I have a confession to make. About kale. I know it’s a superfood, and healthy people eat lots of it (and love it!!!), but I have a hard time enjoying it. I’ve had some good moments with kale, like when a friend made a salad with baby kale greens, or a batch of kale chips turned out really well. I like it in soups. But for the most part I try to hide it in my food and pretend it’s not there. Because really, I’m not a huge fan of the taste.
Am I being too honest? I’m sure I’m not the only one. Actually, I’m writing this post based on the assumption that there are many other people like me, who might like to know:
1. Find the right variety. My least favourite kale is Red Russian, so I don’t do a very good job of harvesting it. My daughter feeds it to her rabbit. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I planted so much of it… perhaps it was a moment of weakness for the poor baby seedlings I didn’t sell!
This past year I grew 3 varieties for sale and for my own gardens. I didn’t foresee a run on kale, so I ended up with 2 varieties in my own garden (but that’s ok, I don’t really like it that much….) If you try a few, in a few different dishes, it will help you decide on your favourite.
Red Russian (to me) tastes more bitter than the other varieties. I know people who love it and say it’s their favourite, so I would say it’s a personal taste issue. Dinosaur Kale (also known as Lacinato) is pictured above. It has a more mellow flavour. Curly Kale is the standard variety that most people are familiar with. I’m debating whether to try White Russian next year, having just heard of it recently. There might be other varieties too that I’m not familiar with – feel free to let me know what you’ve tried, I’d love to hear about it.
2. Learn the best way to eat your favourite varieties. Dinosaur Kale is my favourite type to eat in soups. I slice it across the leaf in long thin strips, so they’re like green noodles in my brothy soups. If I’m going to make flavoured kale chips, I’ll use the Curly Kale, since it holds more of the good stuff in its many folds.
There are other methods for eating kale, like dicing it really finely and hiding it in lasagna. Or adding it to stir fries, stems included. Some people like to steam it and eat it with vinegar, or cook it and mash it with potatoes and sausages (hello Netherlands, I’m looking at you…). Baby kale greens in salad are great; I think it’s because they’re still so tender.
3. Wait for it. Kale tastes better after it’s been out in a light frost or two. The cold temperatures signal the plants to convert starch to sugar, so they taste sweeter. Kale is not the only plant that does this; all the members of the Brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi) and roots (carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beets) will do the same.
One year we left the Brussels Sprouts out all winter. They were protected by their huge leaves, but still spent time frozen outside. The kids were eating them like candy, because that’s what they were! So sweet, right from the garden.
4. Spice it up! Use it as a vehicle for your favourite spices/dips/sauces and see what happens!
Good luck, and let me know how it goes. You can find me on Facebook; feel free to start a conversation.