Praised for being exceptionally nutrient rich, kale has been a focus of the health community in recent years. This nutritious vegetable comes from the Brassica family, which are vegetables with the characteristics of loosely crinkled green or purple leaves and central leaves that do not form a head. This vegetable group includes wild cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Most kale types tend to be a bit bitter in flavor, but a lot of this bitterness can be tamed by washing it well, through the cooking process, or simply by using younger leaves.
While you may only have a couple of kale choices at the store, you will most likely run into a greater selection and variety at your year-round famers markets. If you are not familiar with a kale at a farmer’s stand, ask him or her! Growers love talking about the foods they grow and produce, so don’t be shy or embarrassed to ask for kale recommendations, or to find out what it is and how to cook it.
Popular Types of Kale
Curly Kale is probably the most recognizable kale sold in bunches at your local grocery store. It is usually bright or dark green or purple in color, has tight ruffled leaves and fibrous stalks that can be difficult to chop, but easy to tear if fresh. It has a noticeable pungent flavor with peppery and bitter qualities, so seek out younger looking leaves for less bitterness.
Tim Sakton/ Flickr
Lacinato Kale (also known as Dinosaur) is a kale variety that features dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled and firm texture. The hearty leaves of Dino Kale are tall and narrow and retains its firm texture even after it has been cooked. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than the curly kind with its flavor described as deep and earthy, but not so bitter with an almost nutty sweetness.
Red Russian Kale
Red Russian Kale has flat, fringed leaves that resemble big oak leaves, large arugula leaves, or the outer leaves of a mature cabbage. Its leaves can have a red tinge and a reddish-purple tinge to the stems, and has a great flavor that is described as sweet and mild with a little bit of pepperiness. Although Red Russian Kale is one of the sweetest kales, be sure to remove as much of the stems as possible before cooking. It has incredibly tough and woody fibrous stems that are difficult to chew and swallow, and they could cause stomach upset.
Redbor Kale is beautiful and dark red in color that can look a deep purple, slightly resembles a tightly curled rainbow chard near the tops of its leaves. While this type of kale is edible, it also crosses over to being an ornamental plant. It is so pretty, why not grow it as a garden decoration and pick leaves as you need? Redbor makes a great addition to a meal, or even as edible plate decor.
Health Benefits of Eating Kale
Being a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and disease fighting antioxidants, all varieties of kale offer an incredible amount of health benefits.
- Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids to help protect against various cancers.
- On its own, kale is a low calorie food that is high in fiber and has zero fat. Fun fact: one cup of kale leaves has only 36 calories, offers 5 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of fat. Because it’s a good source of fiber, kale is a great leafy vegetable for aiding in digestion and intestinal cleansing.
- High in iron that’s good for proper liver function and per calorie, kale has more iron than beef!
- Per calorie, kale offers more calcium than milk.
- Kale is high in vitamin A – good for vision and skin. Vitamin C – helpful for your immune system, metabolism, and for hydration. Vitamin K – for protection against various cancers.
- …and so much more!
Whether you are new to preparing kale, or have loved it for years, here are a few of our favorite kale recipes here on One Green Planet:
- You have to try making your own Baked Kale Chips! They are so delicious and can be addicting; lucky for us, kale is low in calories.
- Do you enjoy a hot slice of pizza? It will taste even better when you make this Kale and Artichoke Pizza at home.
- Try this plant-based comfort food to stay full and satisfied: Kale and Mushroom Gratin
- Add kale to your morning juice for an energizing and refreshing boost to get you through the day!
Photo Source: USDA/Flickr