Kale is one of the healthiest foods in the vegetable kingdom, and yet receives little or no respect for the benefits it can provide.
Often used as a garnish due to its attractive appearance, it seldom gets centre stage.
Kale is a cold-weather crop but is available all year round. It is particularly flavourful and tender after a good frost.
Kale and other cabbage plants are thought to have originated in Asia Minor, and been brought to the eastern Mediterranean around 600BC.
The curly kale leaves were probably eaten by early hunter-gatherers and later cultivated by agrarian societies where they started to produce dense rosettes of leaves. There is dispute over how the cabbage family came to Ireland, but it is clearly one of our most loved traditional dishes.
I recently wrote a column on broccoli, another cruciferous vegetable, extolling it's virtues. Kale is also a cruciferous vegetable and other members include: cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, pak choy, collards and turnip.
This group of vegetables are so exciting due to their cancer prevention properties. Just one cup a day of any of these vegetables can cut your risk of certain cancers by almost 50pc.
A study of Chinese women in Singapore, a city in which high pollution levels put major stress on residents' lungs, found that in non-smokers, eating cruciferous vegetables lowered the risk of lung cancer by 30pc.
In smokers, regular cruciferous vegetable consumption reduced lung cancer risk by a whopping 69pc! This is not an excuse to carry on smoking and just eat more greens, it just proves the protective power of cruciferous vegetables. Kale is also an excellent source of calcium for bone density.
In a study from Washington University, kale and other cruciferous vegetables were found to have significant benefits for women in increasing bone density by supplying a good source of calcium and also helping the body to absorb calcium better.
In women, cruciferous vegetables were found to build bones, aid oestrogen metabolism, blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, enzyme activity and cell membrane function.
Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) and cataracts are the cause of nearly half the blindness in the world.
The Eye Disease Case Control Study, found that those who had five or more servings a week of leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach had a 43pc lower risk of developing ARMD and cataracts requiring surgery. One serving equals half a cup of cooked vegetable and the nutrients in kale are even better absorbed when eaten with other vegetables and fruit. Eating kale and other greens shouldn't be seen as a penance, otherwise it will never become a lifelong habit or a favourite food. Here are some tasty tips for you and your family.