Hail Mighty Kale

Kale is a descendant of wild cabbage and is thought to have originated in Asia Minor. It was probably brought to Europe by Celtic wanderers as early as 600BC where it became one of the most common green vegetables in Europe until the Middle Ages.

The flavour is rich, intense and slightly sweet, and it’s one of the few vegetables where the flavour is improved when plants are ‘kissed by frost’, making winter the perfect time to enjoy kale.

One of the most nutrient dense plants in the world, kale cultivation was encouraged during World War II when food was scarce, and in Japan kale juice is drunk as a dietary supplement. One cup of raw kale contains almost seven times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K and has more vitamin C than a whole orange. If health conscious customers are your target market, kale is a must-have on the menu.

Even though kale is grown all year around, it is best as part of your winter menu, as spring plantings can struggle, with plants wanting to bolt or turn to seed very quickly.

Eat

The relatively low moisture content means kale does not shrink as much as other greens and needs a longer cooking time. Remove the centre stalk as this takes considerably longer to cook than the leaves. This doesn’t mean you should throw the stalks away, just allow a longer cook time.

Kale is a great vegetable to add to soups, stews and risottos, as it’s robust enough to take a bit more cooking than leafier greens.
Stir-fried kale with Chinese flavours makes a great side dish for noodle or rice dishes. Use in place of spinach in dishes like lasagnes, omelettes and bakes.
Blend to make a pesto with a difference or a nutrient dense smoothie.
Rub with oil and roast to make fantastic kale chips, reminiscent of crispy seaweed, that can carry other flavours such as chilli, nutritional yeast or Parmesan.

For raw recipes choose smaller leaves which are more tender and milder in taste and thus more suitable for salads. Match raw kale leaves with other strongly-flavoured ingredients like dry roasted peanuts, soy roasted almonds, tamarind, chorizo or a sesame-based dressing.

Varieties

Kale varieties differ in size, foliage texture and colour, ranging from light green through to blue-green, red and blackish-blue.

Curly Kale

Deep green colour and curly leaves. Young curly kale leaves can be used as a garnish. Some varieties of green kale are also known as collards or winter greens. Kale can be cooked in similar ways to cabbage. Just make sure to remove the thick stalks before cooking.

Cavolo Nero

Cavolo Nero is a type of kale also known as black cabbage or Tuscan kale with long strap-like leaves similar to Savoy cabbage in texture. It has a blue-green colour that cooks to an intense silverbeet green. Cavolo Nero can be used the same way as cabbage, or in dishes with a distinct Italian flavour.

Sometimes called Dinosaur or ‘Dino’ kale, as its blistered leaves were thought to resemble dinosaur skin.

Store

Kale becomes bitter and strongly flavoured the longer it is stored, so order regularly and use within a couple of days.

If storing, keep it in a plastic bag and remove as much air as possible. Don’t wash the leaves, as water encourages spoilage. Any wilting will cause flavour deterioration.

Grow

Across the country but heavily in the Waikato/South Auckland, Horowhenua and Marlborough.