Get out your party hats people, it’s National Kale Day. And since this leafy green has an enormous and fanatical fan base, don’t be surprised if your neighbors get rowdy tonight.
Why are people so crazy about kale? Mostly, it seems, it’s because it promises such a long list of health benefits, including lowering our cholesterol, and protecting us from cancer, obesity, blindness and heart disease. In fact, kale is so cool its fans call it “the queen of superfoods” – a questionable category of celebrity foods that you might think, from the fervor they generate, would make us all immortal.
For the record, kale is indeed very good for you. It has lots of vitamins A, C, and K a bit of calcium, various minerals, lutein and fiber.
The fact that many other foods have the same nutrients has not prevented kale’s rise to fame, which has now lasted far longer than the traditional 15 minutes. Most food fads – sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, pomegranates, and blueberries come to mind – come and go, but the kale craze is starting to seem endless.
Kale is everywhere, and in everything. Kale juice and kale salads aren’t surprising. But kale muffins, pesto, casseroles, cupcakes and heaven help us, kale martinis, seem just a bit over the top. So do kale chips at $7 for 2.5 ounces.
In fact, the kale craze has become a semi-erotic obsession for some. The latest kale development is massaged kale – yes, really. There are two schools of thought about how to massage your kale; one calls for bare hands for direct skin-to-leaf contact, the other suggests an olive oil lubricant to make those curly leaves even softer and silkier. It’s not clear whether the massaged kale recipes came before or after the publication of the inevitable book “Fifty Shades of Kale.”
ABC News reports a 300 percent increase in kale cultivation, leading to speculation about whether we have reached “peak kale.” How long can the kale economy expand?
There are some encouraging signs that kale mania might subside soon. In 2008, 539 babies born in the U. S. were named Kale; in 2013, the number had dwindled to 262. (What’s next? Babies named Chard or Collard?)
We suppose that if you’re going to get carried away by something, kale is not a bad choice. It’s definitely better to be a fanatic about a vegetable than a political ideology or a religion.
But even kale has its dark side: according to Web MD, it inhibits calcium absorption, and so should not be eaten with dairy products or other high-calcium foods. And it should be avoided by people taking anticoagulants such as warfarin because its high level of vitamin K may interfere with the drug.
And really, though kale is a perfectly respectable vegetable, we’ve had enough of it. Fanaticism in any form is annoying. If this kale craze goes on any longer, kale will become the Paris Hilton of vegetables – famous only for being famous.
We keep hoping that people might someday acquire a sense of proportion about what we eat. It’s a very good idea to eat a variety of healthy, locally grown foods; it’s an insult to gin to drink a kale martini.