Versatile, hearty and oh-so-nutritious, kale’s been the “it” vegetable for the last few years (it even has a “day”). If you haven’t yet hopped on its bandwagon, you’d better get a move on. Read on for everything you need to know about this genius green.
Kale’s roots go deep
Kale is eaten across the world, dating back to the Romans. It hails from the cabbage family, along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and collards.
It’s seriously good for you
One cup of raw kale (about 30 calories) is packed with:
- About 3 grams of protein
- 2.5 grams of fiber
- Vitamins A, C and K and folate
- Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid
- Minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc
Know your kale
There are many varieties of kale, but the most common ones you’ll find at your local market are these:
Curly kale is likely the one you’ve seen the most. The leaves will range from light green to dark green and might even take on a smidge of purple. These curly, ruffled leaves can have pungent, bitter notes so keep an eye out for fresher, younger bunches. This variety is pretty tough, so it’s not a great choice for raw preparations. But hello, lentil and sausage soup with kale!
Lacinato kale (or dino, dinosaur or Tuscan) is dark green with flat leaves that have a bumpy texture and a deep, earthy flavor. Lacinato kale is much easier to chop than its curly cousin, and it retains its firmness when cooked. If you’re making a raw kale salad, this is the bunch to grab.
Red Russian kale has flat, fringy leaves that look a bit like arugula or even oak. You’ll notice a purplish tinge to the leaves along with a purple stem. Note that these stems are really tough and woody, so be sure to remove them before cooking.
How to select kale
The leaves should be firm and free of brown or wilted spots. Discard any exterior ones that seem tired or look yellowish. Always wash and dry the leaves well before you begin cooking.
What to do with kale?
Since kale is such a hardy green, it holds up well in soups and stews. Its flavor mellows a bit when sautéed, making it a lovely option for quick pasta dishes, stir fries, or as a simple accompaniment to a meat or fish main. You can also sub it in for lettuce in your favorite salad.
Keep in mind that kale leaves can be tough raw, so it’s often a good idea to let them marinate for a few minutes in the dressing before serving. You can also massage the chopped leaves with your fingers if time is of the essence. Another good option is to quickly blanch the chopped leaves before assembling your salad.
Get started with a few of our favorite kale recipes:
- Farro and Kale Salad with Pine Nuts
- Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Kale
- Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
- Potato and Kale Tortilla
- Sweet Potato Quinoa with Sautéed Kale and Walnuts
- Kale and Pear Green Smoothie
- Mean Green Juice
So what do you think about kale? Best green ever or merely meh?