In season: kale

Garrett Stephenson of Furrowed Earth Farm grows a lot of kale. “Kale is a highly desired item at farmers markets and it’s one of those things that it’s easy to produce a lot of. You cut it and it comes back. It gets sweeter after a frost so the taste only gets better,” he said.

Stephenson farms on about an acre in Union City with another field in Peachtree City. He sells at the Grant Park Farmers Market during its season, and will be back at the Saturday morning Decatur Farmers Market in April.

He calls kale a “hip, urban green,” noting that it and arugula are greens that sell well at intown markets. “In the country, people love mustard greens but in town I might sell only one or two bags of mustard greens if I’m lucky. Kale really fills the gap.”

Kale is a pretty tough crop, a good candidate for winter growing in metro Atlanta. “I find that even unprotected, it’s hardy down to maybe 12 or 15 degrees. Siberian kale is even more cold hardy and some heirloom varieties are said to be hardy down to zero,” he said. A really cold spell might burn the larger leaves, but the plants will quickly sprout new growth.

Stephenson puts in a planting of kale in August and follows with succession plantings at two- or three-week intervals. Over the course of the year he puts in about six plantings. Fall-planted kale will produce up until summer, but Stephenson also starts a new crop in the spring.

He grows Red Russian, Siberian and occasionally Lacinato, or dinosaur, kale.

“Some people still think of kale as the curly green garnish at a buffet, but it’s definitely a lot more than that. And some people complain that they find it bitter. I think they haven’t figured out the right way to dress it,” Stephenson said.

Raw kale salads are frequently massaged with their dressing to help tenderize the leaves. Stephenson likes his kale salads massaged with lemon juice. He also cooks kale in a skillet with turnips and garlic, or makes chips from the Lacinato kale with sea salt.

“In warmer weather I find kale is well suited for smoothies. I make it in a blender with a big dollop of yogurt, some kind of milk, some berries, a banana, an avocado and a big bunch of kale. That’s how I keep moving in the spring and fall. I’m really busy so I drink my meal, and kale is my favorite of all the greens to use in smoothies,” he said.

Farmers Market Farro Risotto

Chef Woolery Back of Roswell’s Table & Main demonstrated this recipe at the Sweet Apple Farmers Market in Roswell.

1 cup farro

1/2 pound loose country sausage

1 cup diced butternut squash

1 tablespoon yellow curry powder

4 cups heated vegetable stock, divided (more if needed)

2 cups loosely packed chopped kale

1 cup diced green apple

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 minced shallot

Juice of half lemon

Salt and pepper

Goat cheese and microgreens, for garnish if desired

In a small bowl, cover farro with water and soak 30 minutes.

While farro is soaking, in a large skillet, brown sausage over medium heat. When sausage is just cooked through, remove from skillet and add butternut squash and curry powder. Cook 2 minutes, then add 3 tablespoons vegetable stock and cover skillet. When squash is just tender, stir in kale, apple and cilantro. Cook, covered, until kale is tender, about 10 minutes. Return sausage to skillet and cover mixture to keep warm.

When farro has finished soaking, drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add shallot. Saute until translucent, then add farro and cook, stirring constantly until farro is golden brown. Begin adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time. Add stock, stir frequently, and keep adding stock as liquid is absorbed. Keep adding stock until farro is tender, about 25 minutes.

When farro is tender, stir in butternut mixture and lemon juice. Season to taste. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese and microgreens, if desired. Serves: 6

Per serving: 450 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 14 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 24 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 38 milligrams cholesterol, 1,357 milligrams sodium.

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