Kale is a great match with hearty foods such as pork chops, fried catfish, garlickly sausage, and cornbread.
A winter vegetable that goes practically undisturbed even by snow, kale can come fresh harvested to the table in mid-winter in even the most severe climates.
Kale is a non-heading member of the cabbage family—very similar to collards except with a different shaped leaf.
Curly leaved kale varieties—sometimes called curly kale or borecole–are the most commonly eaten. Flat leaved or plain kale varieties are too coarse and rigid to enjoy at the table.
The leaves of curly kale are arranged in a bouquet-like fashion. They grow from 12 to16 inches (30-41 cm) long and are deep-green tinged with shades of blue or purple.
Kale has tough stems which are edible only when young. The stems of mature kale must be removed before cooking.
Kale originated in the Mediterranean region and has been in cultivation for more than 2,000 years. The name kale is derived from the Greek kaulos, meaning stem.
From the late Middle Ages, kale was known as cole or colewort in England. Kale or kail is the Scottish name.
The French call kale chou frisé (curly cabbage); the Germans call it krauskohl (crispy cabbage); the Italians call it cavalo arricciato (curled cabbage); and the Spanish call kale col rizada (curly cabbage).
Choose. Select kale with fresh, plump, crisp leaves. Avoid kale with limp or yellow leaves. Sniff the leaves and avoid those with a strong odor.
Store. Kale will keep in the coldest section of the refrigerator for 2 days. After 3 days of keeping, the flavor of kale will become strong and the leaves will go limp.
Kale can be frozen after being blanched for 2 to 3 minutes or until the leaves become slightly soft.
Prepare. Before cooking, remove the tough center stalk by folding the leaves in half and ripping the stalk out.
Wash the leaves in a large bowl of water to dislodge sand and dirt. You can add vinegar or salt to the water to dislodge any insects. Afterwards, rinse the leaves under cold running water.
Don’t dry the leaves before cooking. Use the residual water on the leaves to help wilt the leaves as they cook.
Plan. One pound of kale with stems will serve 2 to 3 people. Without stems, one pound will serve 3 to 4 people.
Cook. Kale can be prepared just as you would spinach.
Steam the leaves in just the water that remains after they have been washed. Steam only long enough for the leaves to wilt: 3 to 6 minutes.
Italians steam kale until tender, then add olive oil, a little garlic, breadcrumbs, and sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese in the last minute or two of cooking.
The Chinese stir-fry kale with a few slices of fresh gingerroot, about 1 minute.
The strong flavor of kale goes well in soups and stews. In India, kale is often teamed with hot spices.
Kale is rarely eaten raw because of its strong pungent flavor. Small amounts of raw, young kale can be added to salads to add a spicy note. Young kale can be dressed with oil and vinegar.
Flavor partners. Kale can be seasoned with salt, pepper, onion, garlic, basil, dill, mace, nutmeg, allspice, mustard, parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme
Nutrition. Kale provides ample amounts of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron.
The botanical name for kale is Brassica oleracea var. acephala. (The Latin term for “without a head” is alcephala.)