RIP, Kale: An Obituary to a Fad

Henry Luehrman
by Henry Luehrman
Share it:
RIP, Kale: An Obituary to a Fad

Kale died a peaceful death last night, in the early winter months of 2016. A beloved cousin of the Cruciferous family, its legacy joins the likes of renowned child favorites cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Kale leaves behind very little, except perhaps a bitter taste in your mouth. Its relevance was five years old.

Kale got its start working as the rough shrubbery lining the perimeter of literally every salad bar in America. One day some jerk knocked a few leaves into his Caesar salad while reaching for the crouton bowl. Fancying it a creative garnish from the Applebee’s sous-chef, the genius forced some of the dark green leaves down his gullet along with his iceberg lettuce. He did not like the taste but felt less guilty about the brownie sundae he ate afterward, so he went home and loudly described this new salad that “wasn’t too bad” to anyone who would listen. The neighbor two houses over heard as she was Googling new juice ingredients. Thus commenced an intricate butterfly effect.

So it began: The year 2012 saw a large spike in green juice sales. By then kale endorsements had blown the roof off of the nutrition pyramid — rich in phytochemicals for eyes, magnesium for bones and antioxidants for hearts, said a physician over a phone somewhere. “Vitamin K to make your waist as thin as your bloodstream,” they said. Few people actually wanted to chew on the plant (“I think I like it,” said one yoga instructor), but drinking it was mercifully efficient. A meal in a bottle, said a man in a cheap suit before adjusting the price tag from $4 to $10.

But kale didn’t stop there.

By 2014, not only were the masses eating it raw as well as boiling and drinking it — they were paying money to do so. Global pop icon Beyoncé wore a T-shirt bearing the word in white lettering, and every clothing store on Rodeo Drive followed suit, desperately careful to get the font just right. Consumption of the leaf continued to rise — data from MyFitnessPal users in 2014 showed a 710% increase in kale consumption over the course of three years. Each successive New Year’s Day saw skyrocketing sales to match ambitious new fad diets. “I actually like it,” said my father.

Then, abruptly, 2016 saw a slump in kale enthusiasm. No one knows how it started, but some trace the shift to a chilling story about models eating too much of the plant and having diarrhea. This whole time, we had trusted kale as our primary food source. Slowly, our “cheat days” began to multiply. More and more dads followed suit. National enthusiasm for “massaging the leaves beforehand for best texture” took a nosedive. It wasn’t long before grocery stores were moving kale off the spotlighted sections of their shelves. Said one lady exiting the supermarket: “That’s just capitalism, man.”

The cause of kale’s death is unknown, but many suspect that the public found a new sweetheart. If I were a betting man, I’d start choosing fonts for those “Cauliflower Rice” T-shirts now — it might not be green, but it pairs pretty well with Buffalo sauce.

A small service will not be held for this plant. If you have any fond memories or parting words, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Originally published December 2016

Ready to take the next step? Unlock MyFitnessPal Premium to access custom goal settings, quick-log recipes, and guided plans from a registered dietitian. Premium users are 65% more likely to reach their weight loss goals!

About the Author

Henry Luehrman
Henry Luehrman

Henry Luehrman is an LA-based hamburger enthusiast and lover of plush armchairs. He often starts his runs with absolutely no idea where or how far he’s going. Usually, he finds his way back again.


59 responses to “RIP, Kale: An Obituary to a Fad”

  1. Avatar McMurple says:

    Of course you are entitle to you own opinion, but I find healthily seasoned, dried kale to be a fantastic way to add much needed leafy greens to my diet. In SC, the “winter” crop does not have the bitterness of some kale. A lot depends on the grower. I’ve never drank kale, I’m pretty sure the last green substance I drank was Kool-aid, few decades ago.

  2. Avatar Ann says:

    I love your kale obituary. The first time I knew what kale was, was about 10 years ago when my grandson fed the stuff to his iguana. When people began offering it to me, I always said no thanks, that is lizard food.

  3. Avatar Jimmy NoChit says:

    Jimmy doesn’t eat green leaves, he smokes ’em.

  4. Avatar Pete Smith says:

    For goodness sake, it’s a green vegetable, rich in all the usual nutrients. I’ve enjoyed eating it for sixty years and I hope to carry on doing so. That said, I’ve never eaten it raw or as a juice, why would you? Steamed or stir fried it’s wonderful.

  5. Loved this post, though I actually love the taste of kale.

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  6. Avatar Caitlin says:

    This is hysterical and very clever!!!! Bravo!

  7. Avatar Swingshift Worker says:

    I still eat kale but was never part of the bandwagon. Still like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage too.

