There are a lot of words to describe kale, but cute is not typically one of them.
Love it or hate it (or simply roll your eyes) but the vegetable most associated with the health-obsessed has gotten a makeover with another trendy vegetable: the Brussels sprout.
Meet the “Kalette” the “kale sprout” or “lollipop kale,” depending on whom you ask.  All three terms describe a relatively new fusion of the two vegetables popular with chefs, dieters and home cooks alike.
“We’re actually the first people here to grow it here,” said 2 Peas in a Pod farmer Zach Nichols in front of a dozen baskets of the tiny kale heads at the Wednesday farmers market.  “A lot of restaurants buy it from us.”
Nichols calls them Kalettes, which is actually the trademarked name from the seed company that created the non-GMO hybrid.  The company boasts they created a “fresh fusion of sweet and nutty” by cross-breeding the vegetables, taking fifteen years to develop the strain using traditional breeding techniques.
“Just 100g of Kalettes contain double the amount of vitamin B6, the vitamin that helps us use and store the energy from the food we eat, and twice the amount of vitamin C than standard Brussels sprouts,” according to British seed house Tozer Seeds.  “A generous double dose of vitamin E will fight toxins and provide a powerful antioxidant meaning they are good for the immune system.”
“They’re a new superfood,” Nichols said, who is a third-generation farmer with a degree in crop science from Cal Poly.
Nichols and his mom, Lori Heal (who is known as the mother of jams), saw the vegetable on a cooking show and then sought out the seeds for their 15-acre farm just south of San Louis Obispo in Arroyo Grande.  Frequent customers at the Wednesday market know the mother and son for their nutty, purple brussels sprouts, dried beans, peanuts and homemade preserves. Now, Nichols says chefs have sought them out for lollipop kale.  Heal has been farming for 33 years.
While the frilly knubs can be steamed, stir-fried, boiled or blanched, Heal recommends roasting them for about fifteen minutes at 350 degrees in oil and seasoning to give the dense center time to cook without burning the leaves.
“They go from crispy to incinerated real quickly,” Heal cautioned.
Weather permitting, you can find Kalettes for the next month at the Wednesday market.

Santa Monica has four weekly farmers markets including the Wednesday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and Ocean from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Saturday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and 2nd Streets from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Saturday Virginia Ave. Park market at 2200 Virginia Avenue from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the Sunday Main Street market at 2640 Main Street from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press