There has been much chatter about kale. A form of cabbage with green or purple leaves, this nutritional powerhouse has much to boast about, and it makes no excuses. After a recent post incorporating kale into a smoothie, I decided to pay this leafy vegetable some overdue attention and dig deeper into its hidden secrets. And boy was I impressed! I’ve always heard about kale in many of my hours spent being hypnotized by Cooking Channel or Food Network, but never thought that kale would be available yet affordable in Jamaica. I was even more shocked when I found out that a friend of mine’s dad grew kale in his back yard in the country.
Also known as borecole, kale is available in curly, ornamental, or dinosaur varieties, and is hands down one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. The beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.
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 oftentimes referred to as salad savoy. Its leaves may either 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 for the kale variety known as Lacinato or 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.
So, what really is all the hype about? Let’s see (adapted from MindBodyGreen.com)
1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.
2. Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.
3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions including normal bone health and the prevention of blood clotting. Also increased levels of vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers.
5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.
7. Kale is high in Vitamin A.Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.
8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.
9. Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility
10. Kale is a great detox food. Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.
Whew, that’s a pretty big shoe to fill! For those of you thinking about incorporating kale into your diets, here are a few suggestions:
Selecting and Storing
Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. Kale should be displayed in a cool environment since warm temperatures will cause it to wilt and will negatively affect its flavor. The leaves should look fresh, be unwilted, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be more tender and have a more mild flavor than those with larger leaves. Kale is available throughout the year, although it is more widely available, and at its peak, from the middle of winter through the beginning of 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.
Rinse kale leaves under cold running water. Chop leaf portion into ½” slices and the stems into ¼” lengths for quick and even cooking.
To get the most health benefits from kale, let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit can further enhance its beneficial phytonutrient concentration.
NB: For maximum flavour and nutrition, kale is better steamed. Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil chop greens. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with your choice of dressing and optional ingredients.
I am excited to see what new recipe ideas I will come up with. I’ll be sure to post them so check back regularly. In the meanwhile, you can check here for some amazing recipes (images below) or scour the internet at your own will.
farfalle with sausage, cannellini beans, and kale
garbanzo beans and greens
spinach and kale turnovers
braised kale with bacon and cider
two-bean soup with kale
white bean and sasauge ragout with tomatoes, kale, and zucchini