Kale – the champion vegetable of New England

large pot of kale soup

Photo by Dawn Beckman

Kale has been cultivated for food at since least as early as 2,000 B.C., where it originated in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. David Fairchild (1869-1954), a botanist and plant explorer, is credited with introducing kale into the U.S., along with approximately 200,000 other exotic plants and crops, including mangoes, dates, soybeans, quinoa, and flowering cherries (including the famous ones in Washington, D.C.). Others argue, however, that Russian kale was introduced to Canada and then the U.S. through Russian traders in the 19th century.

For most of the 20th century, kale was used in the U.S. primarily for decoration; not until the 1990s did it become popular as food. Its cold-hardiness has made it a particularly favorite in northern climes such as New England’s; it can survive temperatures as low as 5 degrees F and actually becomes sweeter after a frost. It is also very nutritious, being particularly high in Vitamins C, K, and manganese.

Below are two recipes that make use of this excellent vegetable.


Kale Soup (gluten-free, optionally vegan)

by Dawn Beckman

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1.5 hours

Serves 6-8



1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound chorizo sausage, thinly sliced – optional. You could use soy sausage instead, or/or add some canned kidney beans at the end for additional substance and protein

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes

2 carrots, sliced – optional

6 cups of kale, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped

4 cups stock – vegetable or chicken

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped



Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add the sausage and onion and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the garlic, potatoes and carrot and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the kale and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the stock, vinegar, salt and pepper and stir.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour.

Stir in tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.


Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar (vegan, gluten-free)

by Dawn Beckman

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 10-12 min

Serves 4



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound of kale, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice, if desired

1 teaspoon salt



Heat the oil in a large skillet.

Add kale; you may need to allow it to wilt down before adding more.

Stir in salt and garlic and cover the pan.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.

If there is excess water in the pan, uncover and let it cook off.

Add vinegar or lemon juice and serve.

For a simple pasta dish, serve kale with pasta, stirring in a little pasta water and olive oil to moisten. Top with grated Parmesan.

Reeve Gutsell is the Food, Farm, and Sustainability Program Coordinator at Hampshire College. She has a Master's degree in Resource Management and Conservation, as well as a long-term interest in the intersection of agriculture, environmental issues, social justice, and food systems. She enjoys the walking around the farm in all types of weather, and almost always finds something beautiful or interesting to explore.

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.