- The Cookful
- How to Prepare Kale for Salads
- How to Massage Kale
- How to Make Kale Salad with Cranberries and Fresh Lemon kale Salad Dressing
- Hungry For More?
- MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Does Raw Kale Affect Your Hormones?
- What Is the Difference Between Vegetables and Baby Vegetables (Besides Age)?
- Baby Vegetables vs Young Vegetables
- 1. Warm Spinach Salad with Smoky Pecans and Sweet Potato
- 2. Spinach Pie
- 3. Potato Salad with Peas and Mint
- 4. Five-Spice Pork Stir-Fry with Sweet Potatoes and Snap Peas
- 5. Pea Risotto
- 6. Fettuccine with Pesto, Asparagus, and Artichoke
- 7. Grilled Jumbo Asparagus with Gribiche and Bottarga
- 8. Shaved Asparagus Salad
- 9. Roasted Baby Carrots with Mustard-Herb Butter
- Related Reading: The Best Veggie-Heavy Cookbooks to Celebrate Produce
- 10 Superfoods Better Than Kale
- Collard Greens
- Romaine Lettuce
- Leaf Lettuce
- Beet Greens
- Chinese Cabbage
- Kale Yeah! Types of Kale and Their Best Uses
- So, What Exactly Is Kale?
- Kale Plant Benefits
- Different Types of Kale Greens
- Tips for Adding More Kale into Your Diet
- Shop Ceramcor
- 1. Curly Kale
- 2. Lacinato Kale
- 3. Red Russian Kale
- 4. Siberian Kale
- 5. Redbor Kale
- 6. Chinese Kale
- 7. Baby Kale
- Watch: Wild Edible Weeds in Your Backyard.
- A Guide to Kale Varieties and How to Cook With Them
- Curly Kale
- Tuscan Kale aka Lacinato Kale aka Dinosaur Kale
by Amy Bowen 5 comments ”
How to Prepare Kale for Salads
Kale can be a bit tough to eat raw in salads. But if you know how to pamper it and prepare it, it becomes the perfect salad green. Learn how here.
A kale salad for lunch sounds so good, doesn’t it? Stop right there, you salad-loving fiend. Not so fast. Your mouth will hate you if you pop in a raw piece of kale.
Kale needs to be babied, coddled even. You have to take time to prepare the kale. And only then will it repay you with a delicious salad. Here are some tips.
Cut it up
Kale has a ton of fiber. That’s one of its great health benefits. But it can also make you look like a cow gnawing on a big piece of kale. You have to tear or cut it thin little pieces.
Remove the stem
Remove the kale’s stem. Only use the leaves. Trust us. The stems are almost impossible to eat. You shouldn’t worry about hurting your jaw when eating salad.
This sounds incredibly silly but it makes a huge difference because it breaks down some of the plant’s fibrous cells.
Massage your kale with a little lemon juice and salt until it starts to soften, usually about 3 minutes. You can instead use a bit of your dressing. After you add just enough dressing, massage the leaves. Rub them between your fingers. You won’t hurt the kale, so go ahead press away. After you’ve given an impressive massage, let that bad boy sit for a minimum of 5 minutes. It’ll soften the kale even more.
Choose your dressing wisely
I like vinaigrettes because they’re more acidic than other dressings. The dressing’s vinegar helps break down the leaves even more. I’ll do anything to make kale leaves more tender. Here’s our how-to guide for making your own vinaigrettes at home.
Curly kale is forgiving
Good old kale is always a hit, but if you want a more forgiving variety, pick up some curly kale. It’s not as tough and still packs a flavorful punch. Note also, if you get your hands on baby kale, there is no need to massage it. It’s good to go right from the start.
last updated on October 1, 2019
Amy had no clue how to cook until she became the food reporter for a daily newspaper in Minnesota. At 25, she even struggled with boxed mac and cheese. These days, Amy is a much better cook, thanks to interviewing cooks and chefs for more than 10 years. She even makes four cheese macaroni and cheese with bacon, no boxed mac in sight. Amy is also on the editorial team at The Cookful.
This easy kale salad features fresh veggies and a super simple homemade lemon dressing, making it perfect as a healthy side dish or light lunch! It is definitely one of my very favorite kale salad recipes!
Here we’re making a quick and easy kale salad recipe, perfect for the weather we’ve been having lately!
It’s fresh, delicious, and totally make-ahead so feel free to prep this bad boy the night before and pack it along in lunches the next day if you’d like! Really, it’s one of the best kale salad recipes around! I mean, who doesn’t like kale salad with cranberries and almonds??
