Foraging for kale at Nathan Deal's house


As I drove up to the security checkpoint at the Governor’s Mansion in swanky Buckhead, I mentally prepared myself to be turned away. After all, I had a rather odd request: to pick some kale from the plants flanking Gov. Nathan Deal’s front gates.

I pleaded my case to grounds supervisor Joey Duffy, who told me that, no, I couldn’t take any kale that was currently growing, as it was being used as ornamentation. However, they were pulling the greens up in a few days, and, after that, I could take as many whole plants as I liked.

The following Tuesday, I again drove up to the gates of the Governor’s Mansion. “The girl is here for the kale,” radioed the security guard, ushering me through. I was directed to a massive, neatly piled mound of greens, about 3 feet high and 5 feet square. I set to sorting through the heap, selecting the least wilted specimens of red Russian, lacinato and curly kale. When my trunk refused to fit another leaf, I drove away — though the pile I left behind seemed barely diminished.

At a loss with how to use more than 20 pounds of kale, I called Concrete Jungle, an urban foraging collective based in Atlanta. After learning my location, they pointed me toward Mercy Community Church, which offers open meals four days a week. I washed, dried and bundled the kale into manageable portions and drove them to the church, leaving the greens with Chad Hyatt, co-pastor and founder of Mercy, who seemed truly excited to see my bags of brassicas.