Kale is rich in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.
Credit: Kale photo via Shutterstock
Kale is a leafy green vegetable (Brassica oleracea) sometimes called borecole. It's related to cabbage, broccoli, collard greens and Brussels sprouts.
Varieties of kale are grown all around the world, in a number of different climates, and the plant is able to grow well into the cooler winter months. Additionally, the leaves of the kale plant freeze well, and some sources claim the leaves taste sweeter if harvested after a frost.
Kale has received a lot of attention in recent years for its powerhouse nutritional benefits, making kale (along with blueberries, spinach, beans and certain other vegetables) one of the so-called "superfoods."
One cup of chopped kale contains 206 percent of the daily value of vitamin A and 684 percent of vitamin K. It also contains almost as much calcium as milk, more vitamin C than an orange, and is loaded with important minerals, including copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
Kale is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and is known to contain cholesterol-lowering fiber and cancer-fighting carotenoids and flavonoids.
During World War II, kale was often recommended for "victory gardens" because it is easily grown and filled with important nutrients that supplemented meals limited by wartime rationing. When the war was over, however, many families turned away from kale, turned-off by its taste, texture and association with wartime privation.
Newer varieties of kale, however, are much better tasting that those commonly grown in the 1940s. Consumer should look for kale with firm, dark green or purple leaves. Kale can keep for up to five days in a zipped plastic bag in a refrigerator.
Some favorite ways to serve kale include adding it to soups, egg dishes, casseroles, salads — even as a pizza topping. Kale can be braised and tossed with walnuts and balsamic vinegar, or tossed with pasta, pine nuts and olive oil. Kale chips — available in some stores — can be made by cutting the leaves into bite-size pieces, drizzling it with olive oil and salt, then baking for 10 minutes in an oven.