It seems that every day we read benefits about the new fashionable superfood, but while some flee fleetingly there are others who succeed by unleashing madness. Quinoa and chia are good examples, but among vegetables, kale is the star. And as with all fashions, it doesn’t take long for the backlash who makes fun of them. Kale? But isn’t that the cabbage of a lifetime? It’s more cool use the English word because it has become fashionable in the United States?
The short answer is simple: no, kale is not the old cabbage, It is not the Galician cabbage or the kale that our grandmothers cooked. The problem is that the names ‘cabbage’ and ‘cabbage’ are too generic or common, and we use them interchangeably to refer to a type of vegetable of which there are many varieties throughout the world. Distinguishing between them is not easy and the agricultural industry continues to complicate the matter.
VEGETABLE TIAN, the best way to eat vegetables in an original way
The fascinating world of brassicas
What we understand as cabbages belong to the genus of plants called Brassicas, what includes many plant species both wild and hybrids, weeds and crops for consumption or forage. The cabbages or cabbages that we use in the kitchen derive from the Brassica oleracea or wild cabbage, as well as many other plants fundamental today in the human diet. For example, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi are also Brassicas oleraceas, and are included in the cruciferous family.
The first wild cabbages originate from Europe, probably from the Mediterranean coastal areas, and it is known that the Egyptians already cultivated them for their consumption. After the Roman Empire the cultivation of cabbages would spread throughout Europe throughout the Middle Ages to finally reach the New World through colonizations. It was, of course, a food of peasants and humble people, little included in the diet of the highest classes.
Nowadays it is very difficult to find the original “cabbage”. These plants grow almost like weeds and are very easy to cross, they have even evolved, emerging many subspecies all over the world. With the specialization of agriculture the companies have worked in create hybrids and varieties tailored to your needsIn such a way that the cabbage seed market is today a complex universe.
For practical reasons, they are classified from an agricultural point of view and companies offer their varieties under very fanciful names. There is practically no uniformity and that makes it difficult to keep track of each type of cabbage.. Just check the catalog of some of the big seed companies to discover dozens of different varieties of cabbages, even if they are very similar. Each producer may be interested in different characteristics, either aesthetics for their sale, or adaptability to certain soils or climates, or resistance to pests and diseases.
Kale, cabbage, cabbage, or collard greens?
It is enough to compare the photos of the famous person on duty teaching his kale recipes with those of the traditional Galician collard greens to verify that they are not the same. Galician cabbage is specifically a Brassica oleracea of the group accept it -curly- or viridis -forage-. The scientific name of the famous kale cabbage is Brassica oleracea sabellica, and they also have a different flavor and texture.
I did not know the word cabbage until I became interested in the gastronomic world; for me, in Murcia they were cabbages and that’s it. It is true that in my family we did not consume them much, but I do remember seeing those huge green balls with black leaves in the market stalls. There were smooth ones, of a light color, and others more curly and darker.They were simply cabbage and kale. The first is the typical one that is used for raw salads or to make fermented ones, while kale I would swear it was more popular to finish in stews and stews.
I did not know about the long-leaved cabbages until later, and each region has its native species that are attached to their history and typical recipe book. But cabbage does play a much more important role in the culture of Galicia, whose more traditional and long-despised vegetables have been shown to have great nutritional properties. In fact, the Misión Biológica de Galicia has opened the Genetics, improvement and biochemistry of brassicas research group that has been studying the genus in depth for years.
Why is kale hot and collard greens not?
It’s the million dollar question: How does a food become fashionable today? The media phenomenon is increasingly difficult to identify because currently fashions arise, spread and disappear at lightning speed, but it is not something so new. It already happened in his day with the famous Popeye spinach, which yes, they are very healthy, but they do not respond to all the virtues that they tried to sell us using the popular character as a claim.
In fact, kale has been on the crest of the wave for several years, despite the fact that in Spain we are still getting used to trying it. It was in 2011 when Gwyneth Paltrow made kale chips on the Ellen DeGeneres show, and since then we have seen countless famous people sign up for the healthy virtues of this vegetable. The emergence of social networks, and the fashion of healthy life and fit, green juices and smoothies and detox diets ended up making it a trend, a fad that has reached almost everyone. Various voices and campaigns encouraging kale consumption in the United States helped spread its popularity.
Why kale yes and cabbages no? Is it really the nutritional panacea? Of course it is very healthy, it has many properties and its consumption is full of benefits, but it is not a miracle food nor should we just indulge in kale all the time. All crucifers are true superfoods, low in calories, filling, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Kale appears to be a powerful antioxidant, but so is collard greens.
Sure, the cabbage of a lifetime does not have the glamor of a vegetable that is fashionable in Hollywood or that fills the colorful recipes of magazines. The name also sounds modern and exotic, even its pretty curly leaf can seem much more appealing to the naked eye – although there are also different varieties of kale, with less elegant leaves. But these are psychological factors that can make their consumption more attractive, when they have no real effect on health.
Interestingly, in the United States the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study in 2014 analyzing the nutritional density of vegetables and fruits and kale was ranked 15 from a list headed by watercress, bok choy and chard. Does that mean kale is actually not that healthy? Not at all, it is full of virtues, but do not go crazy with it.
Fortunately we have at our disposal a huge variety of plant foods with which to enrich our diet and lead a healthy diet. There are no miracle foods and it is absurd to go looking like fans for a vegetable that has become fashionable when we have many alternatives in our gastronomy equal or more valid, and probably much cheaper.
Yes I think it’s interesting how the kale madness It has opened our eyes to recover our cabbages, kale or cabbage. A very humble vegetable, considered for so long little more than forage or peasant food, but which has enormous healthy properties and is part of many traditional recipes that are worth claiming. One thing seems clear, betting on brassicas in our diet will always win.
Photos | iStock, Pixabay, Josuah, Carlos Citalan
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