Kale can be an intimidating vegetable — the black diamond ski run of the produce world. Its leaves are thick, and on a bad day it can taste like a shrub, but once you know how to navigate its terrain, it’ll provide an adrenalin rush like no other vegetable.
First Its Credentials
If you’re looking for an overall kale “score” - the SAT equivalent – the ANDI Score indexes all food on nutritional density relative to calories. Kale scores a perfect 1000. (Walnuts, for example, are highly nutritious, but highly caloric and hence score 34). How did kale achieve this …
- High levels of antioxidants (beta carotene, Vitamin c and lutein).
- High levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients (vitamin k and some omega 3). See this primer on omegas.
Oxidation (which is happening all the time in our bodies) is critical for life but it also damages cells. A state of high oxidation as well as high levels of inflammation puts our cells at a greater risk for cancer hence the benefit of the antioxidants. There is some evidence that antioxidants not only stop the destruction of oxidation, but actually kill existing cancer cells.
- Strong on the calcium and iron front – all greens score high on calcium but kale has much higher “bioavailability” meaning you absorb more of it (it takes 5x as much spinach to get the same amount of calcium.)
What Kind To Buy
There are three that are most common: Curly, Dinosaur and Red Russian - story book sounding characters who were given names to match their looks. Red Russian has a red spine, Dinosaur has nubly pre-historic bumps and Curly is curly. The flavor and texture vary enormously but in general I would say Red Russian is the entry point as it’s often milder and the leaves thinner. Dinosaur (also called Lacinato) is lovely when sliced thinly, even raw, but Curly (the “toughest” of the three) is better cooked and the one I use for cooked kale “chips”.
How To Prepare Kale
- Remove the entire spine and stem which can be fibrous. (Some spines are thinner, in which case, keep these on especially if you’re cooking them.)
- If you’re eating it raw, let the dressing or oil seep in to soften it for a good 5-10 minutes before eating, in order to soften the kale.
- If you’re steaming or sauteeing it, then”flash” steam or sautee for about one minute max, until it goes a deep green shade and then stop! You’re just past “raw”, but only just. If you keep going it will turn a muddy green/brown and lose its flavor along with much of its nutritional value.
- Use coconut oil when sauteeing for a delicious hint of sweet.
- Add a drop of honey or agave if the kale is at all bitter.
- Add other accessories to tame stronger tasting kale. Sauteed onion or sauteed fennel get very sweet when cooked hence a perfect partner, or add a few nuts (pine, sunflower seeds or sliced almonds), or dried fruit (cranberry, apricots, or small bits of fresh plum or fig).
- Kale “chips” are divine: Cut the kale not too thin, drizzle olive oil , shake salt. Cook until slightly crispy.
Any other kale ideas or recipes?
Smokin’ Hot: Are You Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil? (Learn which oils to use.)
Last Time You Had This Nutrient Was In Breast Milk (The nutritional value of coconut and coconut oil)
Looking For A Protein That Never Swam Or Walked? (Explore another nutritional powerhouse of a food- lentils.)
Photo: Dinosaur kale, Copyright © Michelle Madden
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