Julee Applegarth is no stranger to kale, but she recognizes that others might be. That’s why she and her husband, owners of Sweet Relief Farm in Steep Falls, are organizing Kale Fest, the first of what Applegarth hopes will be many community events at the Steep Falls Farmers Market.

The goal of the event, planned for Saturday, July 16, is “to teach customers how to eat the nutritious kale and to attract more folks to our community and farmers market,” Applegarth said.

To bring together more community members, Applegarth has invited local restaurants, chefs and bakers to make recipes and give away samples with the recipe.

The event will provide advertising for local businesses, and more community awareness for summer people, which makes it a “win-win for everyone,” said Applegarth, who has been operating Sweet Relief farm for about three years.

Applegarth was introduced to kale while working at Rippling Waters Organic Farm, where she worked for nearly 20 years. The Steep Falls-based farm closed several years ago, which prompted her and her husband, Mike Foster, to start their own farm.

Rippling Waters sold produce at the Portland Farmers Market and was among the first farms to start selling kale in 1995. At the time, very few people were familiar with the leafy green, Applegarth said.

To help promote the vegetable among its customers, the farm “did a lot of work introducing and teaching folks about kale,” Applegarth said. Eventually, the kale-marketing-makeover evolved and the farm introduced a “small kale workshop,” she said, which gave out the farm staff’s kale recipes.

After striking out on their own with Sweet Relief, the couple started the Steep Falls Farmers Market to “give back to the community” while keeping the farm in business, Applegarth said. From the beginning, she said, they wanted to hold events during the market, which is held at Steep Falls Village Park.

“This year we are beginning to make it happen,” she said.

The event, which will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the park, at the intersection of routes 11 and 113, will feature different foods provided by local restaurants including smoothies, chips, salads, entrees and desserts. Kale will be for sale at 35 percent off. There will be free “Eat More Kale.com” stickers, promoting a company that also promotes kale.

O.Dans Restaurant in Sebago is among seven participating local food providers. Chef Dan Ellingwood said Tuesday he plans to serve a braised kale and sausage stew that will be “a little on the lighter side” and made with a vegetable-stock base.

Ellingwood said he seized the opportunity to get involved with the festival because it meets the values of the small, locally sourced restaurant.

“We buy as much as we can from local farmers,” he said, “and the way you do that is by establishing relationships through small farmer’s markets and by becoming friends and neighbors.”

Runway Restaurant in Limington, Lincoln Pub in Cornish, Snickerdoodles coffee shop in Limington, Riverside Bakery in Limington, Chef Ken and Sweeties Ice cream in Steep Falls are the other local haunts taking part in Kale Fest, according to Applegarth.

Applegarth encourages those interested in cooking with kale to attend the festival, but obliged with a few tips for eating the leafy greens. If the kale is tender, it can be eaten raw in a salad without any prep. Tougher greens, such as lacinato or winterbor, should soak in an oil or vinaigrette dressing. For cooking while maintaining maximum nutrition, she recommends stir-frying the vegetable in oil and garlic.

“Then it is ready to add to your favorite casseroles,” she said.

How nutritious is kale?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one cup of kale has approximately 35 calories, is high in both calcium and iron, and more than fulfills the daily requirement for Vitamins A and C.

Julee Applegarth shows off a bucket of her kale, which will be served in a variety of ways at Kale Fest in Steep Falls this weekend.

Julee Applegarth, right, speaks with a customer about lacinato kale, a tougher kind of kale that she recommends massaging with oil before eating raw.


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