I love kale. It’s a hearty produce and is so versatile. From seasoned crispy kale chips to soups and to salads, it adds flavor, color, and a hearty crunch to so many dishes.
What Is Kale?
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable in the Brassica family and considered one of the healthiest vegetables you can add to your diet. You may already have seen a bit more of kale than you ever wanted to since it has been a trendy vegetable in recent years, but I believe it should be here to stay. A serving of kale has over 1000% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin K, 98% Vitamin A, 71% Vitamin C, and a good amount of copper and manganese.
How to Choose Kale
Kale is found in the coolers of the produce department near lettuce. Look for a deep green or blue green leaf that isn’t wilted, yellowed, or spotty. You can buy it as a bunch or, in most stores, near the packaged lettuce, pre-cut as mature kale or tender small leaves of baby kale. I find packaged pre-cut kale to be much easier to use and tend to buy it this way more often than the bunch. If you ever have the chance to try the Lacinto-type kale, it looks a little different than the popular one but it has a really nice flavor. It can be peppery or have a slightly bitter taste to it but I like it to liven up a green salad.
How To Use Kale
Mature kale tends to have a tougher bite to the leaf and baby kale is a nice easy introduction to this produce as it is tender and mild flavored. On occasion I will eat mature kale on its own as a salad base but most people prefer it mixed in with other greens or use the baby kale leaves for salads, keeping mature kale for cooked preparations. One interesting fact I learned is that when kale gets hit with frost it can turn a little sweeter.
How To Prepare Kale For Use
- Wash kale well and pat dry or put in a salad spinner.
- If using mature kale leaf from the bunch for raw preparation, I often take the rib out of the bottom section of the kale as it can be tough and stringy.
- Chop as desired.
Cooking Preparations For Kale
As I said, I like to use kale in salads, but also saute it, dry it for kale crisps, and add it to soups. It is quite easy to work with and I haven’t goofed it up yet…except for the time I left it in the oven too long and we had burnt kale crisps. I’ve also heard that it can be blanched before using raw so I am going to give that a try and report back.
How To Grow Kale
I’ve never grown kale but a friend said it is really easy to grow and it grows well in cooler climates. I’ve heard it can be rather like zucchini – the gift that keeps on giving. I am definitely going to have a spot for this veggie in my garden. If you plant them as seeds, plant them as you would lettuce then thin the rows out so there are 8-12 inches between each bunch. If you plant them as young plants plant them 8-12 inches apart right away.
How To Preserve Kale
You can freeze kale for later use. I have not done so yet but have done a bit of research on how to do so. I’m holding on to this for summer just in case I have mountains of kale from my garden.
- Bring stock pot 2/3 full of water to a boil.
- While water is heating, cut kale to size you want to freeze.
- Prepare a bowl of ice water (to stop the cooking process and cool the kale after blanching).
- Add kale to boiling water.
- Blanch for 2 minutes.
- Remove kale from water and give a quick ice bath (approximately 2 minutes).
- Drain then package and freeze.
TIP 1: Flash Freezing: If you want your kale to freeze in individual pieces or smaller clumps so you can package together and just use as much as you need, spread them out on a cookie sheet that’s been covered in parchment, waxed, or freezer paper. Put in freezer for 1 hour then package as you wish for freezing.
TIP 2: I use my salad spinner to get excess water off my produce after blanching and before freezing.
I’m sure you see a pattern here but yes, kale has a low acid/ high pH level so it isn’t approved for water bath canning unless you are making pickled products. I have a pressure canner but it needs a few pieces replaced (it’s the canner we used when I was a kid) so I only use recipes that can be water bath canned. See everything I use to waterbath can and steps that show just how easy it is.