Where did Kale come from?


Call me crazy, but Kale seems like a relatively new thing to me? I’m aware that Kale has been floating around the farmer’s markets and supermarkets for a few years now, but where was it before that? Growing up, my parents made sure we ate lots of vegetables, but Kale never got a mention? Does anyone else find it odd that a vegetable I managed to spend 25+ years living without, is now the backbone of almost every green smoothie going round? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the odd Kale, but how did it go from zero to hero in a few short years? I decided to investigate.


After doing some digging, I soon discovered that Kale wasn’t such a new thing (well for the Europeans anyway). Apparently, Kale has been cultivated in Europe for over 2,000 years and right up until the Middle Ages (before cabbage took over), Kale was the most widely consumed vegetable going round!

But wait, there’s more. Kale wasn’t just eaten for centuries, it was celebrated! Kale was grown for it’s ability to withstand cold harsh climates and as a result, when Kale is on the menu, it symbolised that Winter had arrived. Don’t believe me? The German’s still celebrate the arrival of winter with a plate of Grühnkohlfahrt (a whole lot of cooked kale and sausage), the traditional dish of the Netherlands, Stamppot Boerenkool (a whole lot of kale paired with mashed potatoes), and in Scotland kail was used as a generic term for ‘dinner’ and all kitchens featured akail-pot for cooking. That’s a lot of Kale love!


According to this article published on abc.net.au Australia’s Kale explosion was a result of the US Kale craze. Whilst I wasn’t surprised by this information, it led me to a new question, how on earth did it become so popular in the US? According to this article written by Anna Brones for Blue Apron, the hilarious (and well researched) “human” Kale to US timeline is as follows:


1996. The Los Angeles Times publishes a poem dedicated to the leafy green, entitled Oh Kale

2007. Kale makes its way into some organic CSA boxes and people are confused about what to do with it. 

2008. Whole Living deems kale a “powerfood”

2008. According to “Baby Name Hub” 539 babies in the US were named Kale. 

2009. Martha Stewart published a recipe for Kale Slaw

2010. Vegetarian Times publishes a recipe for Crispy Kale Leaves

2010. The kale salad at Northern Spy in New York City inspires a New York Times kale salad recipe (link since expired 2023)

2011. Gwenyth Paltrow makes kale chips on Ellen

2012. Bon Appétit named 2012, the year of kale

2013. The first annual National Kale Day is celebrated on October 2.

Whilst this all sounds a bit ridiculous, it’s true and whilst some might find this post entertaining, to me it demonstrates just how easy was for marketing to turn this ancient bitter green vegetable into the “new” powerhouse of nutrition. YIKES.


Now, before anyone asks, I’m not against Kale; I wish people would eat more vegetables if anything! But there are a few things that worry me:

  1. The likelihood of kale outperforming any of our original staple vegetables is slim. So why are we buying it? Because we were sold this information and we never stopped to question why. Concerning? Absolutely. Imagine what else you’ve been sold over the years (hint: take a look in your pantry!).
  2. One might say that as the health of our nation deteriorates, we’re searching tirelessly for the magic bullet and as a result, are willing to swallow anything with “super” food powers. Maybe it’s time to stop searching for the magic bullet and do something about it the real issue at hand?
  3. Kale is a Winter vegetable that was cultivated because it could withstand the cold, harsh climates of Northern Europe; frost even improves the flavour of Kale, so why we are putting it into our summer smoothies? I’m a huge advocate for eating seasonally but this doesn’t make sense. 

But who am I to ruin Kale for everyone? I guess, all in all, it’s something to think about. Perhaps you might like to ask yourself, why you decided to eat Kale in the first place? Your answer might surprise you 🙂


  1. Talia

    What An interesting Article, really well researched and a question I have actually asked myself! We have Kale growing in our hydroponic garden and I really like it. I use it in smoothies and make Kale chips as side dish often.



  2. Alyse Co-cliff

    Kale chips are delish! Happy to hear you liked the article 🙂 x

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Meet Alyse

I’m a qualified Nutritionist who believes an evidence-based approach to modern nutrition is severely under-rated. Patients are so often left in the dark when it comes to health-care and as a firm believer in the old saying “knowledge is power”, my ultimate goal is to provide my readers, students and patients with clear and actionable advice that ultimately helps you reach your full potential.