Kale has been the “veggie of the moment” for a few years now, although it has been eaten for over 2,000 years. This cabbage-family plant has leaves that grow continuously, making them popular for farmers and gardeners since they can be harvested throughout an entire season. Locally-grown kale tends to be sweeter in the winter, as the cold changes the leaves’ bitter starches into sugars.
There are many varieties of kale and their usage and flavors can differ widely. Here are a few of our favorites and some that are more exotic.
Curly Kale is one of the easiest to find. Its deeply-wrinkled leaves are great at holding onto sauces and seasonings – perfect to use for salads or making kale chips. Curly kale has a meaty stem that needs a few extra minutes more cooking time than the leaves.
When harvested as baby leaves, Red Russian Kale can often be found in salad mixes. Its purple edges and veining add color and texture to your bowl of mixed greens. Baby Red Russian Kale has a mild, even sweet flavor. Leaves of any size can be eaten raw or sautéed with a bit of olive oil or garlic.
Dinosaur Kale – also called Tuscan or Lacinato – has distinct, dark-bluish-green leaves and an earthy flavor. A very versatile variety, it can be used in soups or dressed salads.
A good cooking variety, Siberian Kale has a frilly edge, has a sweet flavor in cooler weather, and is very tolerant to cold.
Beira Kale looks similar to collard greens, has a flat leaf, and white veins when mature. It grows great in the heat of summer without becoming bitter.
Ornamental Kales come in a variety of colors and shapes, from heads to flower-like, but they are mostly used decoratively due to their strong, bitter flavor.
White Bean & Kale Soup
- 1 small bunch kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 14.5-oz can cannellini beans, drained or dried beans, cooked
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 4 cups chicken broth
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf
- parsley leaves
- Lemon wedges (for serving)
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and garlic is golden, 6-8 minutes. Add kale and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted – about 3 minutes. Add beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Divide soup among bowls, top with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges alongside.