Types Of Kale: A Beginner's Guide
Kale. The ubiquitous super green of the 21st century. Kale is trending hard and has been for a few years. The darling of the chlorophyll-packed leafy veggies, kale is high in Vitamin K, A, C, manganese, antioxidant nutrients and detoxifying agents essential for achieving and maintaining a homeostasis of harmonious health. In addition to kale’s many nutritional merits, it is a cinch to grow. But be forewarned, not all kale is created equal. Here’s a simple guide to get you growing and eating more kale with elevated confidence.
1. Curly Kale
Curly kale is possibly the most common kale found in food markets and grocery stores these days. Curly kale is rigid, broad leafed, fringed and green all over. This is the kind of kale you want to make kale chips and mouth watering coconut kale out of, due to its firm texture. Curly kale can be harvested as soon as the leaves are large enough and has a slightly rubbery consistency. This kale will grow a thick stalk as the plant gets older, will over-winter well and will continue to give its bounty for at least a couple of years. Once the plant is producing slowly, replant in the spring.
2. Red Russian Kale
Red Russian is the tenderfoot of the kale world. The flat, fringed leaves are similar to oak leaves, but with a vibrant purplish-red stem and veins. This is the kale you want to use in salads and raw preparations. It is much softer than other types of kale and will often fall short in cooked dishes. Harvest leaves when they are small for more sweet and tender “baby kale” leaves. Harvest later for more oomph in a green juice or smoothie or massage in oil for salads. It’s a good idea to remove stems as they can become quite fibrous and woody and gnashing through them may cause you to resemble Bessie the Cow chewing cud in the pasture in front of your family, friends or date.
3. Lacinato Kale
Lacinato, also knows as ‘dinosaur kale’ has long, narrow deep bluey-green leaves with a bumpy or wrinkled texture. A great, firm kale, lacinato is a favourite amongst chefs worldwide. It has a more nutty and earthy flavour compared to other types of kale and retains it’s composure when massaged for raw or cooked dishes. Similar to curly kale, lacinato is winter hardy and will continue to pump out new leaves and thicken its stalk as it grows. Eventually you’ll have something that resembles a miniature prehistoric palm tree which is pretty awesome. When that's not working for you anymore, compost your dino-palms and replant in the spring and late summer.
4. Redbor Kale
Similar to curly kale, redbor is a winter hardy, shockingly beautiful edible addition to the garden. It has a similar growth habit and look to curly kale and can be prepared in much the same way but it can also double as a stunning ornamental whether you eat it or not. Add it to flower bouquets or use for a super hot Instagram photo with burgundy themes.
5. Peacock Kale/Ornamental Kale
This is the stuff that looks like a beautiful cabbage explosion of pink, green and purply awesomeness. Although it is technically edible, peacock kale is better suited to prettying up the garden or putting in pots on the windowsill or balcony. The leaves are tough as nails and the flavour is quite bitter compared to its other kale brothers and sisters. It may be more edible at a younger stage (as most vegetables and leafy greens are) but it’s not the best or tastiest. Peacock kale really shines when it gets to sit pretty and make your eye balls happy rather than try and fail at pleasing your taste buds.
Tara Campbell is a writer, dancer, gardener and urban food growing advocate. After completing a BA in History and Environmental studies at The University of Victoria, she went on to study plant life at Pacific Horticulture College earning her landscaping technician certificate and master gardener diploma.