There’s a new vegetable on the block, and this one comes with a swath of health benefits and a devoted following. If you’re new to kale and want to know how to incorporate it into you diet then read on.
What is kale?
Loved in Brazil, Scotland, Italy and Scandinavia, kale is now widely available throughout Australia and is a popular fixture at farmer’s markets. But what is it? In Australia there are two types of kale on the market: curly kale and Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero) . So far it’s hard to pick up the American version – collard greens – although the market is expanding all the time.
Found in traditional Scottish and Scandinavian dishes, this variety has soft, ruffled leaves that are dark green in colour. This is the version most commonly found in supermarkets.
Tuscan kale (cavolo nero)
This classic Italian variety has long, narrow leaves that are almost blue-black in colour. They have a tough central stem that needs to be removed before cooking.
Selection and storage
Choose kale stems that show no sign of wilting or discolouration. Give the stems a good wash in cold water as soon as you get them home, then shake them dry and store them in a well-sealed plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Use within 5 days.
Why is kale so good for you?
High in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants, kale is being heralded as the newest wonder vegetable. Not only can the fibre and sulphur help with digestion and liver health, the vitamin C levels can increase your metabolism and strengthen your immune system. It is also high in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids and has vision-boosting levels of vitamin A.
How to eat kale
This cold weather vegetable is occasionally found raw in salads but really comes to life when given some time in a hot pan. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy kale:
Kale is an ideal addition to the soup pot, but you may wish to sauté it first to ensure it’s well cooked before adding it in. Follow the Portuguese lead and try making caldo verde from blanched curly kale and potatoes. If you can find Tuscan kale, add its blanched leaves to a minestrone for an authentic flavour and bite.
Give kale a luxurious twist by including the blanched stems in a creamy gratin. Top with crunchy breadcrumbs and serve alongside your favourite winter roast.
Follow the Italian lead and add chopped and sautéed kale to the top of hot pasta, together with olive oil, plenty of toasted bread crumbs or pine nuts and a healthy sprinkling of fresh parmesan. Alternatively, add plenty of cream and cheese and fold the greens through perfectly-cooked pasta.
The Brazilians love adding kale to their wealth of pork and bean stews, especially those that include their signature black beans. Alternatively, sauté them with olive oil and garlic and serve them alongside these rich dishes.
The newest kale craze is to enjoy these bitter green leaves as part of a daily green juice. Here their high nutritional content is able to shine and they add depth and balance to sweet fruit juice.
Kale goes with…
Think of kale as you would cabbage or brussels sprouts and pair it up with these companion flavours:
- Caraway seeds
- Cheese (blue, feta, goat’s cheese, parmesan)
- Coriander seeds
- Juniper berries
- Nuts (pinenuts, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds)
- Soy sauce