"Scottish Singles Used to Spend Halloween Picking Kale" Discussion Thread

Welcome to the discussion thread for the story, Scottish Singles Used to Spend Halloween Picking Kale. You can share your comments and thoughts about the story in the conversation below. Keep an eye out for other stories part of Spirts Week here at Atlas Obscura from October 23-31 !!! :tumbler_glass::ghost::ghost::tumbler_glass:

No journey around Scottish cooking and traditional food is complete without the humble greens. This is the most everyday of vegetables in the Scots diet of old – pre-dating supermarkets and fancy gardening.

Anyway, kale or kail is a northern form of cole, which eventually leads back to Latin colis (or caulis): a stem, especially of cabbage.

Presumably this also gives us coleslaw – cabbage salad – and cauliflower. Sometimes you see it as borecole, and, to be honest, in its curly overwintering form, it was the vegetable of my childhood! (I grew up in a green pepper no-go area.)

Kale’s historical popularity as a mainstay of Scottish cooking owes much to the fact that it can survive a harsh Scottish winter. Many Scottish phrases mention it, indicating its former importance in the Scots’ diet.

The kailyard or kaleyard was an old name for the kitchen garden or vegetable plot. Take a look at the kaleyard at Robert Burns Cottage here. The kaleyard school of Scottish literature is a description of a 19th century vogue for Scottish writing about parochial, cosy (or couthy) subjects.

Cauld kale het up (cold kale warmed) means any old tale or fashion revived. Kale can even mean, broadly, food itself (like the old generic sense of ‘meat’ as in ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’), which suggests its prevalence in the Scots’ diet of olden days.

It also used to mean more specifically a thick and warming vegetable soup that would have kale in it. (It certainly did in my mum’s house.) Sometimes, modern recipes substitute parsley, but that’s positively decadent.


“There’s bairns wi’ guizards (mummers) at their tail
Clourin’ the doors wi’ runts o’ kail…” From “Halloween”, a WWI lament for missed traditions and her son, killed in action, by Violet Jacob
The whole poem/song—YouTube


so much nope!