I love how I can prep ahead of kale quickly over the weekend and know that I’ll have it on hand as a salad green all week long. Instead of simply prepping what I need, I always massage the entire bunch of kale and keep it in a baggie in the fridge, meal-prep style.Kale actually makes the ideal prep-ahead salad and sandwich greenery because of its ability to hold up like a champ in the fridge! It stays fresh without wilting long past its leafy counterparts.
Leftover kale can be stirred into pasta, blended into pesto, and even baked into crispy kale chips if the craving strikes! The possibilities are endless. I even love a little kale on my pizza when I have it handy. Is kale good in a salad? It’s so crazy versatile!
I also love using kale to make a tasty Tropical Mango Kale Smoothie– SO GOOD!
How to Massage Kale
If you’ve asked yourself how do you soften kale for salads, we’ve got you covered. After washing and drying your kale, remove the ribs/stem from each kale leaf. Tear or chop the kale into bite-sized pieces, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Next pour a little olive oil in your hands and work your way through the kale, massaging the leaves until they darken in color and tenderize. I swear that a massaged kale salad tastes a million times better – we wouldn’t prep kale any other way!
Prefer to massage your kale without oil? Try a little fresh-squeezed lemon juice instead!
I do this a lot for my Cilantro Lime Mexican Kale Salad
How to Make Kale Salad with Cranberries and Fresh Lemon kale Salad Dressing
This easy peasy kale salad with cranberries is loaded with tasty mix-ins. There are so many kale salad ideas! I chose to add carrots, broccoli, red onion, dried cranberries, cheese, sliced almonds and sunflower seeds, but you could totally get creative here and empty out your crisper drawer!
Raisins would work excellent instead of the cranberries, and if you’re not feeling the fruit right now, load your salad up with extra veggies instead! I used cheddar cheese here (a favorite salad mix-in of mine!) but feta or goat cheese would work marvelously too. You could even go dairy-free and make this scrumptious salad vegan!
4.94 from 16 votes Review Recipe
Easy Kale Salad with Fresh Lemon Dressing
Prep Time 20 minutes Total Time 20 minutes Servings 4 servings Author Jennifer Laughlin Course Salad Cuisine American This easy kale salad features fresh veggies and a super simple homemade lemon dressing, making it perfect as a healthy side dish or light lunch!
- 5 cups chopped kale
- 1-2 tsp olive oil
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup cheese optional (cheddar or feta work great here!)
- 1/4-1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup cranberries
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp honey or sugar adjust + add to taste
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First make your dressing by combining ingredients above in a lidded mason jar then shake well to emulsify. Dip a kale leaf in the dressing and adjust sweetener, salt, and pepper to taste. You can make this dressing as sweet or tart as your heart desires!
Next massage your chopped kale with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Rub with your fingers until leaves begin to darken and tenderize. This makes it taste great and gives the kale a silky texture!
In a large bowl, combine massaged kale, broccoli, almonds, cheese, carrots, onion, sunflower seeds, cranberries. Shake your dressing once more and pour about 1/3 of the dressing over the salad. Toss to coat and add extra dressing, to taste.
Optional: I like to add poppy seeds to my salad dressing on occasion to give it a lemon poppyseed vibe – feel free to follow suit! Nutritional information does not include cheese and other optional ingredients Nutrition Information Calories: 334, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 315mg, Potassium: 744mg, Carbohydrates: 19g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 9g, Vitamin A: 9985%, Vitamin C: 146.3%, Calcium: 192%, Iron: 2.7%
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)
Keyword Kale Salad © SpendWithPennies.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited. Please view my photo use policy here.
Hungry For More?
- Broccoli Salad
- Chickpea Salad
- Garlic Butter Kale Rice
If you get a chance to try this easy kale salad, let me know in the comments below! xo
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Does Raw Kale Affect Your Hormones?
Photo: Caitlin Bensel
For the past several years, kale has been the ‘it’ vegetable. Whether it’s the base for salads, tossed in smoothies, or baked into crispy chips, this leafy green has become a staple of healthy eating. Despite its reputation as a superfood, there has been mention in some circles about raw kale’s potential to negatively impact your health and hormones. But is there any truth to these statements?
In short: Yes and no. Kale, and other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, contain cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. While on the surface these sound (and are) wonderful for your health, glucosinolates also contain a compound known as thiocyanates that might hinder your thyroid (which controls your metabolism). Cooking kale will stop any thiocyanates from being released, but when eaten raw the compounds are still present. Reading this may throw any kale lover into a panic, but there’s actually not that much reason to worry.
