An ancient vegetable that’s experiencing a modern resurgence of popularity, super beauty food kale is a nutritionist favourite thanks to its versatility, taste and abundant health properties.
Whether added to a morning smoothie or lightly steamed as an accompaniment to an evening meal, kale can add robust flavour and health-boosting nutrients that will bring you back for seconds.
Super Beauty, Super Food
Green or purple, ornamental or dinosaur, kale has become a recipe must-have for wellness buffs—and those on a health kick—who want to benefit from its hefty nutritional profile including skin-loving vitamins K, C and A, manganese, fibre and copper. Vegetarians and vegans also often rely heavily on kale as a plant-based powerhouse of iron, Omega 3 fats, B vitamins and protein. However, according to some nutritionists, adding a squeeze of lemon to a kale-based smoothie or salad will help with iron absorption.
Kale also boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in the form of 45 varieties of flavonoids. It’s the vegetable’s deep green hue that signifies its rich nutrient profile: research has found any vegetable that is rich green boasts a high concentration of nutrients, including those that have been found to lower cholesterol.
Types and Taste
A descendant of wild cabbage and a relative of broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower, kale can be found in varieties such as Curly, Red Russian, Tuscan (dinosaur) and Ornamental, each with their own texture and flavour from sweet and mild (Tuscan), strong and bitter (Curly) to mellow (Ornamental).
Ancient Meets Modern
While kale is an ancient plant, thought to have begun life in Asia, before making its way to Europe approximately 600BC, the Ornamental and Dinosaur varieties are more modern varieties, only discovered in the late 1900s in Italy. Ornamental kale began being cultivated in the 1980s in California, transitioning from a decorative plant to an edible vegetable often called savoy.
Grow Your Own
While susceptible to attacks from cabbageworms, flea beetles and aphids, kale is relatively easy to grow. Best planted from early spring through early summer, the vegetable thrives best in well-mulched soil that is watered regularly—but not over watered.
Planting from seed will result in seedling after about two weeks. When planting ensure there is about 30 centimetres between each plant to allow for growth.
The Environmental Working Group lists kale as one of the “Dirty Dozen”, with the annual plant known to be one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed foods. Therefore, choosing certified organic is important if eating clean is at the top of your shopping list.
Selecting kale that will last from supermarket shelf to kitchen fridge means choosing those with firm, deep-coloured leaves and hardy stems that aren’t dried out. Once home, storing kale in a cool temperature helps prolong its freshness. As with most leafy greens, kale leaves shouldn’t be wilted or be losing colour.
While kale is ideally eaten fresh, it’s also possible to buy dried and dehydrated, such as chips and flakes. Toss the latter on myriad of dishes for that extra health and flavour kick.
How to Prepare
Kale is a regular on raw foodist menus, yet you can also lightly steam its leaves to ensure you retain most of its health-giving nutrients—and distinctive flavour. The leaves are most often trimmed away from the tough and woody stalks, then tossed into salads and blended into smoothies.
All About Super Beauty Food Kale (Kale Force) was originally published in Nourish magazine.