Kale or borecole (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group) is a vegetable with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms.
Culinary Uses of Kale
Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavourful after being exposed to a frost. Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly when combined with other such strongly flavoured ingredients as dry-roasted peanuts, soy sauce-roasted almonds, red capsicum flakes, or an Asian-style dressing. When combined with oils or lemon juice, kale’s flavour is noticeably reduced. When baked or dehydrated, kale takes on a consistency similar to that of a potato chip. Curly kale varieties are usually preferred for chips. The chips can be seasoned with salt or other spices.
- In the Netherlands, it is very frequently used in a traditional winter dish called Boerenkool Stamppot, which is a mix of kale and mashed potatoes, sometimes with fried bits of bacon added to it, and usually served with rookworst (“smoked sausage”).
- In Ireland, kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the traditional dish Colcannon. It is popular on Halloween when it is sometimes served with sausages. Small coins are sometimes hidden inside as prizes.
- A variety of kale, kai-lan, is a very popular vegetable in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, where it is commonly stir-fried with beef.
- A traditional Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde, combines pureed potatoes, diced kale, olive oil, broth, and, generally, sliced cooked spicy sausage.
- In Brazil, where it was introduced by the Portuguese, it is an indispensable side dish for the national stew Feijoada.
- In the eastern African Great Lakes region, it is an essential ingredient in making a stew for ugali, which is almost always eaten with kale. Kale is also eaten throughout southeastern Africa, where it is typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanuts and is served with rice or boiled cornmeal.
- In Italy, Lacinato kale (cavolo nero) is part of many dishes, such as Cassoeula (pork stew), polenta (corn porridge) with kale, Parmesan cheese and olive oil and Pizzoccheri (buckwheat tagliatelle served with Swiss chard, melted cheese and potatoes). It is also an ingredient of the Tuscan soup Ribollita.
- A whole culture around kale has developed in north-western Germany around the towns of Bremen, Oldenburg and Hannover. There, most social clubs of any kind will have a Grünkohlessen or Kohlfahrt (“kale tour”) sometime between October and February, visiting a country inn to consume large quantities of kale stew, Pinkel sausage, Kassler, Mettwurst and Schnapps. These tours are often combined with a game of Boßeln. Most communities in the area have a yearly kale festival which includes naming a “kale king” (or queen).
- Curly kale is used in Denmark and southwestern Sweden (Scania, Halland and Blekinge) to make (grøn-)langkål (Danish) or långkål (Swedish), an obligatory dish on the julbord in the region, and is commonly served together with the Christmas ham (Sweden). The kale is used to make a stew of minced boiled kale, stock, cream, pepper and salt that is simmered together slowly for a few hours. In Sweden, it is also commonly eaten as a soup, with a base of ham broth and the addition of onion and pork sausages.
- In Scotland, kale provided such a base for a traditional diet that the word in dialect Scots is synonymous with food. To be “off one’s kail” is to feel too ill to eat.
- In Montenegro collards, kale, locally known as rashtan, is a favourite vegetable. It is particularly popular in the winter, cooked with smoked mutton (kastradina) and potatoes.
- In the Southern United States, kale is often served braised, either alone or mixed with other greens, such as collard, mustard, or turnip.
- In Japan, kale juice (known as aojiru) is a popular dietary supplement.
Recipes Using Kale
See our Kale Recipe Collection
Kale Nutritional Data
Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other Brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.
Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying does not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties