Mature kale has an impressive nutritional profile, but many people just aren’t sure what to do with it. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised when you discover just how versatile and sweetly flavorful this hearty green can be.
A member of the Brassica family, along with broccoli and collards, kale comes in several forms. The favorite variety of most cooks — especially in Italy — is the heirloom strain known as cavolo nero (literally, “black cabbage”), which in this country is called Tuscan, lacinato or dinosaur (“dino”) kale. Its many names all refer to the same delicious variety with long, straight, dark green leaves that are deeply textured or wrinkled. This kale has a sweet, mild flavor, especially when it’s harvested after a frost, which forces the starches in its stems and leaves to convert to sugars.
Other commonly encountered kales are purple kale, curly or common green kale, flowering kale (edible but most often used as a garnish), white kale and red Russian kale. These varieties are generally distinguished by large ruffle-edged leaves and tough central ribs; they range in color from white to red, green and purple. These kales have a delicious peppery bite, but since their leaves are sturdier than those of dino kale, they require longer cooking.
Why choose organic kale?
- Kale ranks #16 on the Environmental Working Group's "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce," items that have been shown to carry the most pesticide residues when cultivated conventionally. You can lower your dietary exposure to pesticides substantially by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, and choosing organic for those items instead.
- Whichever one of the myriad kale varieties you try, choose organic kale to be sure it’s been grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that safeguard the environment. We believe that organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think organic tastes better, too!
How to select and store kale
- Whichever variety of kale you want to try, look for firm, vibrantly colored leaves with no signs of wilting or discoloration. Kale should smell fresh, not strong or cabbage-like.
- When you get it home, wash your kale thoroughly by swirling it vigorously through several changes of cold water to remove the grit that can hide in the deeply textured or frilly leaves. Then shake off any excess water, wrap the leaves in a clean towel, and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Tips for using kale
- Kale isn’t overpowering or bitter. It has a mild, pleasant, slightly piquant taste; it holds its texture when cooked, yet it's tender, not tough.
- To strip the leaves from their tough central stems, fold the leaves in half lengthwise, then tear, snip, or slice the stems out and discard. Stack several leaves together, then slice into ribbons or roughly chop. As a rule, 1 pound of kale will yield about 12 cups chopped. Like most greens, kale will shrink considerably when cooked. Steam or blanch the kale until tender (5 to 10 minutes), then add it to omelettes, meat loaf, vegetable tacos or quiches. Kale is also delicious braised in stock or sautéed with garlic and onions.
- Dino kale can be tender enough to eat raw in salads, but most varieties are cooked: boiled, steamed, braised, roasted or stir-fried. Use a liberal hand with whatever seasonings you choose.
- Kale is delicious paired with salty or smoky meats like prosciutto, sausage or bacon, and it benefits from a splash of acidity, like balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, added just before serving.