EVEN if you're not a fan of actress and celebrity wife Gwyneth Paltrow, you can't, surely, have failed to notice that she has single-handedly made kale cool.
The ancient, hardy, old-fashioned deep green member of the cabbage family has featured on her impossibly popular blog, where recipes for kale chips and a kale-based detox smoothie are among the most frequently clicked. Further endorsement due to its health benefits (it's low in cals, high in fibre and packed with vits and mins) has ensued from the likes of celeb chefs Hugh and Jamie. As a result, sales leapt 40% tomore than 3000 tonnes, and its commercial value increased by almost 40% to £12.6 million last year.
Kale, which has been cultivated for over 2000 years in Europe, has long associations with Scotland - where it's better known as kail - due to its ability to withstand cool and frosty winter climes. It was grown on Highland crofts for human consumption in purpose-built yards and as cattle feed in the winter.
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Kail was once the generic term for dinner and virtually every self-respecting kitchen had a kail pot for cooking. Almost every household grew it, and it was often preserved in barrels of salt. It continued to be central to the national diet until potatoes usurped its place at the centre of the dining table. After that, it fell out of favour, perhaps because of its somewhat difficult flavour. I'd describe it as tasting as if it's full of iron - the kind of childhood food you had to force down because you were told it was good for you. Compared to cabbage, which is much easier to eat, kale can be tough and sour-tasting if not cooked well.
It was heavily promoted during the Second World War Dig for Victory campaign, not only for its nutritious value but also because of the fact that it can be grown virtually all year round, which made it a useful resource when food security was vital. Then again it disappeared.
Now it's everywhere, in a variety of guises from kale crisps at Pret a Manger and M&S, kale juice and kale lollies. Chefs are falling over themselves to devise the cleverest way of presenting it, from kale and warm bean salad to stir-fried kale with beef and cashews.
Pity I can't seem to see any Scottish-grown stuff in the shops. Since "noshtalgia" is so on-trend and enthusiasm for Scottish produce so keen, I hereby urge a consumer revolt and a speedy reinstatement of the old-fashioned kailyard. Side orders of kale-flavoured prose and poetry optional.