Kale has catapulted from a next-to-your-burger garnish to an entrée and side dish staple on menus everywhere. It's even become an iconized figure in popular culture.

herb, vegetable, kale, spinach
Katherine Baker

But while everything seems to think it is delicious, few people understand why chefs choose to massage it before serving it. Does your salad really need a spa day before you sit down to eat? After all, it's not Kobe beef—there has to be a reason for it all.

kale, broccoli, vegetable, parsley, cabbage
Alex Tom

By gripping the leaves and giving them a gentle massage, you begin to break down the tough fibers in green. These fibers, known as cellulose, help plants maintain their structure. But by massaging them, you can help break them down a bit.  

vegetable, salad, lettuce, cabbage
Katherine Baker

As you massage, you'll notice a visible change in both size (it will often decrease slightly in volume) and sometimes even color (it may darken). Pop a piece in your mouth and you may also notice a marked decrease in bitterness, and so immediately become a massaged-kale convert.

lemon, juice, citrus, lime, citron, lemonade, sweet
Jocelyn Hsu

By working an acidic solution (like lemon juice, vinegar or a vinaigrette) into the leaves, you can increase the massaging efficacy. The acid goes to work further taming toughness as it breaks down fibers, resulting in a softer, more palatable salad base. 

#SpoonTip: Letting leaves marinate in the dressing for a few hours will result in even more tender kale.

salad, vegetable, kale, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, parsley
Katherine Baker

So go ahead, massage your kale. Accept and embrace the fact that you're probably treating your vegetables with more TLC than you're treating your partner. It's okay, your veggies deserve it. #kale