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Cooking Light’s Food and Nutrition Director, Brierley Horton, M.S., R.D., doesn’t want you to give up your leafy greens just yet. “You’d have to eat an exorbitant amount of raw kale or other raw cruciferous vegetables for this to have an affect on a healthy person’s thyroid,” said Horton. “The benefit of eating these vegetables usually outweighs any potential negatives.”
For the average person, consuming a few ounces of kale daily is a healthy option. But for anyone suffering hypothyroidism (which is determined with a simple blood test) or other thyroid-related issues, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before regularly consuming raw cruciferous vegetables. One way to see if these vegetables are affecting you, even if you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, is to eat as much of these foods as you want for a few weeks, then get re-tested at the doctor’s to see how it may have impacted your thyroid function.
Bottom line: As long as you don’t already have a thyroid issue, and you’re not consuming pounds and pounds of raw cruciferous veggies daily, then it’s unlikely you’ll experience negative side effects by eating kale and other cruciferous vegetables.
What Is the Difference Between Vegetables and Baby Vegetables (Besides Age)?
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Youth is the ideal, right? Even for vegetables. That’s the marketing gimmick they’re selling on packages of baby carrots, baby greens, and baby anything-edible. But what are baby vegetables, exactly? And are they really better than adult veggies?
Baby Vegetables vs Young Vegetables
First off, aside from “baby carrots,” most baby vegetables are in fact the brand-new, early-harvested versions of the plants we usually consume when fully grown—baby corn is picked when it’s just started sprouting from the stalk, and baby zucchini is simply regular zucchini that’s harvested before it has a chance to mature. Ditto baby potatoes (also called new potatoes, for obvious reasons). But other “baby” vegetables are actually full-grown plants that are simply miniature in size—see: baby beets, baby artichokes, and baby cucumbers.
The baby-fication of our food is largely yet another example of our cultural values, but in some dishes, this distinction does actually mean a different taste, texture, and nutrient density.
We take a look at the age differences in greens, peas, asparagus, and carrots. Eat accordingly.
Martin Barraud / OJO Images / Getty Images
There are at least three palatable stages of leafy green vegetables:
- Microgreens are harvested when the leaves are fewer than 14 days old. They make great garnishes on salads, soups, and sandwiches. “Although small in size, microgreens can provide surprisingly intense flavors, vivid colors, and crisp textures and can be served as an edible garnish or a new salad ingredient,” researchers say in a 2012 report by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The report shows higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene compared to their more mature counterparts.
- Baby greens are harvested during a fairly early stage of plant growth, usually between 15 to 35 days after planting, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Baby and adult kale are nutritionally similar, says Krista Haynes, a registered dietician and owner of Sanskara Nutrition in Manhattan Beach, California. Baby kale has a slightly milder flavor, but the main difference is that baby kale is more tender and easier to eat raw, she said on NutriLiving. Most of the spinach you see at the grocery store is baby spinach, the favorite in salads and raw preparations.
- Mature greens are usually harvested between 40 and 65 days after planting. There have been conflicting reports on whether mature vegetables have more or less nutrition than the younger leaves. They’re both great for your health, so you can’t make a mistake that way. As for their culinary use, older kale needs to be cooked, massaged, or blended. In the same way as kale, mature spinach is better when cooked. It’s also what you get whole or chopped in the freezer section.
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The consensus is to buy frozen baby peas because they’re likely sweeter and fresher-tasting than the shuck-yourself “fresh” peas that often sit in storage, increasing in starchiness while losing sweetness, according to testers at Cook’s Illustrated. Petite peas, also called baby sweet peas, taste sweeter and have a creamier texture than regular peas, which have slightly tougher skins and mealy texture. (You may also want to know about the difference between snap peas, snow peas, and English peas.)
This green stalk is not necessarily as it appears. Many of us think the thinner stalk is more tender and younger than the thicker stalks. Nope. The thickness of the spear has nothing to do with its age, in that a thin spear will not mature into a thicker spear, according to Cook’s Illustrated. Asparagus spears shoot up through the soil into the sunlight from an underground crown that can produce for up to 20 years. Both thick and thin types tasted equally sweet, nutty, and grassy to testers, and the thicker spears were just a tad more tender, surprisingly. Thicker stalks are better for broiling and roasting because they won’t shrivel as fast, and they’re better for grilling too just because they’re easier to grab with tongs. Quick-cooking thinner spears are best for stir-frying and steaming. If you’re eating your asparagus raw, the thicker stalks are best peeled into thin layers, and the thin stalks work fine whole. White asparagus, by the way, is the exact same plant, but intentionally deprived of sunlight.
