Kale's on the rise in Northern Ireland health circles
One of the province's leading suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables says it has seen a 25% rise in sales of kale - even though most of us had never heard of the vegetable a few years ago.
Today three Northern Ireland farmers supply Co Down fresh produce and fine foods supplier North Down Group with over 6,000kg of kale per year to meet customer demand.
Peter Robinson, procurement manager for the food service division at the North Down Group, said the leafy vegetable, which will be celebrated during National Kale Day tomorrow, has become one of the biggest food trends in the fitness sector in Northern Ireland.
It's become a popular side-dish, and is even better known as a smoothie ingredient.
He said: "Five years ago there was virtually no demand from our customers for kale but over the past two years, kale has become a key ingredient on many of our customers' menus.
"We've been working with our local growers to increase their acreage, dedicated to kale, and we're now supplying locally-grown kale to over 100 customers province-wide."
Co Down grower James Booth has recently begun to supply the firm. He grows four acres of kale at Windwhistle Farm in Comber alongside his in-laws.
And he supplies North Down Group with three types of kale - green, red and cavo nero, also known as 'black kale'.
North Down Group was named as Food Service Supplier of the Year at a major food awards in London, organised by the UK fresh produce trade association - FPC. It was founded 26 years ago in Newtownards with just three members of staff.
However, today the firm employs 112 people and counts restaurants such as OX, James Street South and Slim's Kitchen among its customers.