An Herb Garden Grows in Brooklyn


The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is like my backyard. I live that close. This week, I am enjoying the Herb Garden, a wildly lush kitchen garden like none you’ve never seen. The Herb Garden’s annual beds are planted with regional crops we know as food from around the world. The plants reflect the cultural diversity and culinary traditions of Brooklyn. Today’s round-the-world tour takes in The Americas, North, South and Middle, displaying corn (maize), squash and sunflowers; The Fertile Crescent and Sub-Saharan Africa, with millet, sorghum, soba (buckwheat) and okra; Southeast Asia abundant in basil and hot peppers; and the Northern Mediterranean region abounding with artichokes, herbs and beets. Then there are the medicinal herbs, echinacea and bee balm, and the ever-present kale. And this is just a bit of what’s happening. The warm weather crops, tomatoes, peppers eggplant and corn, are not ready to harvest. I hope I don’t disappoint the curator. Enjoy the tour. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Your thoughts: Do you have a favorite botanic garden?


The Year of Couves?

Here’s a headline that grabbed my attention: Health Nuts Declare 2012: The Year of Kale. “People are weird about Brussels sprouts and cabbage, but are willing to give kale a try,” a chef says. At  Social Media Week 2012 in New York City, experts begged the question, “Who is kale’s PR agent?”  And how did Anne Hathaway fit into her snug Catwoman suit? She told MTV, “I lived on dust and kale.” Food bloggers, restaurateurs and kale chip makers alike are all crazy for the lowly kale. But, as for me, I was eating kale in the highchair. We called it “couves”.

Portuguese Kale Soup

People of Portuguese decent living along the Southeastern Massachusetts coast eat a lot of kale in the form of soup. They call it Calde Couves or Sopas Calde. (At least that’s what I think they are saying.) My father was a first generation Portuguese American, and so kale soup was a staple in the homes of our extended family.  Emeril Lagasse, celebrity chef from the area, makes kale soup too.

Everybody’s soup recipe is a little different – it might contain cabbage, kidney beans, tomatoes, carrots, and even pig’s feet – but the common ingredient in Portuguese Soup is always couves. My kale soup is a victory over animal fat. I simmer beef shank and chouriço (Portuguese sausage) in water with a handful of split peas for hours, and then I remove the cooked meat, pick off every strand, and toss the fat, bone and sausage skin. And then it’s into the fridge where the broth sits until the hard fat rises to the top for easy removal. Next, I add kale, cabbage, potatoes, and the fat free meat back to the broth and simmer until tender. Tasty, low calorie, wildly nutritious (see the label), and ultra-trendy. That’s our couves!

Kale Soup Recipes

Your thoughts: Have you added kale to your diet? Have you tried kale soup?