This month’s harvest is the known as ‘king’ of the all of the healthy leafy greens. Kale is loaded with fiber, antioxidants that fight diseases like cancer, and a multitude of vitamins and minerals; it may just be one of the healthiest foods on the planet!
You can find kale at the grocery store, farm stands and farmer’s markets all spring and summer, but it is actually at its best in the fall. The cooler temperatures help transform some of the starches in the leaves to sugars, which improves the flavor. So now really is the time to get your hands on some! When you are selecting bunches of kale, choose those with bright colored leaves that are small to medium in size as large leaves may be more tough. If there is abundant brown or yellowing, it indicates that the kale is getting old and might have been harvested too late.
Bring the kale home and store it unwashed in a large plastic bag in coldest part of your refrigerator. It is best to use kale within 3-5 days, but it may keep longer if just harvested. Before using the kale, wash the leaves and remove the tough and woody stalk and central vein before further preparations. Chop or tear the leaves and if using it raw, allow the leaves to marinate in a dressing for at least a few hours before eating to soften the leaves. You can also massage the leaves, ideally after sprinkling with some vinegar or lemon juice to add acid, which helps to soften them and reduce any bitterness. If you want to store kale for longer than a week, de-stem and de-vein the leaves, chop and blanch in boiling water for at least a minute or so before freezing.
Kale can be used in many ways both cooked and raw. It can essentially be used to replace lettuce or other greens in any salad and is great with robust flavors like toasted nuts, blue cheese, citrus and dried fruit, making it perfect for a more hearty winter salad. It’s also a great addition to coleslaw because it is a little on the tougher side. Try blending a handful into your morning smoothie to give it an extra boost of nutrients and fiber. If you prefer it cooked, used chopped kale in soups, to top pizza, in casseroles or just as a quick side dish, sauteed in olive oil and topped with some nuts and a squeeze of lemon.
This month’s recipe features kale in a flavorful pesto served with bruschetta. This pesto is rather nontraditional as it uses kale instead of basil and omits nuts (you could add some as desired). However like most pestos it is extremely easy to make in the food processor. The kale pesto with bruschetta is an excellent and healthy appetizer, snack or side dish at a potluck. You could also use the pesto to top roasted vegetables, pasta dishes or even as a salad dressing base (just add extra lemon juice, a little honey and some more olive oil).
For more kale including recipes, factoids, and fun activities for kids, check out the Vermont Harvest of the Month website.
Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
- 1bunch of kale
- 3/4cupolive oil
- 1Tbspfresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1cupparmesan cheese
- 2garlic cloves
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Blanch de-stemmed kale for 30 seconds and drain.
- Purée garlic and kale in a food processor, gradually adding oil, parmesan, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Serve with crackers or bread.