Last year, I bought kale seedlings for our garden. The kale that I was familiar with had large, medium green leaves with ruffled edges. The kale I was growing had very narrow, dark green leaves. I thought maybe I had mixed up my seedlings.
My friend Ellen tipped me off to the fact that I was growing the trendy Lacinato kale, also known as Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale or cavolo nero (black kale, since the leaves are such a dark green they are almost black). It’s slightly sweeter than curly leafed kale and has a more delicate flavor. It’s now my favorite type of kale.
I rarely see Lacinato at the grocery store, but often see it at farmers’ markets, so keep an eye out for it.
No question about it, kale is a nutritional superstar. One cup of cooked kale has almost 200 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin A 88 percent of your vitamin C and is off the charts with vitamin K (1,327.62 percent to be exact). Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and building bones.
Kale also contains many phytonutrients, a fancy word for a class of nutrients, other than vitamins, that is obtained from eating plants. Carotenoids, flavonoids, sulfides and a bunch of other things of which I’ve never heard (saponins for one) are phytonutrients. They are much touted for their health benefits and kale contains a boatload of them. Its organosulfur compounds are of particular note, as they are purported to lessen the occurrence of a variety of cancers.
The spring and the fall are the best times to get kale. Its leaves are a little sweeter in cooler weather. Kale is ninth on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen,” which is a list of the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables. So talk to your farmer about his/her pesticide practices or pick up an organic bunch.
Jan’s Kale Salad
This is adapted from my friend Jan’s recipe. And she got it from a friend. No telling where the friend got it, but I’m guessing each person adjusted it a bit.
1 small bunch of kale (lacinato preferred)
1 cup bread crumbs (to make your own, crumble a piece of very dry toast)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (Jan uses pine nuts)
1/4 chopped dried figs
1/2 cup or more crumbled feta cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Wash kale and discard stems. (Toss them in your compost!)
- Cut the kale into thin ribbons (chiffonade). Stack the leaves, roll them into a long tube, then slice into thin strips. If this sounds too fussy for you, just chop it.
- For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, shallots, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- In a large bowl, toss kale with dressing to coat. Add the feta, figs, bread crumbs and almonds and toss. Salt and pepper to taste.