Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, along with broccoli and brussels sprouts, but it’s most similar to cabbage. An excellent source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, fiber, iron, calcium and antioxidants, kale has been proven to lower cholesterol and even decrease the risk of developing cancer, specifically that of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate. Kale is a rather versatile vegetable and can be eaten in a variety of ways, from simply steamed to incorporated into a soup or salad.
**All About Kale**
In Season: Kale
When to Buy: Although kale can be found in stores all year round, it is in season from mid-winter until early spring. Cold weather and light frost causes the kale leaves to be sweeter in taste, making the winter season the time of year when kale is the most readily available and the most tasty!
What to Buy: There are several different varieties of kale, including curly, ornamental and dinosaur kale. Even though there are different types of kale, you want to generally look for deep blue-green colored leaves, and choose small bunches devoid of any signs of wilting or discoloration. Smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor than larger leaves.
Curly Kale: Easily distinguished by its ruffled leaves and fibrous stalk. It is usually dark green in color and has a slightly peppery flavor.
Ornamental Kale: Sometimes called Salad Savoy, this type of kale can be green, white or purple in color and has leaves that tend to form a loosely knit head. Ornamental kale has a more mellow flavor and tender texture.
Dinosaur kale: Also known as Lacinato, Tuscan kale, and black cabbage, this kale has dark blue-green leaves with an imprinted texture and tends to be slightly sweeter than other types of kale.
Prep & Storage: When bringing any kind of fresh greens home from the market, it is a good idea to wash, pat dry, and wrap them in damp paper towels. To clean kale, pull apart and examine each leaf. Discard any yellowed or limp portions. Wash in cool water, shaking the leaves with your hands to displace any dirt that may be caught. Rinse the leaves in a bowl of water, changing the water a few times until there are no traces of dirt. Lay the leaves flat to dry on a dish towel. Store the greens in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Greens such as kale tend to stay fresh three to five days.
How to Cook: The healthiest way to cook kale is to steam it, as the steaming process helps the plant to retain as many nutrients as possible. However, kale’s sturdy leaves are also excellent sautéed and added to casseroles. Kale can be easily added to soups, stews and pasta dishes, adding a healthy bit of green to almost anything! Don’t worry if it seems like a recipe is calling for too much kale – the leaves will wilt to a more manageable portion during cooking.
Recipe box: Be inspired to start cooking with kale! Check out some of these great recipes.
Lentil, Kale and Sausage Soup
A hearty soup perfect for keeping warm during the cold winter months!
Lemony Kale Salad
It’s nice to have something light and fresh to eat on the side, especially during the season typically dominated by heavy dishes – try this recipe for a twist on the traditional side salad.
Coconut Kale Brown Rice Bowl
This is a healthy, delicious, easy-to-make use of that bunch of kale and leftover rice.
Soba with Kale, Parmesan and Walnut Sauce
Get creative with flavors from around the world with this recipe that mixes Asian and Italian ingredients together. Who said “playing” with your food was necessarily a bad thing?
Kale Pesto Lasagna
Kale makes a healthy addition to this popular traditional Italian dish.
If you’re adventurous and want to branch out from the traditional stewed greens, try this adaption of an African dish made with kale, ground peanuts and coconut milk!
Sarah McAnaw is a junior at American University where she studies International Studies and Biology. After cooking (and eating!) her way through a semester in Florence, Italy last fall, she’s headed south to Haifa, Israel this spring to study the Arab-Israeli conflict and experience the culinary flavors of the Middle East first hand.