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12 February 2024
Kale: The Super Green You Need to Know About
Discover the incredible benefits of kale, the leafy green superhero of the vegetable world. Known scientifically as Brassica oleracea var. acephala, kale has its origins in the eastern Mediterranean and has been a cornerstone of global cuisine since ancient times. It's not just another green vegetable; it's a super green, packed with nutrients and health benefits that make it stand out.
A Brief Kale History
Kale has deep roots in culinary traditions, making its way into Europe over a millennium ago and only hitting the U.S. supermarket scene in the early 1980s. Since then, it's become a favorite for its versatility and health benefits.
Why Kale Reigns Supreme
Ranked 15th among "powerhouse" fruits and vegetables, kale is a nutritionist's dream. Just 100 grams of raw kale packs a punch with 2.9 grams of protein, 4.4 grams of carbs, and 4.1 grams of dietary fiber, all while keeping the fat content at a mere 1.49 grams. But the real kicker? Its vitamin and mineral content. Kale offers 1.6mg of iron, surpassing meat, and 254mg of calcium, which is 2-3 times more than what you'd get from milk. Not to mention, it boasts double the vitamin C of oranges at 93.4mg per 100g serving.
Kale's Health Benefits: More Than Just Vitamins
Kale has long been valued in traditional medicine across the globe for its ability to help prevent and manage a variety of health issues, such as stomach ulcers, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, arthritis, and liver conditions. Its effectiveness is largely due to its rich array of antioxidants and compounds that may help prevent cancer. The secret to kale's health-boosting properties lies in its mix of bioactive phytochemicals, including glucosinolates, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds.
Research has shown that adding kale juice to your diet can lead to significant positive changes in blood lipid levels, notably improving the balance between good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, as well as overall antioxidant levels in men with high cholesterol.
Further studies suggest that incorporating kale into your diet could also support the maintenance of healthy blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and waist size, particularly in individuals at risk of metabolic syndrome.
Kale's rich fiber content and phytochemicals could also have a beneficial impact on the gut's microbial environment, promoting the growth of helpful bacteria and improving gut health. This, in turn, can lead to better metabolic processes in the body, including the breakdown of complex molecules, vitamin B1 synthesis, and detoxification processes. These effects underscore kale's role as a functional food that not only nourishes but also supports a healthy gut microbiome, potentially reducing inflammation and enhancing overall health.
Growing Kale: A Gardener's Joy
Kale thrives even in the chill of winter, its flavors becoming even more pronounced after a few frosts. This robust vegetable prefers the cold but can adapt to grow in warmer regions during their cooler seasons. For those in colder climates, plant kale seeds outside in late spring to enjoy a harvest in the fall and winter. In warmer locales, aim to plant in early fall for a late winter or spring harvest. Consult your local garden center to find the kale varieties that will thrive in your region. Kale does well in partial shade to full sun, and the ideal soil pH is around 6.8. Space your rows about 2.5 feet apart, planting seeds half an inch deep and 2 feet apart within each row. Keep the soil lightly covered and moist and be diligent about weeding.
Kale is also perfectly suited for container gardening, making it a hassle-free option for those with limited space. For a continuous supply of tender leaves, sow seeds densely and start harvesting around the four-week mark. For a longer harvest season, plant seeds in clusters, thinning them out to one plant per cluster once they've sprouted. Kale benefits from regular feeding with liquid fertilizer throughout its growing season.
While often grown as an annual, kale is technically a biennial plant, blooming with yellow flowers in its second year if left to grow. Harvest young leaves early on or wait a bit longer for larger leaves, which are ideal for cooking due to their robust texture.
Choosing and Storing Kale
Kale comes in a variety of types, each with its unique flavor and texture. From the elongated, bluish leaves of Lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale) to the curly, vibrant leaves of curly kale, and the tender, sweet leaves of Red Russian kale, there's a variety to suit every palate.
Freshness is key when selecting kale; look for vibrant, firm leaves. Store kale unwashed in a damp paper towel inside a perforated bag in the fridge, where it can stay fresh for a few days. Cooked kale can last up to two days refrigerated.
Kale is more than just a trendy green; it's a nutritional powerhouse with a rich history and a wide range of health benefits. Whether you're growing it in your garden or incorporating it into your meals, kale is a versatile vegetable that deserves a spot in your diet. Stay tuned for more kale-inspired recipes and tips in our upcoming blog entries.
For more tips on enjoying kale or any questions, feel free to reach out at
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