When it comes to green leafy vegetables, do you snub kale? I know I did, at first. Where I was living in the Pacific Northwest, kale was THE ornamental choice for commercial landscape designers. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the frilly rosettes plunked into every flower bed, container garden or sidewalk border outside every place of business in the entire metro area.
There was no getting away from this cabbage-like crucifer and, for reasons that I admit are entirely irrational, I held kale in low esteem for many years. It was rubbery, bitter and uninteresting, in my opinion. Really, I had no use for it. Then, one day I understood the difference between ornamental kale and the super delicious, nutrient packed leaves that now win big culinary gold stars in my cookbook. Once you’ve learned how to prepare and use kale in your everyday meals, you’ll find it endearing indeed.
Here are some surprising nutrition facts about kale:
• Kale is super loaded with Vitamins K, A and C.
• One cup of steamed kale provides more than 1,300 percent recommended daily Vitamin K intake.
• Raw kale provides nearly 100% of your recommended Vitamin C intake.
• Kale is also rich in calcium, iron manganese, iron, and potassium.
• Kale is a cruciferous vegetable--the same family as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower-- known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer prevention qualities.
If something this hardy sounds tough to chew, you’re right. Kale is a very robust, sturdy plant and the leaves can be hard as cardboard when raw. But, prepared properly, it is a very tasty addition to any dish.
Raw kale can be torn into small pieces to make a chewable, crunchy salad. Because the leaves are so sturdy, you can pour oils and vinegars on them and they won’t wilt like more delicate lettuces and greens. You can also chop up the stems and leaves and save them for adding to soups, salads or power smoothies throughout the week. And, kale holds up in the refrigerator a lot longer than other greens.
The best way to make kale tender is to steam it. Toss a bunch of chopped leaves into a steamer basket, add 2-3 inches of water to the pan and bring to a boil. Try adding lemon, lime, or even rose petals to the water. Steam the kale for about five minutes, or until tender, in a covered pan.
Throw the steamed leaves over some rice, millet or quinoa and you have a densely nutritious, low-calorie yet satisfying dish that’s also fat- and gluten-free. Kale is also an iron-rich substitute for spinach in baked dishes like lasagna and quiche.
Don’t underestimate this unassuming leafy green. Kale can be pretty impressive when you get to know it. Invite it to your dining table more often and you’ll want kale for keeps!