find a community garden near you and learn how to get involved, visit the American Community Garden Association.