I have such an inspiring story to share with you today. I don’t even remember when but maybe a few months back, I was chatting with a fellow American, Jake on Twitter about kale in Paris. He lives and works in Algiers and was searching high and low for kale. And it was nowhere to be found. He would bring back a large bag back from Paris, savoring every leaf. I remembered that as well after our first trip to London back in 2011.
Around the same time, the Chinese government was winning a lot of big infrastructure contracts and bringing over engineers, architects and laborers, which has created a prominent temporary Chinese community and local producers started to grow more Chinese produce like bok choy, winter melon, Chinese long onions, scallions, white cabbage and more. Vendors were putting up signs in Chinese and learning Mandarin to better communicate with the new customer base.
When Jake asked me if I knew of kale in Algiers – and I did not – I did tell him to find a producer and see if they would grow it. Jake figured that if these producers were growing different things for the Chinese community, maybe just maybe they would also be interested in trying to grow kale. Week after week he went to the market and befriended a producer named Salim. His produce is always high-quality. Salim would tell Jake about what new things were being harvested and offer samples of lemongrass or arugula (which no one else was growing). Finally one day, just like I did with Madame Mustard in 2012, Jake asked Salim, “I really like what you’re selling, but there’s something missing, a green that’s really popular in the US.” To Jake’s surprise, Salim immediately knew what it was.
Jake brought back some kale seeds from the US and in January Salim planted them, giving Jake weekly updates on how it was growing, how tall it was, asking how to cook it. In mid March, Salim gave Jake a sample and then last week was the first time he brought it to the market to sell.
As Jake told me, ” It tastes great, and even if it only sells to my American coworkers, I think it’ll be enough to sustain him growing it.”
You can buy Salim’s kale at the Marché due 1er in Alger-Centre.
The prices are flexible but it was around 200 Algerian dinars per bunch.