Kale is one of the few foods that live up to the buzz surrounding it: In addition to being delicious, this leafy green member of the cabbage family delivers more nutritional benefits for fewer calories than nearly any other item at the market. It's also great for gardeners; it thrives under the least green of thumbs, even in very cold places where other healthful vegetables tend to falter. Because there are so many great ways to get more kale into your diet, read on for tips for choosing, preparing, and cooking with this leafy green.
Nutritional Benefits of Kale
There’s so much Vitamin K in kale that nutritionists advise people taking blood thinners to limit their kale consumption, lest it interfere with their bodies’ blood clotting mechanisms. One cup of cooked kale contains more than 1,100 percent of your recommended daily Vitamin K allowance. It's also so rich in fiber that some eaters find it hard to digest raw. But that’s about the extent of the problems when it comes to this affordable green, which also offers an impressive amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and calcium.
Unlike some other vegetables, kale doesn’t become nutritionally less mighty when cooked. When you're snacking on kale, you’re eating heart-healthy, helping to lower your cholesterol, and even possibly reducing your cancer risk. Keep in mind that one cup of kale, which is considered a single serving, weighs in at just 36 calories.
Types of Kale
There are lots of different kinds of kale, including varieties which top out at the height of an average basketball player. Still, the variety you’re most likely to encounter is curly kale: If a recipe calls for “kale,” assume that’s the type you ought to use. Curly kale is deep green in color, with peppery, ruffled leaves.
Restaurant chefs are fond of dinosaur kale, also billed as Tuscan or Lacinato kale, because its wrinkly leaves lie flat, and taste slightly sweeter than curly leaves. Both of those attributes make dinosaur kale a great choice for kale chips. Red Russian kale, celebrated for its thin leaves and purplish stems, is even smoother and sweeter.
Ornamental kale, also called salad savoy, is a pretty addition to a home garden. Its tender leaves aren’t as full-flavored as curly kale leaves, and they may be green, white or purple.
Video: All About Kale
Learn all about kale in this short video.
Choosing and Storing Kale
The smaller kale leaves are generally more tender and mild in flavor, so choose them if you're planning to eat your greens raw. Look for unwilted leaves that are green in color, with no brown or yellow.
Wrap the unwashed leaves in damp paper towels, and store in the refrigerator crisper rather than at room temperature. Don’t chop leaves until you’re ready to use them. The longer kale is stored, the stronger and more bitter its flavor becomes, so most people prefer to eat it within a day or two of buying.
To prepare, run a knife along either side of the stem on each leaf, then cut crosswise into pieces.
Browse dozens of kale recipes.
The cooking method with tradition on its side -- boiling -- is also one of the easiest ways to bring out the softer side of the flavor. Basically, if you can heat up water, you’re well on your way to a hugely satisfying meal. Prepare leaves by removing stems and chopping, as above. Then rinse in cool water and drop into boiled salted water; it should take about five minutes to cook.
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Chorizo lends spice to this flavorful soup.
Of all the healthy ways to serve a healthy vegetable, steaming leads the pack. It’s best to chop the leaves first, and then steam them for five minutes in a steamer pot.
Toss the cooked greens with lemon dressing and garlic for this bright Mediterranean side dish.
You can even sneak it into cookies!
Infographic: Make Baked Kale Chips in 5 Easy Steps
To get the day off to a healthy start, consider a smoothie made with raw kale.
Find more inspiration and how-tos on Allrecipes Dish.