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Taste Testing Kale

The Decatur Farm to School program offered students in all schools a taste of locally grown kale, and many liked the green stuff!

Getting kids to try something that looks slimy and green is a tall order.

But that's just what Decatur's Farm to School initiative did last week. In a system-wide effort, parent and student volunteers grew and harvested kale, cafeteria staff cooked it with olive oil and garlic, and every student was offered a taste.

Surprise! Many liked it. And asked for seconds, and thirds. As a followup, Decatur school cafeterias will offer full servings of kale starting Tuesday in school lunches.

Myriam Van Dorp of the Oakhurst Community Garden Project organized and led the district-wide kale taste test.

Students and parent volunteers planted red Russian kale in their school gardens and the Sugar Creek gardens. They harvested more than 60 pounds of kale, parent volunteers cleaned it in the Oakhurst Elementary kitchen, and cafeteria staff cooked and served it last Wednesday.

Before tasting the kale, all students were surveyed about whether they liked the green leafy vegetable or had ever tasted it. After the taste, students responded to a survey about whether they liked it.

Although the results aren’t yet official, at Decatur High at least, the kale was a hit. Young children attending the Frasier Center at the high school liked the cooked kale so much, they asked for seconds.  Many high school students asked for seconds and thirds, despite an initial reluctance to try the vegetable.

“This was grown in the garden, and it’s good for you, and guess what, it’s delicious, “ said Van Dorp.

Kale, a frilly leafy vegetable in the cabbage family, is known as a super food because it is packed with vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron.

“We had 12.5 pounds of kale left over after washing and prepping the amount we needed,” said Van Dorp. “ We donated it to on Columbia.  They were very appreciative!”

Teachers at elementary schools incorporated lessons about kale into their teaching plans. At the high school, exceptional students helped plant, tend and harvest the kale, and culinary arts students helped in the taste test.

Previously the and Decatur Farm to School had organized two school-wide tests for Oakhurst Elementary, in which students tasted kale and sweet potatoes they grew in their outdoor classrooms. 

Studies have shown that children involved in growing vegetables are more likely to eat them, Van Dorp said. The Farm to School project plans to follow up the success of the kale taste testing with future taste tests, and students are planting edamame for harvesting in late summer.

The year-long taste test project is designed to help teach students about growing vegetables from seeds, to increase student willingness to try new foods and to help students understand the connection between the food they grew and their choices in the cafeteria.

SEE MORE:

Decatur EDtv did a special report on the District-Wide Kale Taste Test.

KALE RECIPE

Decatur’s school  cafeterias used a version of this Bobby Flay recipe for kale for last week’s taste test.

 Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup water or veggie broth
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored. Add the water and kale and toss to combine. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Marla Blair May 24, 2011 at 03:14 PM
I love making kale chips - toss with a bit of olive oil and bake in the oven. They come out crispy and delicious. I'll have to try this recipe next. I am so impressed with how our kids are being introduced to healthy food - locally grown at that!
Catrina July 19, 2011 at 10:08 PM
I just "found" kale this past year. Not that it was lost or anything, but I'd always thought it'd be gross. I LOVE IT! I pretty much use the same Bobby Flay recipe but add some fresh-squeezed lemon juice at the end. Somehow the addition of the acid makes kale even more tasty! This whole fresh, local food initiative is really exciting. Decatur is to be commended for being open to the concept, as are those who have put in many hours to make it happen. Good work!

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