At Oak Park Farmers’ Market (and probably most local markets), new produce is constantly coming up for our enjoyment. Over the years, many newly “invented” but fundamentally natural products – Honeycrisp apples are a prime example – have appeared at the market and have become almost instantly popular.
Last weekend, we were perusing the fruits, vegetables and herbs available at Nichol’s Farm and Orchard stand, whose prices sometimes seem a little high but who never fail to deliver on quality and variety of product. I spotted a vegetable I’d never seen before: Kalettes. Little kale? The man behind the counter said it was a “hybrid of kale and Brussels sprouts.” I asked if a sauté would be appropriate, and the man said, “I’d put them in boiling water first and then sauté them.”
That seemed easy and five bucks a punnet seemed fair, so we took some home.
Kalettes are “a brand new vegetable,” and they have their own website: http://www.Kalette s.com/. Unlike kale, the word Kalette is capitalized because it’s a licensed and registered name (again, like Honeycrisp apples). On the Kalettes site, it was explained that:
Kalettes® are the product of 15 years of hard work and dedication (using traditional breeding techniques) from the British vegetable seed house Tozer Seeds. Kalettes are a non-GMO vegetable developed through traditional hybridization and not genetic modification. Known as Kalettes® in the U.K., this delicious vegetable has now made its way across the pond and is called Kalettes® in North America.
The inspiration behind Kalettes® came from a desire to create a kale type vegetable which was versatile, easy to prepare and looked great. Crossing kale with Brussels sprouts was a natural fit since they are both from the Brassica Oleracea species which also includes cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
Kale is notoriously popular. It’s everywhere in salads and as sides; I even had a kale cocktail last week. Visiting Thailand earlier this year, we ordered a “kale” dish and what we got was cabbage; we’re guessing the ever-obliging Thais had heard we Americans were crazy for the stuff and just wanted to make us happy. Now, truth be told, we’re maybe growing a little tired of regular old kale, which has been a staple on U.S. menus for several years now – in fact, it’s a rare Chicago restaurant that doesn’t offer kale in some form. Kalettes are a way to make this familiar and very popular vegetable feel new again.
The Kalette is like a small blossom, with a purplish stem and leaves that are green like kale and that grow in a spread-apart pattern, kind of like an exploded Brussels sprout. We prepared Kalettes just like the Nichols man said, blanching them first and then sautéing. Kalettes have the earthiness of Brussels sprouts without the slightly sulphuric taste, and a leaf that’s much tenderer than usual kale. And Kalettes do “look great.” Because each blossom is more or less bite-sized, they’re easy to eat, cute, and likely to be popular with kids.
The OP Farmers’ Market goes through the end of this month, so if Kalettes sound good to you, you still have two weekends to check them out.