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Learning to Love Kale in Bradford

Students Conduct Taste Test Of Campus-Grown Super Food

  • Max Klarich, 11, downs a sample of kale pesto on whole wheat pasta during a taste test at Bradford Elementary School.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Max Klarich, 11, downs a sample of kale pesto on whole wheat pasta during a taste test at Bradford Elementary School.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mariah Shumway serves kale to Derrick Nadeau, left, and Dylan Day, as Felicia Prue waits to record their reactions. The survey recorded how many students would like to see the leafy green, which was grown at the school, on the school's lunch menu.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Mariah Shumway serves kale to Derrick Nadeau, left, and Dylan Day, as Felicia Prue waits to record their reactions. The survey recorded how many students would like to see the leafy green, which was grown at the school, on the school's lunch menu.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Leia White, 10, left, and Emma Degoosh, 9, work their way through a pile of kale chips during a taste test. It was White's first time tasting kale and the girls' overall reaction was favorable.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Leia White, 10, left, and Emma Degoosh, 9, work their way through a pile of kale chips during a taste test. It was White's first time tasting kale and the girls' overall reaction was favorable.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Max Klarich, 11, downs a sample of kale pesto on whole wheat pasta during a taste test at Bradford Elementary School.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Mariah Shumway serves kale to Derrick Nadeau, left, and Dylan Day, as Felicia Prue waits to record their reactions. The survey recorded how many students would like to see the leafy green, which was grown at the school, on the school's lunch menu.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Leia White, 10, left, and Emma Degoosh, 9, work their way through a pile of kale chips during a taste test. It was White's first time tasting kale and the girls' overall reaction was favorable.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

— The kale came from the kitchen dressed as hors d’oeuvre, as green-tinged pieces of pasta in sampler cups and containers full of leafy greens. Bradford Elementary School faculty and volunteers dished the food out to students, many of whom eyed it warily. For most, it was new. For some, such as second-grader Jeffrey Young, it looked “disgusting.” But when they bit into the kale chips, greens glistening with olive oil, many became believers.

Yesterday was many students’ introduction to kale, the ultra-healthy descendent of cabbage that has grown in popularity in the past several years, due in no small part to the Eat More Kale campaign started in Montpelier.

Last year’s sixth-graders grew the kale in the school’s own garden, but graduated before they could taste it, so current students got the veggies of their labor.

It was picked and prepared in two ways — as kale chips and as kale pesto sauce spread atop rigatoni pasta. Consensus on the former was mixed; the latter was a near-unanimous hit.

“I think it’s great,” said Faith Beaudin, who teaches second grade.

“Half of them didn’t know what kale was.” So, before the big day, teachers started sending out the message to their students: kale is coming.

“We tried to talk it up,” said Aurora Coon, project manager for the Coordinated School Health, a program created by the Center for Disease Control, as she distributed the chips.

The endorsements seemed to work. Kale was the word of the day, and it defined the character of the cafeteria. Almost every teacher wore green to commemorate the occasion, and Principal Matthew Brankman, who forgot, wore a piece of kale like a boutonniere. On a bulletin board near the checkout line, a handmade poster extolled the veggie’s virtues.

Those virtues, according to the nonprofit World’s Healthiest Foods, briefly:

∎ Amounts of Vitamin K and Vitamin A that eclipse recommended daily values by factors of 13 and four, respectively, plus a wealth of other nutrients;

∎ Cancer-preventative benefits;

∎ Detoxification properties.

As the kale flowed, excitement grew. Students wore Eat More Kale stickers donated by Bo Muller-Moore, who runs the titular operation, on their shirts, arms and foreheads. Two separate chants of “Eat More Kale” broke out in a half hour, one of which involved the cafeteria’s entire student population.

Alex McNulty, a second-grader, enthusiastically waved one of the stickers in a visitor’s face. He began to talk about how he enjoyed the taste of the chips — he got an essence of salt and pepper — but was soon interrupted.

“I have three words for you,” said Young, a second-grader who, according to his teacher, would become a politician one day. “Eat. More. Kale.” Next month’s taste-test ingredient hasn’t yet been decided, Coon said, but she’s leaning toward a seasonal choice such as squash or carrots.

To keep the healthy habits going from month to month, students can purchase fruits and vegetables from a salad bar installed at the beginning of the school year. Yesterday, those who bought lunch sat down with some combination of romaine lettuce, oranges, plums, carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers alongside their requisite chicken drumsticks and rice.

The salad bar was the result of a state grant, said Marianne Barthel, the school board chairwoman, and joins other Upper Valley school salad bars, such as Hanover’s Bernice A. Ray School.

“I think when kids have more choices,” Barthel said, “they’ll find something they like.” But students mostly cared yesterday about the newest addition to their palates, and their experiences with the plant ran the gamut. Many reported a pleasingly salty taste, but some said it was too sour. Some likened it to spinach and lettuce, often with a buttery feel. One girl felt the chips were too sugary.

Toward the end of lunch, Schyler Hanzas, a sixth-grader, bit into a kale chip. She stared at nothing in particular, lost in thought, chewing as though she was trying to compartmentalize the plant’s DNA and extract an identifiable taste.

She was having trouble. And then she clapped. Her eyes lit up.

“I know it!” she said. “I know it!” She likened the taste to Brussels sprouts, which she enjoys, but immediately took back her opinion and continued to ruminate.

“I don’t really know what it is,” said Hayley Thurston, who sat across from her.

“It’s a mixture,” Hanzas said, and seemed pleased with her answer.

Either way, she said, it was pretty tasty.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.