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What Is Kale?

Kale is a beautiful dark leafy green that is lauded in health circles as being a superfood, and it’s also universally mocked for its bitter flavor. What a foodie conundrum.

Kale does need certain ingredients to help cut the bitterness and I’ve found those to be salt and acid. 

So it is a rather high maintenance veg. I remove the tough stems, and pull the leaves away from the “spine.”

You can buy big bags of processed kale leaves but even those sometimes need those tough stems removed. 

I was introduced to kale in a magazine article years ago: a kale salad by Dr. Weil that required massaging the leaves with a good olive oil, plenty of lemon juice and sea salt, and lots of shaved parmesan cheese.

We were trying to get more dark greens into our diets, and this unassuming kale salad was a delightful and flavorful addition to lunches and as a side for dinner.

That kale salad recipe is still my go-to when we are amping up our vegetable intake. And we can make a huge container of this and eat on it for days.

We have some storage tips here and a lot of facts about kale varieties, some of which are tastier than others.

What is kale?

Everyone might be familiar with this dark leafy green vegetable, but in case it’s your first time hearing about it, kale is basically a superfood that’s a member of the cruciferous vegetable group as are cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and broccoli. 

It comes in a few varieties: curly kale, lacinato kale, Chinese kale, and salad Savoy, which is often grown for decorative reasons. 

Depending on its type, the leaves of the kale can be green or purple with either a smooth or curly shape. 

Kale is quite popular in countries like Germany, Netherlands, Scotland, and the United States. 

But did you know that kale has been commonly served at the dinner table during ancient times? 

You heard it right! 

In fact, this vegetable was grown by the Greeks and Romans and believed to be part of their daily consumption way back then.

According to the aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu, the vegetable originated in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor and it has been known for at least two thousand years.

Today kale is grown all over the world.

This ancient superfood can be eaten raw and used in cooking applications as well. 

You can toss them in salads and pasta or turn the vegetables into smoothies. Kale is also good when steamed, sautéed, boiled, or baked.

Or how about combining them with seasoning and olive oil for an ultimate snack you can’t forget?

Ways to eat kale

You can cook kale in so many ways because of its versatility–you can grill, bake, or fry them. 

Either way, this leafy green is sure to bring its unique bitter-savory-robust flavor to your recipes. 

Apart from that, you can eat them raw, too! Just toss them into a salad or serve it as a side along with bacon. 

With kale, the possibilities are endless! 

You can even use it as a pizza topping, in soups, in a rice casserole, and as a stuffing for your cornbread.

What does kale taste like?

If you’re curious about what kale tastes like, the vegetable features a strong and earthy taste, but those raw young ones have a mild taste.

As the vegetable comes in different variations, expect also that its taste varies. 

For instance, red Russian kale tastes sweeter than common kale with a peppery and slightly bitter flavor. 

On the other hand, the Italian variety of kale, lacinato kale, has an earthy and nutty flavor with bitterness that isn’t as strong as the other varieties of kale. 

Wondering how to tell if your kale is bad? Check out this essential guide to read some of the tell-tale signs that your favorite vegetable may turn rancid.

Is kale bitter?

So is kale bitter? The answer is yes, it can be.  

Most kale varieties have a bitter taste however, keep in mind that there are types of veggie that are actually sweeter and less bitter than those typical kale sold in supermarkets. 

A few good examples are red Russian kale and lacinato kale, which are also dubbed as black kale or dinosaur kale. 

Can’t handle kale’s flavor? No worries! Learn how to remove or lessen the bitterness of the leafy green in this educational video from Judi in the Kitchen. 

You can also massage the leaves of your kale to soften them and to make them taste better. Master the art of massaging kale leaves in this guide.

Types of kale

Kale is known for its versatility in the culinary field, but did you know that there’s a type of kale that’s often used for ornamental purposes? 

Find out other interesting kale varieties and learn how to use them in your daily cooking.

1. Curly kale

Curly kale is the most common type of kale and you usually see it twist-tied in bunches in the grocery store. 

It features a pale to deep green color with long stems and frilly-edged leaves. 

This variety is used in salads, bean soup, or you turn the veggie into rice casserole or crispy kale chips.

2. Lacinato kale

Lacinato kale is popular for its dark blue-green hue and long, slender leaves. 

It’s used for soups and stews but tossing them into salads is fine too. 

Apart from that, the texture of the leaf resembles what dinosaur skin looks like–that’s why it’s also dubbed as dinosaur kale by many. 

3. Salad savoy

This colorful kale vegetable is a cross between kale and other members of the Brassica genus. 

Salad savoy has a sweet and earthy flavor that resembles cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. It’s versatile—you can use it in soups, veggie wraps, salads, and as a pizza topping. 

Also, some use this vegetable under plated foods as a garnish.

4. Red Russian

When raw, red Russian kale tastes semi-sweet and features colors ranging from blue-green to purple-red. 

It’s best for salads and has a sweeter flavor profile than the common kale sold in the grocery store.

5. Chinese kale

Also called kailaan or gail lan, Chinese kale tastes like regular broccoli and has a similar resemblance when it comes to appearance. 

You can use the vegetable for your stir-fry, steamed, and boiled dishes.

6. Redbor kale

Just like salad savoy, you can use redbor kale as an ornament for your garden and as an edible veggie for your daily consumption. 

The vegetable has frilly and curled leaves with a mild cabbage-like flavor perfect for steaming, braising, stewing, frying, and sautéing.

Does kale taste like spinach?

Unfortunately, kale and spinach aren’t similar as the former is slightly more bitter than the latter. 

Kale often has tougher leaves than spinach, making kale a sturdy green in soups, stews, and baked dishes. 

But the good news is these two leafy vegetables are mostly interchangeable in your recipes.

How to store kale

Storing kale the right way can keep the vegetable crisp. To do this, you need to provide the right balance of moisture around the kale to keep it from drying out. 

Here are simple steps on how to store kale in your refrigerator:

Tools needed:

    • Paper towels
    • Kale
    • Airtight container
    • Fridge

Instruction:

    1. Get two pieces of thick paper towels. 
    2. Moisten the paper towels and squeeze out any excess moisture. 
    3. Sandwich the kale between damp paper towels and wrap them up tightly.
    4. Place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge.

Take note: You can keep kale fresh for up to 7 days in the refrigerator before the greens will start wilting.

The bottom line

I’ve discovered that kale has a place in every kitchen, and it’s pretty easy to add to salads, egg dishes, soups and more. 

Kale is a sturdy dark leafy green, so it holds up well under heat. Massage it before adding to salads to help break up the dense leaves.

We even discovered some good tips for freezing kale, too.

How To Store Kale To Keep It Fresh Longer

How To Store Kale To Keep It Fresh Longer

CookingChew reveals some essential steps on how to store kale along with interesting facts about the leafy green.

Ingredients

  • Paper towels
  • Kale
  • Airtight container
  • Fridge

Instructions

  1. Get two pieces of thick paper towels. 
  2. Moisten the paper towels and squeeze out any excess moisture. 
  3. Sandwich the kale between damp paper towels and wrap them up tightly.
  4. Place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge.

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