This hardy Brassica green is in its prime during the fall and winter months, as it gets sweeter and more tender the colder it gets outside.
Flavor profile: Kale and many other hardy greens in the Brassica family, from collards to broccoli leaves to kohlrabi leaves etc, have a sweet and mild nutty earthy flavor.
Uses: As with many greens, kale is an incredibly versatile food. It can be simply sautéed with fat and garlic and served with eggs or alongside rice and a protein. It can be chopped finely for a slaw-like salad, roughly chopped and tossed into a soup, frittata, or any veggie scramble. If you’re looking to disappear your kale, it can also be juiced raw, or quickly blanched and blended into a kale pesto.
Pairs with: fats, garlic, rice, pasta, meats, lemon, tahini, garbanzo beans,
Storage: Kale has a fairly long shelf life and can store in the fridge in a mostly airtight bag or container for up to a week or two.
Other names: The name Kale comes from the Latin root "col" which is the name used for most Brassicas, or cole crops. Col is also a Spanish name for cabbage. There are also many different varieties of kale that each go by many names. Lacinato Kale, also known as Tuscan, Black, and Italian Kale, has dark round elongated leaves with a rumply savoyed texture. Green Kale, also known as Curly Kale, is known for having an incredibly curly leaf shape similar to curly parsley. Purple Kale and Red Kale come in many different varieties and vary from having just a red midrib to a deep purple leaf. Beyond that, there are also Peacock Kales known for their bright colors and stiff texture more similar to cabbage, and many more.
Nutrients: Kale is a very nutrient rich green both in a raw and cooked state, although the body is generally more able to process kale and other hardy Brassica greens when cooked. Kale contains many vitamins and minerals, but is particularly high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin K, and vitamin C, containing about 3x the amount of vitamin C than other greens such as spinach.
History: Kale is thought to have originated in Western Asia / Eastern Mediterranean regions near what is now Turkey. It was the most popular vegetable throughout Europe for thousands of years before its cousin cabbage hit the scene, and has since spread all around the world.
Why it's a great crop: Kale is a great crop on farms during the fall, winter, and spring months. It is a cool-weather crop, meaning that it thrives in colder temperatures and struggles in the heat of the summer when it’s both tougher to eat and more susceptible to pest damage. But during the fall and winter when fresh greens are hard to come by, kale is there for us! After harvesting its greens all winter long, springtime tells the plant to send up its tender flowering stalks, known collectively as raab or rapini. Kale raab is tender like broccolini and is the last edible treat that the plant has to offer before it completes its life cycle.