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Why would broccoli pick a fight with kale when it can’t win?


kale broccoliIn last week’s New York Times Magazine, reporter and author of Salt Sugar Fat Michael Moss proposed a scenario to a marketing company known for its ability to increase sales of processed foods, like Coca Cola: If they could also market broccoli to consumers, making it seem cool, would it convince Americans to eat more vegetables?

How did the company go about pitching broccoli? They pitted it against its cruciferous cousin, with slogans like “Broccoli: Now 43 Percent Less Pretentious Than Kale.” The problem is: broccoli can’t win.

“If you had millions of dollars to burn to try to get Americans to eat more vegetables, why would you pick broccoli?” laments Drew Ramsey, MD, the co-author of Fifty Shades of Kale, who’s been called a “kale evangelist.” “Broccoli has been omnipresent and rejected. There aren’t many people who love it.” Case in point: When President Obama said he did last year, everyone just assumed he was lying.

Kale, on the other hand, has huge fans around the world and a movement to create an official day in its honor, all without the help of a big marketing campaign. Yes, its overabundance on restaurant menus from Brooklyn to Santa Monica give it an air of Portlandia-esque pretension, but should we fault kale for being popular?

We got Dr. Ramsey’s top five reasons broccoli just can’t compete with kale:

(Photo: NYTimes.com)
(Photo: NYTimes.com)

1. Kale is a more efficient plant. “With broccoli, the only part you eat is the head, and there’s only one of those per plant,” Dr. Ramsey explains. “You can put kale in the ground and start picking off leaves, and it just regenerates more and more leaves for months.”

2. There are a million kinds of kale. Sure, broccoli has its little brother rabe, but kale comes in Tuscan, curly, Russian Red, and so many more varieties. Dr. Ramsey’s personally harvested more than 35 kinds of kale on his Indiana farm this year.

3. It’s more nutritious. Look, if you’re eating either one, you’re in good shape. Ideally, eat both. But kale is hard to compete with when it comes to nutrient density. It has higher concentrations of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and other micronutrients. Plus, you’re never going to eat a heaping broccoli salad. “You can eat a lot of kale without trying very hard,” Dr. Ramsey says. “Try to eat three cups of broccoli.”

4. It has culinary versatility. (And people actually like it!) Fifty Shades of Kale includes recipes for kaleonaise, a kalejito, and kale pesto, among many others. “The only way I eat broccoli is roasted in the oven or sauteed, but broccoli juice? Broccoli chips? Broccoli smooothie? Yuck. Point made, kale wins.”

5. We’re pretty sure Michael Moss is a closeted kale lover. He lives in Brooklyn. He has a Pulitzer. He cooks with Michael Pollan. We loved the story, but we know he couldn’t possibly prefer broccoli. Says Dr. Ramsey, “This guy reeks of kale.” —Lisa Elaine Held