No ingenue on the super food scene, kale’s merit has been recognized for some time now. Still, not everyone’s a fan—some critics cite the crucifer’s bitterness and tough exterior as turn-offs. Look again, critics! Don’t dismiss this star on the basis of one bite.
The following roles demonstrate versatility, range, and depth. Critics, consider #1 or #2 first—they are most widely acclaimed and accessible to the masses. (Drumroll, please . . .)
10 Ways to Enjoy Kale:
1. Chips — A simple and quick snack—cut, chop or tear dry kale into chip-sized bits, toss with olive oil to glisten, not drench, and bake at 350 until crispy. Flavor with salt, parmesan, pecorino, cayenne, or paprika.
2. Dried — Put your dehydrator to good use! The process is just like the chips above, but the end product is more shelf stable (especially if you use less oil). Store in an airtight container and add to baked goods, sauces, eggs, etc. as the need arises.
3. (Not Necessarily) Green Smoothie — Blend kale with a couple cups of water, then mix in frozen fruit for sweetness and chill. If you’re new to kale, start with a handful, and try berries (blueberries and blackberries will disguise the green) and a banana to really cut the bitterness. Work your way up to a higher greens to fruit ratio. (If you need motivation, note that blending releases the most anticancer sulforaphane.)
4. Soup, Stew, Chili, Pasta — Toss ribbons of raw kale into any warm meal just before serving. A few minutes of heat will tenderize them. Bonus points for dishes with a bit of acidity.
5. Boiled — Boiling isn’t my typical go-to for vegetable preparation. It’s what I grew up with, and frankly, I wasn’t much of a fan. In my experience, boiling always brought out the worst (odors so funky that Snoop Dogg referenced them in song, unappetizing colors), and took the best (nutrients, flavor) in vegetables. However, I have come to believe that it has it’s place. For kale, a 20 minute boil in good chicken stock can be transformative. Try it on an open-faced sandwich—top good bread with boiled kale, a fried egg, and a drizzle of olive oil. (Boiling leaches nutrients into the water, but variety’s the spice of life, so don’t sweat it every now and then. Still, I reserve the liquid for another purpose.)
6. Lasagna — Put kale at the center of the meal by tucking a good dose of green into your favorite lasagna. Blanch or flash steam, then add to other components and cook per your recipe.
7. Sauteed — Saute kale and add to grain dishes such as rice and quinoa. Add walnuts, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for texture, and dried cranberries or currants for sweetness. A squeeze of lemon to top it off, and you have a star side.
8. Slow Cooked — Blanch kale in salted water for a minute, then drain and squeeze. Heat coconut oil and red onion on low, toss in chopped kale, cover and cook until tender (30-40 minutes), stirring and adding water as needed. Season with fresh or dried hot pepper, lemon juice, or vinegar.
9. Grilled sandwich — Blanch, cool, then squeeze kale as above. Sprinkle on salt, olive oil, and acid (e.g., lemon juice or vinegar). Assemble other chosen ingredients between good bread and grill.
10. Salad — Rub kale leaves with salt and acid to tenderize and reduce bitterness. Add your favorite features and let sit for several minutes before serving. Simple but impressive.
Like the Meryl Streep of greens, kale is known for being a shape-shifter. Further evidence of kale’s range comes from the differing appearance, flavor and bite of varietals/varieties. Curly, Red Russian, and Cavolo Nero (a.k.a. Lacinato, a.k.a. Tuscan, a.k.a Dinosaur)—the rap star of the lineup, are commonly available. I recommend the lighter varieties (Red Russian is mildest) for salads and other raw dishes, and love Curly for chips and drying. Look for crispness and green leaves with no yellowing. Wrap in a moist towel (paper or cloth) and seal in container or bag with minimal air to preserve freshness. Store in the fridge.
Remove the stems at the point of use, but don’t toss them out! Toss them in the freezer instead, as they’re a great addition to vegetable stock. I used to remove the leaves with a knife, which worked well enough, but my chef friend taught me that it’s even more efficient to flip the stalk upside down, pinch the sides together, and pull the leaves off along the stem.
Still unconvinced that kale has star quality? If the art doesn’t tempt you, perhaps credentials will be more persuasive.
10 Reasons to Eat Kale:
This mighty vegetable lowers the risk for . . .
1. Cancer — Isothiocynates; Beta-carotene; Vitamin C, Lutein, Maempferol
2. Vision Problems — Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Beta Carotene, Lutein, Zeaxanthin
3. Inflammation — Vitamin K; Omega 3; Fiber (Current research points to inflammation’s connection to various diseases and conditions—from diabetes to dementia.)
4. Osteoporosis — Vitamin K; Vitamin A; Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium (Who knew, right? Turns out that kale has 9% of , and it’s easy for your body to absorb.)
5. Menstrual Symptoms — Vitamin A (reduces heavy bleeding), Magnesium and Calcium reduce cramping. Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
6. The Common Cold — Vitamin A (boosts immunity); Vitamin C; Zinc
7. Cognitive Decline — L-tyrosine; Manganese; Vitamin C, fiber
8. High Blood Pressure, Stroke — Potassium, Vitamin C
9. Toxicity — Isothiocynates, Phytonutrients encourage enzyme production which draw toxins out of the body.
10. Cardiovascular Issues — Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin K (prevents calcium buildup); Vitamin C
There you have it, a resume rivaled by few. Bear in mind, though, that while kale’s benefits extend beyond that list, there is also an edgy side to this power player. Those with thyroid and kidney issues should consult with a healthcare provider, as should anyone making a significant change to their diet regimen. Also remember that there really can be too much of a good thing; rotate your greens to keep all systems in balance.