A narrow escape from the compost heap

When I started my "Leaf to Root" campaign looking for tips and creative ways of using parts of vegetables that are often shunned, one of the first recipes I received was one using the leaf veins of kale. Most people just use the leaves of kale, putting them in smoothies, sautéing them and adding them to salads, or oven-baking them to make crispy kale chips.

Martin Real, a top chef from Liechtenstein, bucks this trend, however, using the leaf veins and stem as well as the leaves and saving them from the compost bin. He chops them very finely, cooks them in salted water and dresses them with cream, pear juice concentrate, salt and pepper – a recipe I love to recommend. Quick tip: leaf veins and stems will stay fresh for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Kale stalks: Hard on the outside, tender on the inside

For slightly more experimental cooks this plant offers even more. The insides of the stalks, for example, are super tender, although you do have to peel off a lot of the outside and some stalks are tough enough to defeat even the sharpest knife. So tough, in fact, that the dried stalks were once used as walking sticks, as Zurich chef and guerilla gardener Maurice Maggi told us. On the Channel Islands there is even a variety of kale known as "walking stick cabbage".

The insides of the stalks are super tender.

Esther

And talking of olden times: in the days before fresh green vegetables were available all year round, kale was one of the first plants to provide new greens. When I first read about these "Kohlbrockerln" in an old Swiss cookbook, I had no idea what they were, then after a lot of research I found out that they are the tender little kale sprouts that grow on the stalks if they are left in the ground after the first harvest. I persuaded organic farmer Stefan Brunner from Spins near Aarberg to do that for me and was able to see this little miracle of biology for myself.

A close relative: the flower sprout

A worthwhile culinary experiment: the fascinating tiny kale sprouts that grow on the stalks in spring where the leaves grew before have a subtle, fresh taste that is unequivocally kale. Stefan Brunner now sells these sprouts to the gastronomy trade and interested amateur chefs.

Incidentally the flower sprout, a hybrid vegetable created by crossing kale with Brussels sprouts, is grown in a similar way to kale sprouts and looks very similar. So these new flower sprouts which are becoming increasingly popular on our shelves are like a modern-day version of the kale sprout.

In both appearance and taste, flower sprouts are perfect with delicious pasta.
In both appearance and taste, flower sprouts are perfect with delicious pasta.

In cooperation with:

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Esther – Leaf to Root
Esther – Leaf to Root
The food journalist loves to experiment with all parts of the vegetable.

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