I've been undecided about the cavolo nero (kale) growing in my garden: tossing back and forth between admiring its smoky dark green leaves that stand upright like an upturned vegie feather duster; and getting grumpy over the caterpillars that chomp thru the leaves, in places stripping them right back to the white mid-ribs.
I've so far resisted dousing the plants with pyrethrum, but I'm being increasingly swayed because of the multitude of grubs I find when I cut the leaves, and the multitude of holes left by those fat grubs. Some of the leaves looked like the proverbial swiss cheese.
I also haven't been overwhelmed by its performance in the kitchen. It doesn't take to a quick stirfry very well - it stays sharp in texture to the bite - and unless you're a sucker for fibre, those white mid-ribs, though not too thick, are surprisingly tough. I'm all for super-greens packed with anti-oxidants, but perhaps this is not the green for me.
But then the weather turned wet, grey and cold - as it is wont to do in a Hobart summer - and I thought I'd take a slower approach to the kale.
In garlic oil, I sauteed the last of the spring onions F gave me, along with chopped fresh ginger and red chilli (frozen from last summer's abundant plant).
Once that had softened, I threw in a handful of frozen peas (I'm between crops at the moment) then a few large handfuls of the kale, finely shredded into dark ribbons. I stirred that around for a bit before adding a little white wine (probably only a tablespoon or two, just enough to add some liquid), the juice from a soon-to-expire lemon half that was languishing in the fridge, and clamping the lid down on the frypan, while I boiled some skinny spaghetti.
Taking this 'wetter' approach of steaming (or perhaps braising?) the sturdy leaves with a little liquid produced more satisfying results. The cavolo nero was transformed to tender; and like its cousin curly kale, it stood up well to the stronger flavours of garlic, chilli and ginger - in fact, it flourished with them.
So maybe the cavolo nero will re-appear in another season in my vegie patch. Afterall, I'm a sucker for cooking and eating anything that is ridiculously healthy for you. I just have to conquer those caterpillars.