Kale is called “the new beef”, “the Queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse.” Its health benefits include low in calorie, high in fibre, high in iron, high in vitamin K-which protects against various cancers- and filled with powerful antioxidants (www.kalepremiere.com).
Although it is usually imported into TT, it is now being locally produced and commercially sold through New Age Agro Solutions run by Basdeo Rampersad, his wife Molly and daughter, Michelle. Rampersad’s fascination with kale began while looking for a health solution for his ailing mother-in-law. He began surfing the Internet and came upon the health benefits of kale, after which, he began producing in small amounts. After marked improvements in his mother-in-law’s health, Rampersad and his family began trying kale for themselves.
He said, “We felt so good after trying it. We began juicing it, using it in everything.”
Shaded in the warmth of Rio Claro, Old Railway Road, three and a half acres of kale now grows. The verdant, leafy vegetable grown in three varieties; Red Russian, Premiere and Curly. Each having its distinct health benefit. “We are a health-conscious family. I have been a farmer for over 20 years and my main crops were lettuce, pak choi, cabbage and I also grew plants to sell to farmers.
“But being health-conscious and after going through what I went through with my mother-in-law, I asked relatives to bring down the kale plant for me so I could try growing it.”
And so for two years, Rampersad experimented- after participating and successfully taking part in several courses offered by Agricultural Development Bank through the Farmer’s Outreach Programme- testing various soil types until he hit upon the one that resulted in the rich kale that he grows. He invested between $3,000 to $5,000 in the start-up of growing kale commercially.
The quality of his kale is so rich that he now supplies approximately 100 bundles of kale per week to two supermarkets, Food Basket supermarket in San Fernando and S and S Persad in Rio Claro. He is also in discussions with local baking company Kiss to incorporate kale into its production. He hopes to expand the places where he sells his kale.
But Rampersad’s ultimate dream for his kale would be to supply the School Feeding Programme with the superfood, so that the nation’s children can be properly and richly nourished.
“If the nation succeeds, health wise— everybody succeeds,” he said, quoting comments made by Health Minister Fuad Khan about the increase in the cases of chronic diseases.
“We can pur?e it and get it into the flour. And you knead it (kale) into a cup and a half of flour. Every muscle of the dough infused with the goodness of kale and the best thing is, the kids will taste nothing and won’t be able to pick it out,” he said with a large grin.
For Rampersad he takes pride in the fact that he is making nutritious food affordable.
Kale, he said, usually retails for approximately $25 to $30 but with it being locally produced, his kale would be able to retail at $18 per bunch and, “it would be fresh.”
Rampersad’s ultimate dream would be to grow five acres of kale. This, he said, “would be the shot in the arm that the fast food industry needs.
“If they get on board with this method it would aid in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility,” he added.
Rampersad’s love for kale has led to the development of several recipes which incorporates the use of kale as a key ingredient. Kale infused sada roti, pizza dough, dhal puri roti and bread ( recipes below) are just some of ways Rampersad and his family have expanded kale use.
The early 4 am trek to the kale farm, Rampersad said, is worth it. The family usually has a glass of kale before the day begins and, “we can go all day after that without eating anything else.”
Kale-infused Sada Roti
4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
? tsp vegetable oil
1? - 1? cups water
4-5 leaves of fresh kale (any variety)
Strip kale leaves off stem (save stems for soup etc). Blend kale leaves with water until smooth. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add kale mixture gradually into smooth dough. Knead well and place in greased bowl.
Rub oil lightly over dough. Rest for 10-15 minutes. Divide dough into 4 to 6 round balls and rest for 5-10 minutes. Roll each ball with rolling pin in a round shape until about ? inch thick. Place on hot tawa or griddle and turn over every 1 minute until lightly brown or swollen
3 cups all purpose flour
1 pack yeast
? margarine butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
? cup milk
1 tsp salt
4-5 leaves of fresh kale
? - 2 cups water (warm)
Strip kale leaves off stem (save stems for soup etc). Blend kale leaves in warm water until smooth. Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Add margarine and milk and whisk thoroughly while adding warm kale mixture. Knead. Cover bowl and rest for 30-45 minutes. When risen, knead again. Shape loaf and place in greased pan. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes. Place in preheated oven at 350°c for 25-30 minutes.
Here are some other recipes
Kale With Roasted Peppers and Olives
2 large bunches kale
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
12 olives, pitted and chopped
1 4-ounce jar roasted red peppers
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
Cut the kale into bite-size pieces, removing any tough stems. Rinse and shake dry.
Warm the oil and garlic in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Remove the garlic as soon as it browns (don’t let it burn). Add the kale and stir-fry 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Uncover and add the sugar, salt, olives, and peppers. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has evaporated.
Spoon into a serving dish; scatter the garlic over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8
Two-Bean Soup with Kale
3 tbspolive oil
1 cup chopped onion
? cup chopped carrot
? cup chopped celery
? tsp salt, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups organic vegetable broth, divided
7 cups stemmed, chopped kale (about 1 bunch).
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
? tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and saut? 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups vegetable broth and kale. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until kale is crisp-tender.
2. Place half of cannellini beans and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Add pureed bean mixture, remaining cannellini beans, black beans, and pepper to soup. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, vinegar, and rosemary.