One of the healthiest vegetables, Kale has incredibly high values of nutrients and vitamins that make it the perfect ingredient to introduce into a healthy diet.
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This superfood is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on Earth, having only 40 calories per 100g (raw) and rich in fiber and protein. Anybody can get benefits from it. The benefits of eating kale range from lowering the risk of heart disease to improving your eye health. You can also find it all year round!
However, cooking kale properly to avoid losing its nutrients is an art and takes practice. While there is an incredible number of recipes to be found on the internet, you also have to consider that different types of kale require different cooking processes.
Let’s have a look at the different kale varieties and at the many ways to cook this superfood!
The Different Types of Kale
Kale can be found on many continents, which makes it an extremely accessible vegetable. The many varieties can be categorized by area of provenance, shape or kale color. Each one has different characteristics, health benefits, and uses in the kitchen. Kale species can be both edible and ornamental and have unique properties.
Let’s have a look at kale varieties by color as this makes it easier to differentiate their health benefits and uses.
This is a type of kale that is easily recognizable because of its color. The blue or purple plant is characterized by a strong cabbage flavor. Since this variety thrives in colder temperatures, it is easier to find in Northern European countries such as Germany and Holland. This kale species is best savored in mixed green salads, giving a striking tone to your plate! Let’s explore the best purple kale varieties!
Vates blue dwarf
One of the easiest to grow, this bluish-green variety is characterized by long, finely curled leaves that look their best during the wintertime. It is one of the most flavorful types of kale, and the tender leaves are perfect to eat raw or in a mixed green salad.
Toscano / Lacinato
Originating from Italy, this plant is characterized by long bluish lance-shaped leaves. It is traditionally used as one of the main ingredients of Minestrone soup. The leaves are extremely tender at the top of the stem, and the plant contains an amazing amount of nutrients. If you feel like you are lacking Vitamin A or K, this is the food for you!
Cooking with Purple Kale
Purple kale is the best variety of kale to eat raw due to the tenderness of its leaves. You can add these two varieties of kale to your mixed green salads or to a sandwich. They are best paired with tomatoes, potatoes, and spinach. You can throw some blue curly kale in a blender for a great smoothie!
This kale’s color comes from the cold temperatures it grows in. It is incredibly rich in vitamins A and C as well as calcium and magnesium. It can boost concentration and fortify your bones. Red kale is one of the varieties richest in antioxidants. These help to fight free radicals, so this plant is considered a cancer-fighting superfood.
The darkest type of kale, this plant is characterized by long, curly leaves of a deep-purple color. This variety has a cabbage-like flavor and, when cooked, loses a good portion of its pigmentation. While it tastes best when eaten raw, the hard consistency of the leaves can be difficult to get used to.
This kale is recognizable by its long red-veined stems, and short and frilled leaves. These are extremely soft and light, making them the perfect condiment or side salad for your dish. The Red Russian is the kale variety with the highest calcium content, so it is perfect for strengthening your bones.
The leaves of this curly kale are not great when cooked, as they lose consistency and color. Due to richness of vitamins in this plant and its ability to grow in the winter months, this is the perfect food to help you fight colds and the flu!
Its broad leaves and red stem make Red Ursa the perfect addition to your salad. With similar nutrients as Scarlet Kale, this flat-leaf kale variety has a milder flavor and softer leaves.
Cooking with Red Kale
To avoid losing all the compounds of this extremely nutrient-rich plant, it is important to avoid long cooking or boiling. While eating raw would give you the best benefits, the rough leaves might be a difficult addition to enjoy in a green salad.
The best way to bring out its taste is to lightly sautée Red Kale with other condiments and spices. Easy recipes with a few ingredients release the mild flavor of this vegetable: just add some garlic, lemon, oil, and pepper to the pan and you will have a great dinner!
This is probably the best-known and best-tasting kale variety of all! It is extremely versatile and can be found all year round. It is incredibly easy to grow as it is resistant to cold temperatures and offers high levels of nutrients.
Introducing this variety of kale to your diet can supply all of your daily intake of vitamins A, K, and C. Moreover, the leaves of this variety have high levels of copper, iron, manganese, and potassium, – all the compounds you need to improve your general health! Let’s learn the different varieties of Green Kale and the many ways to cook them!
This variety of Green Kale is better known as curly kale. The long curly leaves are often used as plate decoration in restaurants and are easy to find in supermarkets. High potassium levels help reduce the risk of heart and blood disease and maintain the general health of your cardiovascular system.
While it is fairly easy to grow in your crop or garden, this plant comes from Germany and thrives in cool weather. If planted in the early spring, this plant can also be harvested for Baby Kale leaves.
Tronchuda, or Portuguese Kale, is recognizable for its long white or light green stems and broad dark leaves. This flat-leaf kale is extremely versatile and quite easy to grow.
Delaway Kale (or Delaway cabbage) has broad flat leaves and is incredibly flavorful. Originating from the U.S., it is perfect as a soup ingredient due to its fleshy and succulent leaves. Alternatively, the leaves are nice when boiled due to their soft consistency.
This is the perfect kind of vegetable for anybody that isn’t a fan of curly kale but would like a stronger flavor than soft flat leaves. This plant produces long stems with a number of leaves on them, which are flat in the middle and frilly around the edges.
It is an extremely versatile plant. The larger leaves at the top of the stem make for a crunchy snack. Alternatively, the smaller leaves at the bottom of the stem provide for a softer taste and consistency.
Cooking with Green Kale
If you are looking at a decorative vegetable to have next to your main meal, raw curly kale would be perfect. Just add a bit of lemon juice or salad dressing and you will have a crunchy but lightly flavored side dish.
On the other hand, Green and Purple kale are the best varieties to make your homemade crunchy crisps out of! These leaves have enough structure to be fried or baked. They are more flavorful than potato crisps, so you only need to add some oil and salt to them!
Green Kale is also great when boiled or cooked longer, for example. While this will reduce the nutrients in the leaves, these plants have a denser consistency which will make sure some of the compounds remain on your plate!
What Is the Best Kale Variety for You?
Introducing kale into your diet in any of its shapes, colors or forms it is already a great step! There are a number of reasons why chefs and cooks prefer one variety of kale over another in specific dishes. However, if you just love adding greens to your meals, the best tasting kale variety is the one that works for you!
Don’t forget that the incredible amount of nutrients that this vegetable contains will improve your overall health. Eating raw kale has been found to be the most efficient way to increase your vitamin levels (source), but when you find the recipe that works for you, you will be doing something great for both your body and mind!
One of the most nutrient-rich vegetables, kale can be incorporated into your diet in many ways. With a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, you can bake it in the oven to make chips. It is such a versatile vegetable that is easy to prepare and delicious – one more reason why you should have kale on your weekly grocery list.
Have you tried any of these kale varieties? Leave a comment to let us know what you liked the most and the recipes you have created with kale!