After I retired from rowing I had a dream of putting down roots (literally) as my husband and I raised our two little girls in the country. I dreamed of what my garden would look like. I planned, I sketched, and finally when we built our home in River John I executed the plan (double deer fence and all). For the past five years we’ve been planning and planting; each year learning more and more about the soil and the pests and how to keep them from getting to our food first. I absolutely love our garden, especially reaping the rewards of delicious, mouthwatering, fresh, nutrient-dense food.
Year after year we’ve enjoyed spending endless hours during the warm months of summer tending and nurturing our seed babies ensuring they reached their ripe age of maturity until harvest. I always feel a sense of satisfaction mixed with a hint of sadness as the bounty comes to an end at harvest time.
This year everything changed; business and education for our girls had us relocate to the city during the school year and our time has been divided between city and country time. This has severely cramped my style and has wreaked havoc on my beautiful garden. The pests are always one step ahead of me and seem to quite enjoy my absence. The words, “there has got to be a better way” kept nagging me. There must be a way to keep up with my dark leafy greens in particular, before losing them to the pests that move in while we’re away. So began the quest for an alternative gardening option, something where we could enjoy our homegrown food without daily supervision.
This quest lead me to the exciting world of tower gardens!! BEST find EVER!! The possibility of what can be grown on these towers is endless, and the growing season is not limited to summer. So, on Father’s Day our garden tower experience began. I decided to start with dark leafy greens since they are a constant in our diet. This group of leafy greens that includes spinach, kale, Swiss chard and collard greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. They are packed with chlorophyll, fibre, calcium, anti-oxidants, Vitamins A,C,E,K and some B. So you may be thinking, ‘That’s great Tracy, we all know that vitamins and minerals are essential for our bodies to function but what do they actually do?’ Since my focus has recently shifted to dark leafy greens, because that seems to be the only thing I can keep up with these days (thanks to my garden tower extraordinaire), I thought I’d dig into the key functions and benefits of including these green wonders in our diet. To my surprise the list is large and extensive, so for the purpose of this article I decided to choose one superstar – kale. Greens can be tricky with kids, but kale is a big hit in our household. In fact, kale chips are one of the most requested snacks, which secretly makes me smile! According to America’s Test Kitchen Superfood Recipes (April 15, 2019), “Just one cup of this hearty green has more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamins A (responsible for immune function, healthy vision, organ maintenance and cell growth) and C (responsible for immune function, protein metabolism and wound healing, collagen production, absorption of plant-based iron, antioxidant properties, possible role in delaying certain cancers and heart disease). It’s also packed with potassium (responsible for blood pressure regulation, electrolyte balance and fluid regulation, muscle contractions, and may reduce stroke and heart disease), calcium (responsible for bone growth and maintenance, required by heart muscles and nerves, may help protect against cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure), and vitamins K (responsible for blood clotting, and bone metabolism) and B6 (responsible for brain development and function, and hormone production… talk about AMAZING!
Without further ado, here is my secret weapon for sneaking in healthy snacks, please enjoy crispy kale chips with the whole family, knowing that you supercharging your body with every bite! I am also thrilled that my garden tower discovery will keep these amazing greens in my family’s repertoire the whole year through, regardless of the season!
Crispy Kale Chips
Servings: 2-4 as a snack
These kale chips, topped with Parmesan, salt & a bit of fresh lemon juice, are a delicious way to get your crispy-salty fix.
• 1 bunch curly kale, leaves removed from tough stems and torn into large pieces
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• sprinkle salt (to taste)
• ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, using your hands, massage the kale leaves with the olive oil until evenly coated. Arrange the kale in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 18-20 minutes, until leaves are completely crisp but not browned.
- While the leaves are still warm, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and a squeeze of lemon (go very easy on the lemon; a little goes a long way). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a platter and serve.