By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
The first time I bit into a kale leaf, I grimaced. The tough texture and strong flavor did not endear the vegetable to me – and this leafy green did not appear on my shopping list again for years.
Back then kale seemed a rather exotic—and not so tasty—vegetable. Almost more like a medicine than a food.
But, in the last decade or so kale has made a real comeback. Today we are no longer limited to that one variety of curly-leafed kale. Now we have Red Russian kale, White Russian kale (no resemblance to sweet, alcoholic beverage!), Dinosaur (Lancinate) Kale and more!
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to give kale another look. Or another bite. I think you may find like I did, that this nutrient-packed vegetable has earned a place on your dinner plate. And that’s because of its delightful flavor, not just that it’s good for you.
What’s So Great About Kale?
I was once lucky enough that all I needed to do was to stroll into the backyard garden to clip my daily dose of this delicious green. I sure miss those days! Luckily for me, it’s usually easy to find in Central Mexico where I now live, and it’s a favorite of the local organic farmers.
The hardy vegetable grew with gusto for about 8 months a year on California’s far north coast, where I lived for many years.
Although you may not have a row of kale gracing your garden, it’s usually easy to find at any supermarket at any time of year. And a bunch of kale won’t make too serious a dent in your wallet.
Wherever you live, and whatever time of year it is – a serving of kale won’t let you down when it comes to supplying your body with necessary nutrients.
This leafy green gives you more nutritional value – with fewer calories – than just about any other food or vegetable!
It contains more than 45 different flavonoids – such as quercetin – which provide both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Because of this, eating your kale will do its part to help you limit the discomfort of chronic inflammations.
And of course, like many of its leafy green cousins, kale is high in calcium, providing similar amounts as that found in many dairy products. Many experts say that the calcium in greens is easier for your body to assimilate than that found in milk and other dairy products.
It also lowers cholesterol. Weirdly, though, its cholesterol-lowering properties are enhanced when the kale is steamed rather than eaten raw. Apparently, when the greens have been steamed, their fiber components can bind together more effectively with bile acids in your digestive tract. The result of this binding process is a significant lowering of cholesterol levels.
However – this doesn’t mean you should skip the kale salad recipe below. It will still work to lower cholesterol when eaten raw.
Like many other vegetables in its family of crucifers, kale contains anti-cancer nutrients. Numerous scientific studies bear out this leafy green’s anti-oxidant and cancer-fighting properties.
Kale can regulate the detoxifying activities in our cells, and it contains more Vitamin K than other vegetables. Vitamin K is a key nutrient for regulating the body’s anti-inflammatory processes.
The Many Faces Of Kale
As I mentioned above, there are lots of varieties of kale. There’s curly kale (that original tougher variety – but don’t get me wrong, some people love this type of kale), dinosaur kale (also known as Lacinato or Tuscan), the Russian red and white kales, and even an ornamental kale that looks pretty nice in a flower garden.
Lancinate or dinosaur kale features dark blue-green leaves with an embossed texture. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than other kale varieties and it’s my personal favorite. Luckily for me, it’s become more and more popular in past years and is easy to get!
Russian red is my next favorite, and it’s another delicate and lighter-tasting variety. The Russian white is similar. Even the original curly kale (which made me grimace lo those many years ago) can be pretty tasty and tender if it is picked early enough and cooked correctly.
Wondering which kale to try? The best thing to do is to experiment with the different varieties. You may need to visit a natural foods store rather than a conventional supermarket to find a selection of different kales. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have some garden space, check out some different variety of kale seedlings at your local nursery and get them in the ground soon.
Kale is a sturdy vegetable and it keeps exceptionally well in the fridge. Wrap it in a plastic or mesh bag and store in the vegetable crisper. When you’re ready to cook some up, wash each leaf well, and then remove the tough center stem with a sharp knife. The remaining leaves can be cut into whatever size pieces your recipe (or desire) calls for.
So, What’s the Best Way To Eat The Stuff?
