The leaves of the kale plant have an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around. Although it can be found in markets throughout the year, it is in season from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring when it has a sweeter taste and is more widely available.
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 may be referred to as salad savoy. Its leaves may be green, white, or purple and its stalks form a loosely knit head. Ornamental kale has a more mellow flavor and tender texture. Ornamental kale is now better known by the name salad savoy.
Dinosaur kale is the common name for the kale variety known as Tuscan kale. It features dark blue-green leaves that have an embossed texture. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than curly kale.
Like broccoli, cauliflower, and collards, kale is a descendent of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in Asia Minor and to have been brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. English settlers brought kale to the United States in the 17th century.
How to Select and Store
Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. The leaves should be un-wilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be tenderer and have a milder flavor than those with larger leaves. Kale is available throughout the year, although it is more widely available, at its peak, from the mid-winter through the spring.
To store, place kale in a plastic storage bag removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Do not wash kale before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage.
Tips for Preparing Kale
Rinse kale leaves under cold running water. Chop leaf portion into 1/2″ slices and the stems into 1/4″ lengths for quick and even cooking.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Braise chopped kale and apples. Before serving, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts.
- Combine chopped kale, pine nuts, and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil.