Kale: The queen of greens

Hold the spinach Popeye … the Queen of Greens is coming to France. It’s called kale or chou frisé and it’s one of the healthiest foods around.

In Europe, kale was a popular vegetable eaten by peasants in the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, English settlers brought kale to the United States, where it gained widespread popularity. Today, kale has turned into a superstar vegetable in many North American kitchens.

American chef and founder of the The Kale Project, “Kristen Beddard”, is bringing the vegetable back to France. When she first moved to France she was surpised to learn that kale was relatively unknown. She is now working with local farmers to introduce kale in French supermarkets and kitchens.

What is kale

Curly kale

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, a group of cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, collards and Brussel sprouts. There are many types of kale. Here are three main varieties: the curly, the dinosaur (or black kale) and the ornamental kale. Each variety has a unique taste, appearance and texture. Curly kale tastes peppery and tart, the dinosaur kale has a robust texture and is sweeter than the curly kale and the ornamental kind is mild and tender.

Health benefits

Dinosaur kale

Along with its delicious flavour, kale is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s low in calories and has no fat. It’s an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C and is rich in manganese and copper. Per calorie, kale contains more calcium than milk and more iron than beef.

A regular intake of kale promotes bone and joint health as well as healthy circulation and blood clotting. People suffering from osteoporosis can benefit from eating kale. However, people on anticoagulant therapy (e.g. warfarin) may have to consult their doctor before adding kale to their diet.

Kale is filled with antioxidants such as flavodoids and carotenoids that protect against various cancers. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune diseases.

Ornamental kale

With its high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin compounds, kale is the top vegetable for eye-health. It also contains fiber and sulphur that detoxify your body and keep your liver in good shape. Including kale in your diet will lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. It will definitely make you glow, inside and out.

Selecting and storing kale

Look for firm, deep coloured and crisp leaves with hardy stems. The leaves can be dark green or purple or red in colour. Kale is a winter vegetable and is of better quality in the middle of winter through the beginning of spring, though it is available in stores all year round. Store unwashed kale in an air-tight plastic bag in the refridgerator for up to five days. You can also freeze kale in vacuum freezer bags.

Cooking with kale

Rinse kale under cold water and slice leaves and parts of stems into thin ribbons. Kale can be steamed or eaten raw. For some recipes, it is better steamed. For steaming, fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches (5 cm) of water and bring to a fast boil. Add sliced kale and steam 2 to 5 minutes (to a desired consistency).

Kale can be added to soups, stir-fries, quinoa salads, pasta or rice dishes, egg dishes or as a topping for pizzas. You can create salads with thinly sliced kale leaves mixed with a variety of lettuce or rucola, vegetables, nuts or grains – all blended with a vinaigrette.

As a side dish, cook one pound (½ kilogram) of rinsed kale leaves in a large covered pot and add some garlic cloves, fresh herbs, a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Kale chips are also a healthy snack. You simply slice kale leaves into bite-size pieces, toss in a little olive oil and sea salt and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 F° (180°C).

If you have a kale recipe that you would like to share, please feel free to insert it in the comment space below.

Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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