  8. Avatar Gigi says:

    I live in SC too (like one of the other commenters) and I love winter kale and collards from the garden. Once we get a good hard frost, it tenderizes the kale and makes the flavor mild. It is absolutely fabulous sauteed in a little garlic and olive oil. It cooks in a jiffy once the frost has hit. That said, I LOVE this obit!! Henry is a talented writer with a great sense of humor. I’ve experienced the tough, bitter grocery store kale before and I can see how folks who have never had winter kale that’s been touched by frost would share these sentiments!

  9. Avatar Karie says:

    No fond memories of kale to share. Just the thrill of its defeat. If I never take a bite of this foul, bitter, disgusting, garden waste of a plant I will consider my life completely happy.

    Kale is certain to go to the underworld after death, but even all that charcoal heat probably won’t make it any more palpable.

  10. Avatar harasj79 says:

    Well written! Made me chuckle! Thanks for the late night read❤️

  11. Avatar NotSoBlah says:

    Kale, like other dark greens, is best sauteed with bacon, and dressed with cider vinegar and brown sugar. Sure, you can ruin it into health food, but why?

  12. Avatar red rover says:

    Unlike the trendy fitness-fad notions promoted in articles like this one, the real truth is that kale has been a staple of northern European rural cultures for centuries, because it can be grown and harvested in the winter. In The Netherlands, it’s called “boerenkool,” which means “farmer cabbage” in English and is a key ingredient in the traditional Dutch dish stamppot, which I had for dinner last night. Delicious comfort food.

    • Avatar DutchIvy says:

      That is the one good thing that came out of this fad: the availability of kale so the Dutch in America can finally make their boerenkoolstamppot again!

  13. Avatar Lisa says:

    I love kale, but my kale-hating girlfriend who loves to tease me for my KALE shirt will love this article!
    He he- well written and hilarious!

  14. Avatar Sara-Amber Thiessen says:

    I was just thinking about this the other day when I decided to start getting spinach for my egg-white scrambles again.

  15. Avatar MzTeaze says:

    Good. Perhaps the price will go back down to where it was pre-fad so I can eat it in peace and budget. Same with my beloved collards.

  16. Avatar Gary Axford says:

    Ate Kale before it was trendy. Ate Kale when it was trendy. Will continue to eat Kale. Fried, in Bacon Fat, with some onion and plenty of butter. One of the secrets to my healthy Senior status.

  17. Avatar Cindy Eby says:

    Well, first. Don’t eat that tasteless curly kale that is used as a garnish. It is called “ornamental kale” for a reason.
    Second, I know you think you are funny but I think you are a kneejerk meat eater with no imagination about food.

  18. Avatar GailGedanSpencer says:

    Nice try, but not quite the kneeslapper. I still love kale, but mostly dinosaur kale.

  19. Avatar cfbcfb says:

    Just had some yesterday, Dumped an entire costco tub of it in a pan with a little avocado oil, salt and old bay. Turn on the heat to medium and let it wilt down to small bowl proportions. Just like collard greens.

    And yes, if you liquefy foods to the point where you can consume 10x what you’d normally eat, and your body gets to absorb it in 15 minutes instead of a period of hours…you’ll be doing yourself more harm than good.

  20. Avatar A Dodgy Bloke says:

    Great, now the price of cauliflower is going to skyrocket. Can’t the “Trendy Masses” find another fad? How about Little Debbie Swiss Rolls?

  21. Avatar Sabine Stroehm says:

    Love kale. Don’t care if it was a fad, but apparently it was?

  22. Avatar Ted Stahl says:

    My mom would make kale and I liked it as a kid. I am almost 63 years old. I still like it and also Kale chips.

  23. Avatar Mimi Whittaker says:

    Laughed until I cried – thanks for this well-written wit! RIP, Kale and the horse you rode in on…..

  24. Avatar kat sullivan says:

    Didn’t like kale, didn’t join the fad. Don’t like cauliflower, won’t join the fad. There are plenty more good tasting healthy vegetables that I WANT to eat.

  25. Avatar Clark Bunch says:

    Chick-fil-A made news last year when they dumped a long time favorite, coleslaw, to add kale to their menu. More accurately their “super food side” consists of kale, broccolini and walnuts drizzled in some kind of sweet sauce. Chick-fil-A is big business, leading me to believe kale was gaining acceptance mainstream. Hmm…. maybe too mainstream for the hipster “before it was cool” crowd?

  26. Avatar abbyness says:

    Kale has been my favorite food since I was a small child. I don’t even know what’s wrong with people who think it tastes “bitter.” Beer tastes bitter. I don’t drink it. Wonder if that’s true about the guy who wrote this article?

  27. Avatar Jennifer Romano says:

    Never ate the stuff, probably never will.