You probably know by now that those bags of baby carrots are a lie—they are not, in fact, infant vegetables, but little orange nubs carved out of larger carrots (usually misshapen ones that would be unlikely to sell as well as their more conventionally beautiful carrot counterparts). True baby carrots are often available at farmers’ markets and some supermarkets in early spring, when the new crop is harvested. You’ll know them for true baby carrots because they look just like full-size carrots, only way smaller and more adorable, usually with long tails and leafy green tops intact, and sold in bunches.
Want to know more? Check out our vegetables page for articles, videos, galleries, and discussions on all things vegetable. (But if you were looking for a different sort of baby vegetables, check out our guide to The Best Baby Food Delivery Services.)
And if you’re just hungry for some veggies yourself now, we curated a few recipes using both young and old vegetables, because we don’t believe in age discrimination:
1. Warm Spinach Salad with Smoky Pecans and Sweet Potato
Use baby spinach for this dish, which is like the meat-free version of warm bacon-y spinach salad. You toast the pecans in a frying pan to draw out their sweet, smoky flavor, further enhanced by smoked paprika. Get our Warm Spinach Salad with Smoky Pecans and Sweet Potato recipe.
2. Spinach Pie
Recipes calling for regular spinach often just say to use a box or bag of chopped frozen spinach. This savory Greek-style pie is no exception. It also calls for store-bought frozen phyllo dough, making this dish even easier. The hardest part may be squeezing all the liquid out of the spinach after you defrost it. Oh, and then there’s brushing butter between each thin phyllo layer. But so worth it. Get our Spinach Pie recipe.
3. Potato Salad with Peas and Mint
Use either really fresh peas that you shell yourself or buy a bag of frozen baby peas to ensure you have the freshest, sweetest flavor in this potato salad. Instead of mayonnaise, you mix in sour cream and heavy cream. And you cook the peas in bacon fat leftover from the bacon you cook and dice. Get our Potato Salad with Peas and Mint recipe.
4. Five-Spice Pork Stir-Fry with Sweet Potatoes and Snap Peas
Use baby spinach and snap peas, with the ends trimmed, for this quick meal. You can use snow peas too; just cook them a minute less. Get our Five-Spice Pork Stir-Fry with Sweet Potatoes and Snap Peas recipe.
5. Pea Risotto
Frozen baby peas lend vibrant color and fresh, sweet flavor to this spring risotto. Get our Pea Risotto recipe.
6. Fettuccine with Pesto, Asparagus, and Artichoke
You’ll need the thick big stalks of asparagus for this recipe because after you blanch the asparagus, you give it a quick ice bath and then peel them lengthwise. This is a pretty springy pasta. Get our Fettuccine with Pesto, Asparagus, and Artichoke recipe.
7. Grilled Jumbo Asparagus with Gribiche and Bottarga
You want the fattest asparagus you can find for this dish to be at its best. You boil the stalks for only 1 minute, but then you grill them a few more. The gribiche adds creaminess, the crouton crumbs a little more texture, and bottarga that pungent salty cured fish roe flavor. and Get our Grilled Jumbo Asparagus with Gribiche and Bottarga recipe.
8. Shaved Asparagus Salad
Another shaved asparagus preparation, but this salad keeps them raw. Their sweet, vegetal crunch is complemented by salty parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and a parsley-lemon vinaigrette. This recipe also includes a fabulous tip for shaving veggies: If you have trouble peeling the final portion (of an asparagus spear, carrot, or cucumber), prop it up on the flat wooden handle of a spatula or spoon. This will raise it just high enough to allow the peeler to move freely. Get our Shaved Asparagus Salad recipe.
9. Roasted Baby Carrots with Mustard-Herb Butter
If you can’t find true baby carrots, just make this with regular carrots, either sliced at an angle or halved lengthwise for a similar presentation. Just don’t be tempted by those bags of carrot nubbins (except maybe for snacking with hummus). Get our Roasted Baby Carrots with Mustard-Herb Butter recipe.
Related Reading: The Best Veggie-Heavy Cookbooks to Celebrate Produce
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Header image by Chowhound, using photos from .
10 Superfoods Better Than Kale
In the world of superfoods, the biggest celebrity of all might be kale—the Shakira of salads, the Lady Gaga of leafy greens. And yes, it really does have plenty of benefits—including high levels of folate and more calcium, gram for gram, than a cup of milk. But it’s actually not the healthiest green on the block.
In fact, in a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control that ranked 47 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables,” the green darling only placed 15th (with 49.07 points out of 100 for nutrient density)! Here’s a roundup of the 10 leafy green cousins that researchers say pack a greater nutritional wallop. Read em, eat em, and reap the benefits.
