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What is kale?

Kale

Kale is having its moment. Loved by actress-turned-health-guru Gwyneth Paltrow, and becoming more commonly used by celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver, this member of the cabbage family has become the ingredient du jour. Sales of kale in the UK have risen by 40 per cent in the last year alone, and our love affair over this side of the globe is evident too, with supermarket giant Woolworths now stocking kale in many of their stores.

So what’s the deal with kale?

Kale is jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It’s low in kilojoules, high in fibre, and fat free – one cup of chopped, raw kale contains just 139 kilojoules – plus it doesn’t taste half bad either!

It’s high in magnesium (which is good for blood circulation, nerves and bones), has high levels of lutein (which is thought to help prevent macular degeneration), contains five times the calcium of sprouts, and has truckloads of vitamins A (for vision and skin), C (for immune support) and K (for bone health.) Not to mention a bucketful of antioxidants and more iron per gram than a slab of steak. (Although this is not haem iron, which is found in animal products and is easier for our bodies to use, it still makes it a great option for vegetarians.)

And unlike many of the superfoods trending at the moment, it doesn’t carry the price tag to match. A big bunch of the green stuff will only set you back $3.50 at Woolworths – and if you head to farmers’ markets and your local greengrocers, you’ll be able to find it for much less than that.

All in all, this is one veggie that deserves to have its moment.

Different types of kale

There are many different types of kale, but there are two that you’ll see more frequently:
Tuscan kale (commonly found on Italian menus as cavelo nero) and curly kale.

Tuscan kale has dark green, almost black leaves which fold in slightly at the edges and have a heavily crinkled and bubbly appearance. The whole leaf can be eaten from its base to its stem. Use it as you would silverbeet or English spinach.

The other kind you commonly see is curly kale. Curly kale has a sweet and mild flavour which could be described as halfway between baby spinach and rocket. This is the kind that is often sold pre-washed in bags at the supermarket. It can be used in the same way as you would baby spinach or baby rocket.

How to use kale in recipes

Every green power smoothie recipe found on the net now seems to contain kale – but don’t stop at blending these greens. Kale can make a fantastic addition to soups, stews, salads, pastas, risottos – your imagination is your limit.

  • Soups: add during the last few minutes of cooking to minestrones and green soup purees.
  • Salads: add raw to salads with – or in place of – other leafy greens.
  • Risottos: add raw to risottos in the final minutes of cooking as you would spinach or rocket.
  • Pastas: wilt into pasta sauces. Try kale, broccoli, chilli and garlic with gnocci.
  • Sides: wilt in a pan over medium heat (blanch first if you’re using the Tuscan variety) with a small amount of olive oil, garlic and chilli. Serve with lemon and a piece of grilled meat or fish.
  • Chips: brush kale leaves with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, spread out on a tray, and place in a 180 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
  • Smoothies: try this recipe from taste.com.au.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spinach, trimmed, chopped, tightly packed
  • 1 cup chopped kale, trimmed, chopped, tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 green apple, cored, chopped
  • 1 pear, cored, chopped
  • 2 large bananas, frozen and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • Fresh mint to serve


Method:
Place all ingredients in a blender on high speed and blend until smooth. Divide into 2 tall glasses. Top with fresh mint and enjoy!

Image: Peet Sneekes