The Mysteries of Kale and Poppy Seeds
Last night was a good kitchen night for me. I made kale last night and it was delicious. The kind of delicious where when Mister Soandso said I could have the rest in the bowl, I barely contained my desire to lick the bowl and kiss his face. If someone not that many years ago would have told me I’d adore kale like it was something sinful and not healthy, well, I would have speed dialed the looney bin. So what changed? Surely not me, right?
Well, the mysteries of the thing changed.
Kale has always been one of those mysterious things for me. For a farm kid with a huge garden, I never ate kale as a kid. Why we never ate kale is beyond me. After all, my parents made us eat kohlrabi and that stuff is weird. Rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, and lots and lots of potatoes where supper staples. Carrots, beans, peas, asparagus, corn, beets, cabbage, radish, and every frilly kind of lettuce that the Burpee’s catalogue could photograph were sure to show up in my parents’ garden at some time or another. If it was “healthy” and grew in our zone, my parents grew it. But no kale or other type of “greens” either.
My first experience with greens were a combination of collard and mustard greens that my mother-in-law boiled up. My guess is there were coordinating black eyed peas with that meal, and I have to say, I was not a fan. I liked green well enough, just not boiled greens.
And then I learned that sautéed kale is actually yummy. Of course, it was at a fancy, schmancy restaurant in NW Portland so it was a culinary lesson with a hefty-ish price tag, but whatever. It’s yummy! So I started buying kale and fixing it for the Mister and I.
Which led to the most mysterious aspect of kale purchasing in my world.
I turn kale into refrigerator drawer kale soup better than a person should. This “wait just a titch too long” problem of mine has been going on for almost 5 years folks. Pretty sad, eh? You’d think I’d be able to follow a menu better than that, or notice the gigantic pile of green things in my fridge. But apparently it isn’t my skill. And I know I’m not alone in the dream of eating super healthy veggies but instead turning them to yuck.
I recently happened upon a new thing that I want to share with you.
If you buy the prewashed version, you can just set that unopened package of green nutritional joy right in the freezer. A few hours later, open that baby up and pour your kale (or spinach) chips into a zip-lock bag, squeeze the air out and voila! No more veggie bin soup and wasted veggie money again.
I did it originally out of the kind of desperation caused by needing to put a 6 quart Dutch oven in the fridge and the available space being taken up by a package of kale and a package of spinach. But now it’s just going to be my plan. Buy it, freeze it, use it by the handful in smoothies, scrambled eggs, dinner.
I suppose the only real mystery here is that it took me so long to figure out what most likely thousands already did. I’m dangerous when all the brain cells are operating, I promise.
After my tasty dinner of salmon, kale, and beets, I decided I would make gluten free lemon poppyseed muffins.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one mystery here: how to eat one of these little delights without getting a mouthful of black dots filling all the spaces between one’s teeth. I realize most folks are more interested in how many poppy seeds a person can consume and still pass a drug screen, but I don’t have much cause to worry about that. Seeds in my teeth? Totally different story.
I remember the first time I came across poppy seeds. I must have been about 4 and I was rummaging through a drawer. The house I lived in from age 3 until age 15 has been in the family for a long, long time. Its a big farmhouse in the middle of the sagebrush and coulees of eastern Washington. When we moved in, my grandparents mostly just moved over to a single-wide they parked across the gravel driveway. Aside from taking the furniture they wanted for their trailer, their dishes, food, and clothes, I don’t think they moved much else.
In the bathroom there was this one drawer and in the way back were dozens of pill bottles and vials, all stoppered and labeled in my grandmother’s spidery scrawl.
Life as a post-depression-era dry-land farmer is one of saving and frugality and planning. And if you are a Scottish-German transplant from Maine, I supposed a body might have felt a bit panicked over saving flower seeds if only to have something beautiful to grown in all that brown and gray. Or, perhaps my grandmother was an organizer hoarder of seeds. Its a wee mystery.
I mostly remember the vial of poppy seeds. Because I opened it to sniff those tiny black beads and then dropped it. And all over the floor those poppy seeds rolled, some never to be found again.
I quickly cleaned up my disaster and in the process realized that the tiny seeds were not all black. Indeed, the pile of seeds I swept up was all kinds of blacks and grays and tans.
I’ve always wondered if those seeds would have grown all the same shade of poppy plant, or even what kind of poppy they would have become. Would they have been the red poppies of O’Keefe fame or the yellow poppies that flourish along the roads here in the west?
That mystery will forever be unsolved. Unless, of course, you consider the field of poppies in my imagination answer enough.
ps. In case you’re interested, here’s what I did to make the best kale ever. Buy some baby kale. (I get it in the salad section at my Fred Meyer grocery store.) Take 2 slices of thick sliced bacon and mince. Add to a Dutch oven along with a healthy “S’” drizzle of olive oil and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Cook on medium high heat, stirring often. Meanwhile, slice 2 medium yellow onions into rings. When bacon is about half way crisped, add onions and a minced clove of garlic. Add some sea salt and cracked pepper. Cook until onions begin to caramelize. Add about a half a cup of water and the kale. Reduce head to medium low and cover. After ten minutes, stir and check for water. Lower temperature if needed and keep adding water until the kale is nicely sautéed. The whole process will take at least 30 minutes but I spent about 45 minutes.