Scientists Are Trying To Make Kale Taste Better

Scientists Are Trying To Make Kale Taste Better

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Susmita Baral
Nov 30, 2016
(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Kale may be a celebrated superfood, but it's not as popular as you might think. According to Zagat's 2015 National Dining Trends Survey, only 27 percent of diners in America reported liking the plant. For the remaining 73 percent, there's some good news in store: Plant researchers at Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science are working on creating a version that is more appealing to American palates.

In order to make kale more appealing, researchers first needed to know what people like and dislike about the hearty plant. To measure the current mood surrounding kale, horticulture professor Philip Griffiths and graduate student Hannah Swegarden created a small focus group of 14 people who self-identify as kale enthusiasts and consumers, reports NPR.

The subjects were given six types of kale — varying in taste, texture, shape, and color — and were instructed to prepare the kale to their personal preference. The participants recorded their feedback in a journal and came in two weeks later to discuss their impressions. The focus group unearthed several preliminary findings, including how participants negatively associated kale with its trademark bitter flavor and were keen on a "softer, less fibrous leaf."

"It's difficult to do that because that's changing the plant a lot," Swegarden told NPR about creating a softer form of kale, adding that softer plants are also more vulnerable to insects.

The goal of the focus group was to pinpoint important kale-related questions to create an official survey that further investigates consumer opinions about kale on a larger scale. After that, the team can use the findings to work on breeding a better-tasting version of kale. But don't expect a more scrumptious form of kale anytime soon — according to Swegarden, the timeline for when a new breed can be on the market is at least eight years.

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