Kale may be standard fare in the South, but many “Yankees” have likely passed right by this healthful leafy green at the supermarket.

Kale actually originated in Asia Minor and eventually became popular in Scandinavia, Germany, Holland and Scotland. Experts believe this member of the Brassicaceae family reached the United States by the 17th century.

Rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as beta carotene and calcium, kale is available in various shades—from chartreuse to lavender. One-half cup of cooked kale contains only 20 calories and offers 1.3 g fiber.

A perfect plant for fall gardeners, kale is available year-round, but it’s most flavorful and plentiful during the winter months. When shopping, choose small, deep-colored bunches with clean leaves. Avoid bunches with dry, brown or yellowed leaves, as well as those with coarse stems.

Upon arriving home, place kale in a plastic bag, and pop it in your refrigerator’s crisper, where it will remain fresh for a few days.

As with most leafy greens, cleaning is an important step. Dip kale a few times in a bowl of tepid water. Then, drain it and use a salad spinner to dry the leaves. If you’re adding leaves to soup or a cooked dish, you don’t need to dry them completely.

In the South, kale is often cooked in a large pot of water, with 1 teaspoon of salt per quart. Add the greens after the water comes to a boil, and cook them, uncovered, until they’re tender (about 5 to 20 minutes, according to Deborah Madison, author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, among other books). Madison recommends draining them and pressing out excess moisture; then, toss them with olive oil or butter, salt and pepper.

Organic kale can also replace greens like spinach in stews or soups, such as Turkey Italian Wedding Soup. We also have two outstanding recipes in our blog: Kale, Cornbread and Cranberry Stuffing and Braised Kale with Black Beans and Tomatoes.

Suggested Reading

Photo: