31 days, 31 vegetables. Will you take our challenge to eat every single one this month?
Ah, kale! What vegetable challenge would be complete without it? It’s the supermodel of greens: Intimidatingly pretty, always at all the fanciest places, and hanging out with all the cool people. Fortunately, it deserves the reputation, because kale is as delicious and versatile a green as you can get. Here’s everything you need to know about buying, storing, and cooking with this trendy veggie.
Kale is actually a leafy variety of cabbage — one that grows more loosely and not in a tight head, similar to some varieties of lettuce. The leaves and stem are edible, though some varieties are actually ornamental — they are pretty, but don’t taste as good. Kale has been grown as a food source for at least 4,000 years, and was originally developed in the eastern Mediterranean.
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There are dozens of different varieties of kale, with names like Siberian, Redbor, Walking Stick, and Russian Red, and they range in color from the palest green, to the darkest purple, nearing black. At the grocery store, however, you’re likely to find only two or three varieties: Curly leaf (which has curly leaves and looks like lettuce), Lacinato (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale, which has round, bumpy leaves), and red kale (which is similar to curly kale, but has a reddish tint on the stems and parts of the leaves). Though there are differences in the flavor and texture, they can generally be used interchangeably in most recipes.
Kale is chockablock with nutrients! One 3.5-ounce serving of chopped, raw kale has 49 calories and contains 199% of your DV for vitamin A, 200% of your vitamin C, 14% potassium, and even 15% calcium! It’s even got 3.6g of fiber.
Five links that’ll turn you into a kale aficionado.
Kale is, as we mentioned above, dense with nutrients and very healthy. Some find it to be good for filling out a green smoothie, while others like to use it as a late-night snack substitute. And gardeners often like to plant it in their front yards simply because it looks so pretty! But we like kale mostly because it’s a hearty, delicious green that’s easy and fun to cook with.
You can freeze kale, (you can even buy frozen kale) but it depends on what you plan to use it for. If you’re making salads, kale chips, or other recipes where a crunchy texture is called for, frozen kale will not work. However, in smoothies, or soups and other cooked dishes, frozen kale can be a great resource — and freezing kale is a good way to keep an overlarge stock from going to waste. In general we recommend blanching most vegetables before freezing them. Why? It helps veggies keep their color, and stops the enzymes that would otherwise continue to break them down.
But with leafy greens like kale, the blanching will also result in a smaller, more condensed (and wetter) vegetable. For some recipes this is just fine. Others, not so much, so you may want to think about what you’ll use it for (and how long you want to keep it) before freezing.
Though you’re likely to find kale in the grocery store all year long, it’s actually most likely to be cheap(er) — and more local — during the colder months, when the plant really thrives. Still, there are times when no fresh kale is to be found.
If you’ve chopped up too much kale for a salad, don’t fret! Unlike lettuce and other less sturdy leafy greens, it should keep quite well in the fridge until your next meal — and like a slaw or other cabbagy salads, will often taste better as the flavors have time to marinate and meld.