This Meatless Monday, we feature kale, with growing, storage and prep tips, as well as recipes for Simple Sautéed Kale and Baked Kale Chips.
A relative of cabbage, Kale is an old-fashioned vegetable whose ancestors were popular among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Types of kale very similar to those we eat today were commonly eaten in the middle ages. Because kale is so-cold hardy, it has historically been an important crop that remains available long after the traditional growing season ends. Unlike cabbage, kale leaves do not form a tight head, but instead branch off from a thick, central stem. Kale can be found in curly and flat-leafed varieties in colors that range from blue-black to bright green to purplish. In World War II, kale was a common component of victory gardens due to its ease of growing. Kale is enjoying a comeback today for many of the same reasons that have made it intermittently popular for centuries.
Kale can either be grown as a baby green or allowed to mature to its full size. A very cold hardy vegetable, kale can be direct seeded as soon as the soil can be worked or started indoors 4 weeks prior and transplanted. For baby leaf kale, sow seeds every 4 weeks until the first frost. For full-sized kale, harvest the bottom leaves first and the plant will continue to produce, sprouting new leaves out of the center. Kale often becomes sweeter after a frost, but will eventually die off after prolonged freezing temperatures. Keep an eye on plants for cabbage worms. Some varieties (particularly Red Russian) are prone to flea beetles when young, but you can protect plants with row cover.
After harvesting leaves, dunk in very cold water and shake to dry slightly. Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week. Because kale will hold so well in the field, home growers can afford to delay harvesting until just before use. For long-term storage, kale can be blanched (dunked in boiling water for a few minutes), chilled, drained, then packed into freezer bags and stored in the freezer for several months.
Kale is one of the best things you can eat! Packed with a huge variety of vitamins and minerals, kale delivers lots of benefits with few calories. Like other members of the cabbage family, kale contains sulforaphane, a compound that is believed to have anti-cancer properties. Kale is also a good source of iron and dietary fiber.
Rinse fresh kale before using. For kale with large, tough stems, rip (or cut) the leafy portion from the central rib and discard the tough portion. Young, tender kale is tasty raw if chopped and added to salads, but older kale generally lends itself better to cooking. Kale can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, baked, and added to a wide variety of dishes.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Simple Sautéed Kale
Adriany Martins, a volunteer baking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tried this recipe. Adriany is an exchange student from Brazil, living with a host family in central Vermont. She’s a senior at U-32 High School. Her comments and tips are in italics below.
- 1 large bunch kale, any variety
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- ½ cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider or red wine)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chop kale, removing tough center ribs.
- Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until just tender but not yet beginning to brown (only a few minutes).
- Turn heat to high and add broth. Add kale, stir, cover, and cook about 5 minutes.
- Uncover. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.
- Remove from heat, toss with vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
This was my first experience with kale. Three out of four of us liked it. Probably younger children would not like this. The garlic was an important part of the flavor so I don’t think you’d want to skip it. The prep and the cooking were very fast and the recipe is very inexpensive since kale costs about $3.00 for a bunch. It cooks down a lot so start with a skillet full. This is fast, inexpensive, flavorful and nutritious. It serves four as a side dish.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Baked Kale Chips
- 1 large bunch kale (curly types work best)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt (adjust to taste)
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Cut center rib out of kale and then chop or rip the leaves into big pieces.
- In a bowl, toss kale with olive oil and salt, doing your best to coat the kale with the oil.
- Arrange kale in a single layer on a baking sheet (or several baking sheets).
- Bake about 15 minutes, or until kale is beginning to crisp. Watch carefully—once kale begins to crisp, it can burn quickly!
- Cool slightly before serving.
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