  28. Avatar Barbara Roberts says:

    I think Kales decline followed reports of it affecting the thyroid gland if you were having issues with it. Loved Kale chips

    • Avatar Darcey says:

      Well there ya go. My eye doctor [via Mayo Clinic’s recommendations] has kale first on the list of foods to eat to arrest age-related macular degeneration. But no one says not to eat it if you have thyroid issues. I always looks up side effects on meds to make sure mine are compatible, but never thought about side effects from food. Sheesh.
      Funny, I just bought cauliflower rice due to a BOGO offer on Smart Vegetables thinking it would be easy to add to a salad. Now I’d better look that up.
      Thanks for the head’s up. I’ll still eat kale but won’t obsess on it.

      • Avatar Barbara Roberts says:

        I would be interested to see your list of foods for the macular degeneration. I’m headed that way.
        Thanks in advance for it

        • Avatar Darcey says:

          Sure, Barbara. Here is what I found on their site, which saves me a lot of typing. 🙂 If you go to the Mayo Clinic site and type in macular degeneration, it will also give life-style advice. Along with the foods, my doc has me taking Areds2 vitamins and omega3 I get MaxiVision through Amazon and have read very good reviews of how it has arrested their m d development. But each person is different, so better check with your eye doctor. Here is the list of foods:

          Choose a healthy diet. The antioxidant vitamins in fruits and vegetables contribute to eye health. Kale, spinach, broccoli, peas and other vegetables have high levels of antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which may benefit people with macular degeneration. Foods containing high levels of zinc may also be of particular value in patients with macular degeneration. These include high-protein foods, such as beef, pork and lamb. Nonmeat sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, whole-grain cereals and whole-wheat bread.

          Another good choice is healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive oil. And research studies have shown that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as found in salmon, tuna and walnuts, may lower the risk for advanced AMD. But the same benefit is not shown from taking omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil pills.
          I wish you well! Thankfully it’s only in the very early stages for me and only in one eye.

          • Avatar Barbara Roberts says:

            Thanks Darcey, I keep getting error messages trying to post this, so if you see it more than once it’s the tries!

  29. Avatar Neolex says:

    Hilarious cuz it’s so true. now my cauliflower will be twice the price Thanks Kale… BTW i will still eat you in something.

  30. Avatar Charles Obendorfer says:

    Trend… shmend. Been eating kale for 50 years and love it. When Whole Foods took over Mrs. Gooch’s I discovered black kale then Russian Kale and years later Tuscan kale. Great greens. But then again I am a big fan of most vegetables although I haven’t found a flesh I don’t like as well. Not one to follow the masses so I will go on eating my kale.

    • Avatar Susan Smith says:

      Love kale this way…put olive oil on cookie sheet. Take out large veins. Break in small pieces. Mix with oil on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with lemon pepper. Bake 450 degrees till real krisp. Around 15 min. Enjoy!

  31. Avatar Cassandra says:

    Kale yeah! Okay so this might have been a fad, but I’ve enjoyed it greatly. I think I’ll enjoy it even more when it’s out of the spotlight.

  32. Avatar Jana Fuentes says:

    Very sad. I grew up loving spinach, eating turnip greens because my mother fixed them, collards a few times a year, because my mum grew up in the south and that’s what they ate. I started eating kale because it was healthy–discovered I liked it! I will continue to, because I do like it, because I have several recipes for it, and because I’ve never had any problems eating it. So–whatever is next, I’ll probably try it, but I’ll keep on with my other greens, too!

  33. Avatar The Laughing Badger says:

    Ah kale, I first tried you by making a kale apple smoothie once. It tasted of bitterness and regret. I’ve since learned to appreciate baby kale. Cooked. Rest in peace, I won’t miss you. Sorry.

  34. Avatar Lisa says:

    Fabulous article!! Very entertaining! Poor Kale!

  35. Avatar thohan says:

    Great article, just the right amount of snide.

  36. Avatar Renee J. (RJFlamingo) says:

    Hopefully to be followed by “green juice”. Banana-flavored lawn clippings. :p

  37. Avatar Julie Larsen says:

    Not much to say about kale, but the author is amazing 😉

  38. Avatar meghen says:

    Don’t understand why this writer hates Kale so much.

    In a soup, it is THE green to add. Tough stuff, will stand up to any soupy broth challenge.

  39. Avatar Lisa says:

    I also enjoyed the wit of this article! Califlower and buffalo sauce? That sounds pretty amazing. I’m glad for the fad. I wasn’t a kale eater, but now I love it so many ways.

  40. Avatar Darcey says:

    Really well written article, Henry. Thanks for the laughs………….made my day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.

You’re taking control of your fitness and wellness journey, so take control of your data, too. Learn more about your rights and options. Or click here to opt-out of certain cookies.