I’m a little lazy in the kitchen, and I enjoy simple flavors, so I most often simply steam my daily kale serving – often brightening the flavor with a little lemon or with some tamari soy sauce and nutritional yeast.
That’s the easiest way to cook it. Prep the leaves as described above, stick them in a steamer basket and cook till it’s bright green and completely wilted. Some folks think you need to cook the heck out of kale – like for 15 minutes or more – because of its reputation for toughness. Not so! I steam my kale for about 5-7 minutes and find that to be plenty. So, experiment to find the perfect texture for you. Add some butter, ghee, or a touch of tamari, or even a few squirts of lemon to brighten it up.
Or, you can go slightly more gourmet with a kale sautee. Basically, you saute some onions and garlic, then add the kale along with some broth or water. This gives the greens a more robust flavor and may go over better with more finicky vegetable eaters. Lately, I’ve been in love with using ghee or coconut oil to saute with.
Chopped kale leaves add flavor, texture, and nutrition to any vegetable soup or stir-fry as well. Or try some steamed with poached eggs and sautéed mushrooms. Yum!
My new favorite way to eat my kale is as a salad. It would never have occurred to me to eat kale raw – but my daughter Ciel introduced me to the idea of these salads, and wow!
There’s a trick to making an edible kale salad though. And not everybody knows it. If you’ve tried a kale salad and found it to be tough and chewy, rather than savory and tasty, you can be pretty sure whoever prepared it didn’t know this trick.
The trick is giving your kale a good massage!
When you use the massage technique (outlined in the recipe below) and let the greens marinate in the vinaigrette for a short while, that kale is just as tender as when it’s been carefully sautéed!
And although the cholesterol-lowering properties might not be quite as strong, the kale retains greater quantities of vitamins and minerals in the raw form.
Below is a flexible recipe for a delicious kale salad. This one is fancy and pretty enough to bring to your next potluck.
What I learned from my daughter though, the Kale Salad Queen, is that you can make it up with whatever you have in your fridge or pantry. I love this version with the mangos and pumpkin seeds, but you can really just any flavor enhancing ingredients that strike your fancy at the moment. Try it with dried cranberries and walnuts, mess around with different versions of the vinaigrette, or do a South-of-the-Border version with avocados, cilantro, and sunflower seeds.
Poke around on the web for ideas. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever followed any one recipe exactly. I mix and match from what I find.)
1 bunch kale, any variety, washed, de-stemmed, and sliced into very small pieces
1/2 – 1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil.
Coarse salt (Kosher is good)
2 teaspoons honey
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup diced mango (about one mango per bunch of kale)
3-4 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
Place kale in large bowl, add the juice of 1/2 lemon, a drizzle of the oil and some coarse salt. Massage the kale leaves until they begin to wilt and soften – it’ll take a couple of minutes and the leaves will turn an even deeper green. The massaging action is a bit like kneading bread – very easy. It breaks down the tough cell walls.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the remaining lemon, vinegar, honey, and pepper. Pour in the olive oil, whisking as you go. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Pour the dressing over the kale and toss. Place the greens into a serving bowl and garnish with the mango and pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!
Another fun twist on kale is to cook it up into tasty chips.
(Who knew that chips could actually be nutritious? You can find packages of these savory, healthy chips in health food stores for exorbitant prices. Why not just make your own?)
1 bunch kale, washed, de-stemmed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon salt, or seasoned salt, and/or other seasonings to taste
Dry off the kale pieces with a salad spinner or kitchen towel. Toss with the oil and salt and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 F or 170 C for about 10-15 minutes – until the edges are browned. Enjoy!
More by Sarah:
Sarah Grace Powers is a certified life coach and EFT Practitioner. She is a ‘dream resuscitator’, helping clients rediscover their passions and reinvent themselves no matter what their age or circumstance. In her previous career she owned and operated an herb shop and has practiced holistic living for over three decades. Find her at sarahgracecoach.com
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