Local Kale is the “King” of Vegetables
At least, local kale certainly has the reputation of being a nutritional powerhouse. Kale is trendy, for sure, and for good reason.
You can find local kale at the farmers market in spring and fall, and you may see it fresh all winter long. Kale is a brassica, and related to broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.
Kale has a reputation of being a “superfood” and is considered a trendy food to eat. Not everyone likes kale, but it is a healthy green leafy vegetable, and green leafies belong on everyone’s plate.
Buying local kale means it is the freshest possible, with all its nutrients still available! Look for young local kale leaves if you don’t love the taste or texture of mature kale.
What Does Local Kale Taste Like?
Kale is one of the heartier leafy greens. The leaves are described as strong, dry, or tough. The flavor tends to be bitter, earthy, but mild, not spicy.
Local kale grows easily in Maryland, and can even overwinter in the garden, so you may see it all winter long. Kale that has been hit with frost can taste sweeter.
Younger kale leaves are milder, with softer, more tender leaves. Eat young local kale in salads. If you want to eat mature kale raw, slice it up into ribbons. Older kale is often best cooked.
Growing Local Kale
Local kale season is during cooler months, often from October to March. You can plant kale in the spring or fall, but fall planted kale can have a sweet, nutty flavor thanks to colder temperatures.
If you try local kale now, and don’t love it, consider waiting until fall or winter to try again.
Kale can overwinter in zones 7 to 10, still putting on new leaves. Even in colder temperatures, kale may stay in the garden with some protection. That means Maryland is a perfect place for fresh kale all winter long.
Curly leafed varieties of kale last longer in the cold, so if you want to try growing kale for the winter, start with those.
Types of Local Kale
Kale is a brassica, but does not form heads like broccoli or cabbage. Like brassica crops, kale is very nutritious.
You will find two main types of local kale – curly leafed, and flat leafed kale. You may find more cold hardiness in different varieties, and you can find dark green, medium green, and even white, pink or purple colors on kale.
In the grocery you most often find dark green curly leafed kale. Growing your own or buying it locally can mean different colors, leaf shapes, and flavors.
Salad savoy is a variety that is most like a cross between kale and cabbage. It has no head, can be used as a beautiful ornamental plant, and comes in many colors. Leaves may be coarse, but the flavor is mild.
Flat leafed kale is not as cold hardy, but it is much easier to chop.
Preserving Local Kale
Kale is one of the few leafy vegetables that can overwinter in Maryland. That means you can probably find it in your winter farmers markets all winter long. You can keep it in your garden too.
Fresh local kale, though hardier than more delicate greens, will only last a week or two in the fridge. Wrap it in a towel and store in a glass container or plastic bag.
Freezing kale is the best way to ensure you have it available for cooking, or smoothies. To keep it looking green, blanch it before freezing.
Local Kale Recipes
The hearty nature of local kale means that you probably want to remove the thick stem of kale before preparing it. If you want to eat the stem, cook it well first. You might save the ribs for soups.
Raw kale is stronger and more bitter the older it is. If you don’t like the taste or texture, cook your older kale. Try younger kale leaves in salads, or cut them into ribbons and add to other greens.
Massaged kale salads are a way to improve the taste and texture of raw kale. Add kale to a bowl, then add olive oil or lemon juice, and massage the kale with the ingredients to break fibers down.
Kale chips are easy to make at home, massaging them first, seasoning, and spreading loosely on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since kale has strong leaves, it is great to add to soups and stews to add texture and nutrition. A dish of sauteed kale is delicious, and many people put kale into smoothies for a healthy drink.
Mix kale up with butternut squash! Butternut Squash and Kale Gratin are great winter recipes for kale.
Putting a stir fry on top of greens rather than on rice might be a good option if you don’t like a lot of carbs. I enjoy making Super Greens with kale and cabbage when I don’t want rice.
Did you Know?
Ornamental cabbage is a kale, and is edible. Though some think it not as tasty as standard kale, it could be a beautiful addition to a sneaky vegetable garden where you might have rules about what you can grow.
There are more nutrients available when kale is cooked with a fat. So add guilt free cheese or salad dressing if you don’t like kale plain!
Kale is a great green vegetable available when other greens are gone. Try kale this year!