Kale (Brassica oleracea acephala) is a green leafy vegetable that is a member of the cruciferous or cabbage family. In fact, kale is probably the closest relative of wild cabbage in the entire cabbage family. Kale and collards are essentially the same vegetable, only kale has leaves with curly edges and is less tolerant to heat.
Other greens of the cabbage family, such as mustard greens, turnip greens, kohlrabi, and watercress, offer similar beneﬁts as kale and collards and can be used similarly. There are several varieties of kale, known commonly as curly kale, ornamental kale, and dinosaur kale, all of which differ in taste, texture, and appearance. Curly kale has rufﬂed leaves and a ﬁbrous stalk and is usually deep green in color.
It has a lively, pungent ﬂavor with delicious bitter, peppery qualities. Ornamental kale is a more recently cultivated species that is often referred to as salad savoy in the U.S.A. Its leaves may be green, white, or purple, and its stalks coalesce to form a loosely knit head. Ornamental kale has a more mellow ﬂavor and tender texture. Dinosaur kale is the common name of the kale variety known as Lacinato.
It is better known as cavolo nero or Tuscan kale in Europe. It features dark blue- green leaves that have an embossed texture. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than curly kale.
History of Kale
Kale is a descendant of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in Asia Minor and to have been brought to Europe around 600 B.C.E. Curly kale was a signiﬁcant crop in ancient Rome and a popular vegetable eaten by peasants throughout the middle age. Kale was brought to the United States by English settlers in the 1600’s. Today in the United States, kale and collards are grown primarily on the East Coast from Delaware to Florida.
Nutritional Highlights of Kale
Kale is among the most highly nutritious vegetables It is an excellent source of carotene, Vitamins C and B 6, and manganese. In fad, One cup of kale supplies more than 70 percent of the recommended dietary intake for vitamin C, with only 20 calories. It is also a very good source of dietary ﬁber, as well as many minerals, including copper, iron, and calcium. In addition, it is a very good source of vitamins B 1, B 2, and E.
Health Benefits of Kale
Kale has almost three times as much calcium as phosphorus, which is a very beneﬁcial ratio since high phosphorus consumption has been linked to osteoporosis because it reduces the utilization and promotes the excretion of calcium.
As members of the cabbage family, kale and collards exhibit the same sort of anticancer properties as other members. Kale is also extremely high in chlorophyll and carotene, especially beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
How to Select and Store Kale
High-quality kale and collards, as well as other “greens,” are fresh, tender, and dark green. Avoid greens that show dry or yellowing leaves, evidence of insect injury, or decay. Smaller-sized leaves are not only easier to handle, they will be more tender and have a milder ﬂavor than those with larger leaves. Kale is available throughout the year, although it is more wide available, and at its peak, from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring.
Kale should be stored in the refrigerator crisper wrapped in a damp Paper towel or placed in a perforated plastic bag. Do not Wash before storing, as this will cause it to become limp. Kale can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, although it is best when eaten within one to two days after purchase since the longer it is stored, the bitterer its ﬂavor will become Cooked kale will keep for two days refrigerated.
Tips For Preparing Kale
Wash kale leaves thoroughly under cool running water to remove any sand or dirt that may remain in the leaves. If not organically grown, soak them in a mild solution of additive-free soap or use a produce wash, rinse thoroughly, and dry with paper towels or a salad spinner. Both the leaves and the stem of kale can be eaten; simply cut the leaves and stem into the shape and size you desire.
If your recipe calls for the leaves only, take a leaf in hand and fold it in half lengthwise, then hold the remaining folded leaves near the base where they meet the stem and gently pull on the stem of the single leaf you’re holding. You can also use a knife to separate the leaves from the stem.
While people are accustomed to eating kale only when it is cooked, this leafy green vegetable has a strong but delightful taste when eaten raw. Cut into small pieces, it adds a spark, both ﬂavor-wise and nutritionally, to vegetable or grain salads.
Kale leaves make an excellent addition to fresh vegetable juices, too. Typically one third of the volume of the juice should be composed of kale, as it can be quite strong. Usually the leaves can be fed into the juicer intact, but large leaves may need to be cut.
Quick Serving Ideas for Kale
- Perk up your dinner salad by using chopped kale as a salad green.
- Lightly saute kale with fresh garlic and sprinkle it with lemon juice before serving.
- Braise chopped kale and apples, then sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts just before serving.
- Combine chopped kale, pine nuts, and feta cheese with whole-grain pasta drizzled with olive oil.
- The taste and texture of steamed kale make it a wonderful topping for homemade pizzas.
- Put cooked kale and potatoes together and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and cumin for a delicious soup. Add vegetable stock if needed.
Members of the cabbage family contain goitrogens, naturally occurring substances that can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland. Dietary goitrogens are usually of no clinical importance unless they are consumed in large amounts or there is coexisting iodine deﬁciency.
Cooking helps to inactivate the goitroenic compounds. Individuals with already existing and untreated thyroid problems may want to avoid consumption of cabbage-family vegetables in their raw form for this reason Kale also contains signiﬁcant amount of oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid over consuming kale and other oxalate-containing greens.