I'm going to start this rant with a brief confession: I hate kale.
I still eat plenty of it, sure. But that has less to do with my own vegetable preferences and more to do with my inherent laziness; the people I spend my time with tend to order/make kale, and I am not picky when someone offers me free food. But kale is not something I would ever obtain on my own, and for good reason. It tastes like nothing, comes in unwieldy stalks, and needs to be massaged for hours by the hands of Jean-Claude Van Damme himself to come anywhere near the texture required to be considered an edible food. In summary: Kale is gross.
Luckily, food fads come and go in waves. Kale will, at some point, be relegated to the second or third tier of vegetables and pushed off the menus of chic restaurants. And that day may be coming sooner rather than later with the hype surrounding an unlikely vegetable.
Ladies and gentlemen: Kelp.
That's the word from Scientific American, who are calling kelp the new "super vegetable." For a product that conjures up images that are slimier than "Ghostbusters," the reasons behind their claim are surprisingly many.
The most important consideration is the health benefits that come with eating it. (This, frankly, is the only justifiable reason one can have for eating kale.) Kelp is a great source of trace minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese. One hundred grams of kelp contains 1.7 grams of protein, and it also has vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. It's rich in folic acid, and even has a few fatty acids like omega-3 to boot. Basically, when you're going through the checklist of things needed to consider something a "superfood," kelp checks them all off.
Secondly -- and this is where you environmentalists should pay attention -- growing kelp is an extraordinarily good way to help tackle a number of climate change concerns. Kelp grows so fast that they have a better ability to absorb CO2 than most other plants. Using parts of the ocean as kelp farms, then, would help absorb our fossil fuel emissions.
Which brings us to another pair of pluses: Kelp needs no land to grow on. All it needs is sea space, and we have plenty of that to go around. Along those same lines, kelp also needs no fresh water to grow, an important consideration especially during our current drought crisis.
All that's well and good. But, really, how does it taste? Is it as gross as it looks?
Not necessarily. Taste is certainly in the eye -- or taste buds, I suppose -- of the beholder. (There are people that actually think kale tastes good, after all.) But kelp is a worthwhile enough vegetable that it's starting to pop up in restaurant dishes.
If enough chefs end up giving it a shot and preparing it in a pleasing way for customers, soon enough you'll start seeing it on the shelves of health stores. And then, you'll start seeing it on the shelves of normal grocery stores. And then, it'll be as popular as kale. And then we can all stop pretending to like kale!
To hear the entire sales pitch on kelp, Greenwave put together a video:
In my estimation, however, the entire sales pitch for why you should eat kelp can be summed up in three simple words: It's not kale.
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