We Pacific Northwesterners living west of the Cascades have heard all the jokes about our weather.
What do you call two straight days of rain in Seattle? A weekend.
It only rains twice a year in Seattle: August through April and May through July.
Even locals call our winters “The Big Dark” due to the seemingly endless and soggy lack of sunshine. But one of our secrets is that, despite the damp, winters here are relatively mild. While much of the country is shoveling their cars out of snowed in parking spots, we are strolling in the mist on our way to the coffee shop.
Down here in the lowlands close to Puget Sound we don’t see more than an occasional dusting of snow and most of the time our temperatures are above freezing. While that might not sound like much to brag about, it does mean that our kailyaird (kitchen garden) keeps producing fresh food all through the winter months. And one of the things that weathers the winters well is, you guessed it, kale! Must be why Scots call their kitchen gardens kailyairds. Growing winter kale is one of my favorites in the garden.
Recently we did have two nights where it dipped down in the twenties overnight. Surprisingly that is actually good news! Not only does kale taste sweeter after a frost, but all the little bugs that love to hide in kale leaves disappear. It is the perfect time to harvest big bunches of bright green leaves and enjoy the bounty of the garden in the middle of winter!
Kale is an amazing powerhouse in the vegetable kingdom. It is packed with powerful antioxidants such as quercetin, lutein and kaempferol that promote good eyesight and fight inflammation. It is loaded with vitamins and fiber. And, it is a robust and easy to grow plant that keeps on producing late into the season, and depending on where you live, all winter long.
There is nothing like a bright, fresh salad and come the dead of winter we yearn for those reminders of warmer days. We love kale 365 days a year, but kale from the winter garden is a perfect antidote to our grey day blahs. Bright and nourishing green leaves paired with roasted delicata squash and apples from the root cellar and dried cherries from last year’s harvest bring up memories of warm days. I like this salad with a warm and rustic dressing that I make without any oil. In fact, I use this dressing on more than this salad. I like it on any savory salad as well as on just about any steamed or roasted veggie you can name. Roast beets? Yes! Steamed broccoli? Absolutely! I find it easiest to use an immersion blender when making my own salad dressings, this one being my favorite.
So, put on your rain boots, grab a basket and head out to the kailyaird.
Learn more about your growing zone here.
Hand-Drawn Printable RecipePrint
Hearty winter kale salad chock full of delicious and nutritious ingredients.
1 large bunch of kale (about 20 leaves)
2 delicata squash
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup hazelnuts – toasted, skinned and roughly chopped
2 tbs tahini
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tbs dijon mustard
2 tbs nutritional yeast
1 tbs liquid aminos of your choice (I use Braggs but any coco aminos would also work well, or tamari)
1 tbs maple syrup
Preheat oven to 425°
Wash the skins of the delicate squashes and cut lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Then cut crosswise into 1 inch half-moons.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat and place squash in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes then turn the slices and roast for another 15 minutes. Let cool before adding to salad.
Wash kale and strip leaves off them and discard the stems (to your compost bin!)
Stack and roll the kale leaves and julienne cut into thin strips.
Chop apple into 1/2 inch chunks
Whisk all dressing ingredients together or use an immersion blender like I do – one of my favorite kitchen tools!
Toss all ingredients in a bowl with the dressing and dig in!
Notes on cooking wild rice:
Wild rice takes longer to cook than white rice. You will know that it is cooked when some of the kernels are burst open. Unlike white and brown rice, there will be water leftover when you cook wild rice. Be sure to strain and discard the water before adding to salad.
Note on toasting hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 350°
Place hazelnuts in a baking pan in one layer in the middle of the oven until lightly colored and the skins are blistered (about 10-12 minutes).
Remove hazelnuts from oven and wrap them in a kitchen towel to allow to steam for a minute. Then rub nuts in the towel to remove loose skins and cool completely. Not all of the skins will come off and that is okay. Roughly chop and add to salad.