By ERIN TURNER
Each week at the Orchard Homes Farmers’ Market, I have been asked two questions consistently: 1) Do you have kale? and 2) Do you know how to make kale chips?
It seems this is the hottest thing going right now in the produce business! (And yes, we have kale and yes, I know how to make the chips. See below for recipe!)
I spoke with an old Missoula farmer who said they grew kale decades ago and used to take it to the Missoula Farmers’ market.
Back then, people just looked at the leafy greens and turned up their noses. Kale was just that stuff they used in salad bars as decoration! But now it is all the rage and rightfully so, since kale is a super food packed full of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Right now, the gardens are just entering their high production period. Things are ramping up in all the gardens around Missoula. Despite a cold start, we have been blessed with moderate temperatures and some higher-than-normal humidity. All of these things have helped the gardens.
This week, I picked my first zucchini. That’s just the start of a two month-long battle to keep those things picked before they turn into King Kong size! Most gardens in Missoula plant zucchini in the spring with docile hopes of a nice summer harvest and then end up in July and August buried under a pile of the vegetable!
I recently heard about making zucchini chips…just like the kale chips. What a great way to use up those little buggers! I usually shred them and then freeze bags of it to use throughout the year in soups and breads. Honestly, I can only use so much, so I was excited about a new idea of using the zucchini!
Being intrigued with the idea of zucchini chips, I decided to test it out with that first zucchini of the year. Here’s how I make zucchini chips:
- Using a manual shredder, I thinly sliced the zucchini.
- I placed these nicely-sliced rounds into a bag and drizzled a little olive oil and sprinkled a little salt and pepper over it.
- Then I shook the bag gently to make sure all pieces were coated.
- Then I layered a baking sheet with the slices in a single layer.
- Baked at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.
This method wasn’t perfect…the chips were a little soggy and not baked all the way through. Yet, they still tasted good and even my kids thought they weren’t too bad!
I tried another batch in the microwave using my microwave chip plate. I cooked them in there for 5-7 minutes on high. These ended up a little less soggy and easier to eat. Again, my taste-testers liked them but did hope for another batch to be a little more crispy.
Here is my tip for next time: Don’t put the zucchini in a bag, just brush them with olive oil when they are on the baking sheet or the microwave tray. Zucchini has a high water content, so once they were in the bag they began to release their water and thus making them soggy after baking. I think this will create a drier chip with some crunch!
I am also going to try doing some in the dehydrator and see if that will work as well. It will definitely take longer but it might produce a more chip-like consistency. It’ll be fun to perfect this recipe – I know it can be done and I’ll be using up that pile of zucchini this summer!
You can make chips out of anything from the garden this summer…carrots, beets, kale, spinach, beet greens, potatoes, etc, etc! Just slice and bake and viola! you will have a great little snack your family will love! We’ve had beet and sweet potato chips and really like them. Such a great alternative to store-bought potato chips!
My boys love kale chips and beg for them often. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to watch them stand over the counter and shove kale chips into their mouth like there is no tomorrow. I am always so in awe that I don’t even mention their bad manners as flaky pieces of kale are falling from their mouths!
Since they love the kale chips so much, I am excited about discovering some other beloved veggie chips for my family. Hopefully, I can perfect the zucchini chip which will help with the abundant crop we get each year. One mid-sized zucchini make two or three baking sheets of chips, just enough for our family to devour them in a short while.
Don’t get stuck in a rut this summer by preparing the fresh garden produce in the same way you always have, expand and try some new things! It’s a great way to eat healthier, saves some money, and uses the produce which either your garden produced or you buy at the market.
Here is the infamous Kale Chips recipe:
- Tear kale off of main rib and layer in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Drizzle or brush each leaf with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
- Remove and enjoy a light, flaky, healthy snack!
Do you have a creative and useful way to use the abundance of the garden? Please share your culinary ideas!
Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.