Kale is a part of the Brassiaceae family along with collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Another cool weather crop, there are many varieties of kale. Curly kale is green or purple, tastes like cabbage, and has a ruffled texture. Tuscan kale is very tender when cooked, and also goes by the names Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, and cavolo nero.
Kale has been grown and eaten since 600 BCE, and spread during the Middle Ages when Italians, Scots, and Russians all began to grow different varieties of kale. Kale became such an important food in Scotland that in some local Scottish dialects the term “kail” refers to “food” in general. The Scots use phrases such as “come to kale” as an invitation to dinner, or “off one’s kale” to imply that someone is ill.
Kale is a nutrition superstar due to the amounts of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate, fiber, carotenoids and manganese it contains. One cup of raw kale has just 30 calories and no fat, sugar, and very low sodium. It is a cruciferous vegetable offering health benefits including eye health, bone health, immune system support, regulating blood pressure, lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and potentially reducing the risk of various types of cancer.
While the vitamin K in kale is a benefit to most, it can interfere with the effects of blood thinners. People taking blood thinners should check with their doctor before adding kale to their diet.
Preparing and Storing
- Select dark green bunches of kale with small or medium leaves and no wilting. Kale will stay fresh and tender for about 5 days in the refrigerator and holds up better than most greens against wilting. Wash thoroughly before using, and dry before sauteing or roasting. Although the middle rib is edible, it can be bitter and most people remove it before cooking.
- Store whole bunches or individual leaves by wrapping in a dry paper towel and placing in a plastic bag or storage container. Store in the crisper drawer of the fridge to maintain the proper temperature and moisture level. Cooked kale can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days and eaten cold or reheated.
- “Massage” raw kale for use in salads to reduce the toughness of the leaves. Sprinkle with a little salt, olive oil or salad dressing and massage for 30 seconds or so to help break down the fiber before finishing with other ingredients. This step is not necessary for cooking or using in smoothies, as the cooking and processing does the same thing as massaging.
Kale holds its texture well when cooked, and can be steamed, stir-fried, roasted, or eaten raw. Blend it into smoothies, roast it to make kale chips, wilt it into soup, mash it with potatoes or turn it into pesto. It is a great addition to smoothies and can also be enjoyed raw in a salad. Try the simple recipes below to get started.
Kale apple banana smoothie:
- 1/2 large apple, chopped
- 1/2 banana, chopped and frozen
- A few large leaves of kale, ribs and stems removed
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- handful of ice, if desired
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Add more juice, ice, ½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt, or ½ cup milk (almond or oat milk for vegan version) to achieve desired consistency.