The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

April 23, 2014

All hail kale: The queen of greens has plenty of variety

JOPLIN, Mo. — Kale is the "it" veggie -- the queen of greens -- and with good reason. It's just about the healthiest food on the planet.

There are several varieties of kale, each overflowing with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and calcium, so you can't go wrong. During the summer, fresh veggies packed with nutrients abound, but spring has less to offer. Kale is the key.

Kale thrives in cool weather; it especially loves a bit of frost, making its leaves sweeter. Our sporadically chilly spring has been perfect for growing kale.

The Webb City Farmers Market has several vendors offering a variety of choices. Lacinato kale is also called dinosaur kale, because its long, narrow leaves have a bumpy, dinosaur-skin appearance.

Lacinato kale also goes by the name Tuscan kale, because of its strong presence in Italian cooking. Curly kale is easy to find all year in grocery stores, but you can find it freshly picked at the farmers market now. It comes in a blue variety called Blue Curled Scotch, and a more green variety called Starbor. Beira kale has large, loose leaves, much like cabbage, but with a mild, sweet kale flavor. Improved Siberian kale has slightly frilled leaves and a mild flavor, making it great for salads.

Store unwashed kale in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge and wash just before using. When eating kale raw, it's best to use the smaller, sweeter leaves. Save the larger, darker leaves for cooking.

No matter what kind of kale you choose, it will be good raw or cooked. Raw kale has been shown to be better for fighting cancer, while steamed kale is better for lowering cholesterol. Kale does contain a compound that can suppress thyroid function in some people. Eat it cooked at much as you like, but juice it or eat it raw only once or twice a week to be on the safe side.

If you're new to kale, don't over think it -- just incorporate it into your regular, healthy diet. You don't have to go kale crazy.

A simple way to serve kale is to chop and saute it in olive oil and garlic for a few minutes. Splash it with balsamic vinegar before serving, and add a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan. Or give kale a try in these recipes.

 

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