It’s not every day I make a plea to get intimate with your greens.
I mean, who in their right mind massages their greens anyway?
When I first encountered the term ‘massaged kale’ I found it not only pretentious but kind of silly too. Had kale been elevated to such a precious status that it now required massaging? I couldn’t just eat the stuff, I needed to pet it too?
And was there any point to this ritual or was it merely to establish the depth of my reverence for this culinary darling?
Being the curious soul that I am, I wanted to investigate further. So I took a step back, depersonalized the whole thing and decided to give this otherwise innocent green a fair shot.
And yes, a couple years ago, I too started massaging my kale. And here’s what I discovered:
- Semantics: While the term ‘massage’ is irksome in that affected kind of way, the idea is not new. Our hands are almost always involved in some capacity in the kneading, mixing and combining of foods and food ingredients. After all, we rub our meats and veggie proteins before tossing them onto the grill and we use our hands to ensure the good and proper penetration of marinades and dressings. We also routinely engage in the hand-rolling and kneading of dough. We just don’t generally refer to any of these practices as massaging.
- Texture: In its raw form, kale is a tough and at times bitter green. Using your fingers to work a little olive oil into the leaves breaks down the fibrous cell walls and literally softens the green while mellowing its sharp taste, making it more palatable and considerably easier to digest for many (including kids who wear braces!). And neat too that you can achieve this effect without having to heat the plant or diminish its nutrient content.
- Taste: Beyond softening and reducing the bitterness factor, when you work a little oil and herbs into the kale leaves, the flavor penetrates each of the leaves allowing the entire salad to be well seasoned while avoiding the problem of over-saturated dripping dressing on impermeable leaves (yuck!) or a pool of dressing sitting at the bottom of the bowl and a bunch of tasteless bites.
- Beauty! Most curly kale (the most common variety) will be a moderate to light green colour when you purchase it. Perfectly handsome in its own right but when you massage the leaves, watch for the magic transformation. After just a minute of working the leaves, you will uncover the most gorgeous, lush, deep-coloured green imaginable. It’s like polishing silver ;-). You can compare my unmassaged kale below to the deeper more saturated leaves in the finished salad.
To summarize, if you can get past the massage thing, you may find it well worth the two minute practice of rubbing a little olive oil into your kale leaves. The taste, texture and appearance are incomparable in my view.
You may even find that the consumption of this powerhouse green becomes less about should and more about want, which is the only way to build sustainable eating habits.
Be sure to check out my Nutrition & Cooking Notes for more information and do let me know if you get close up and personal with your kale!