Kale is a dark, leafy green in the cabbage family. Sometimes it is mistakenly called collard which is a similar species. Its leaves are large, thick, coarse, and very frilly on the edges. Its ribs are quite pronounced. Unlike other leafy cabbages and lettuce, kale does not form a heart in the center.
There is also Tuscan kale which has even darker leaves. The shape of these leaves are longer, thinner, and more uniform shape in comparison.
Kale is also cultivated for non-edible uses but for decorative pants for garden and flower pots. It is a hardy plant that does well in cooler temperatures.
Kale was cultivated in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. It still grows wild in parts of Europe. In Scotland, kale was a a very important crop and is still widely eaten there too. Eventhe pot that kale soup was cooked in is called kail.
The town of Kaleland, Alberta was named by Scottish settlers after the vegetable. In Scotland, a vegetable garden (also known as a cabbage patch) is called a "kale yard". (Canadian Food Words by Bill Casselman, p 231)
Secrets of the Seed: Vegetables, Fruits, and Nuts by Barbara Friedlander p 40
Ways to Cook
Kale, can be handled and cooked like other hardy greens and cabbages:
- raw and in salads
- sautéed and wilted
- in soups
- dehydrated or dried as chips
Kale has a taste that is like green cabbage but stronger. It pairs well with other vegetables and aromatics that grow in similar climates such as: garlic, tomatoes, beans, onion, herbs, olives, and also goes well with meats, fish and cheeses.
Slice it thinly after removing the thick ribs to avoid the need for a lot of chewing. The cellular fibres are quite strong. Kale leaves can actually be gently massaged with a bit of olive oil and salt which helps to tenderize it.