Nutrition Score: 62.49
A staple vegetable of Southern U.S. cuisine, collard greens also boast incredible cholesterol-lowering benefits—especially when steamed. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research compared the effectiveness of the prescription drug Cholestyramine to steamed collards. Incredibly, the collards improved the body’s cholesterol-blocking process by 13 percent more than the drug! Of course, that won’t do you any good if you insist on serving them with ham hocks….
Nutrition Score: 63.48
Even more so than its cousin kale, the humble Romaine lettuce packs high levels of folic acid, a water-soluble form of Vitamin B that’s proven to boost male fertility. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found supplemental folic acid to significantly increase sperm counts. Get the man in your life to start craving Caesar salads, and you may soon have a baby Julius on board. (Ladies, this green packs health benefits for you, too! Folate also plays a role in battling depression, so change out your kale for Romaine.
Nutrition Score: 65.59
Yes, that leafy garnish that sits on the side of your plate—the one they throw away after you eat the rest of your meal—is a quiet superfood, so packed with nutrients that even that one sprig can go a long way toward meeting your daily requirement for vitamin K. Moreover, research suggests the summer-y aroma and flavor of chopped parsley may help control your appetite. A study in the journal Flavour found participants ate significantly less of a dish that smelled strongly of spice than a mildly scented version of the same food. Adding herbs, like parsley, creates the sensory illusion that you’re indulging in something rich—without adding any fat or calories to your plate.
Nutrition Score: 70.73
The nutritional Clark Kent of the salad bar, this common and unsuspecting leafy green is ready to take its place among the superfoods for weight loss. Two generous cups of lettuce provides 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement for strong, healthy bones. A report from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who eat a serving of lettuce every day cut the risk of hip fracture by 30 percent than when compared with eating just one serving a week.
Nutrition Score: 73.36
Chicory is a family of bitter greens, but its most well-known member is radicchio, the small red or purple leaf that comes in a head about the size of a softball. It’s one of the best dietary sources of polyphenols—powerful micronutrients that serve a role in preventing disease. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who consume 650 mg a day of polyphenols have a 30 percent chance at living longer than those who consume less than that. A cup of chicory leaves clocks in at about 235 mg, so consider adding a little leafy red into your leafy greens.
Nutrition Score: 86.43
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 180-gram serving of boiled spinach provides 6.43 mg of iron, the muscle mineral—that’s more than a 6-ounce hamburger patty! Recent research also suggest compounds in the leaf membranes called thylakoids may serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. A long-term study at Lund University in Sweden found that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast could significantly reduce hunger (by 95 percent!) and promote weight loss. On average, the women who took the extract lost 5.5 pounds more than the placebo group over the course of three months.
Nutrition Score: 87.08
Yes, the stuff they cut off and throw in the garbage before charging you an arm and a leg for “beet salad.” A scant cup of the bitter green serves up nearly 5 grams of fiber—that’s more than you’ll find in a bowl of Quaker oats! Researchers at the University of Leeds found that risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for every 7 grams of fiber consumed. Try them in stir frys and eat to your heart’s content!
Nutrition Score: 89.27
Chard. Sounds like “burnt.” It’s not as fun a name to drop as, say, “broccolini,” but it might be your best defense against diabetes. Recent research has shown that these powerhouse leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including anthocyanins—anti-inflammatory compounds that could offer protection from type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of East Anglia analyzed questionnaires and blood samples of about 2,000 people and found that those with the highest dietary intakes of anthocyanins had lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation.
Nutrition Score: 91.99
Taking the silver medal in the powerfood Olympics is Chinese cabbage, also called Napa or celery cabbage. Rich sources of highly-available calcium and iron, cruciferous vegetables like the cabbage have the powerful ability to “turn off” inflammation markers thought to promote heart disease. In a study of more than 1,000 Chinese women, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables (about 1.5 cups per day) had 13 percent less inflammation than those who ate the least.
Nutrition Score: 100
The top dog, the unrivaled champion, the chairman of the cutting board, watercress may also be the closest thing yet to a true anti-aging food. Gram for gram this mild-tasting and flowery-looking green contains four times more beta carotene than an apple, and a whopping 238 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K per 100 grams—two compounds that keep skin dewy and youthful. The beauty food is also the richest dietary source of PEITC (phenylethyl isothiocyanate), which research suggests can fight cancer. Results from an eight-week trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest daily supplementation of 85 grams of raw watercress (that’s about two cups) could reduce DNA damage linked to cancer by 17 percent. Exposure to heat may inactivate PEITC, so it’s best to enjoy watercress raw in salads, cold-pressed juices, and sandwiches.
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Are baby greens more nutritious than mature greens? Where do microgreens fit in?
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Baby-leaf greens are a staple in my fridge. They’re just so darn convenient. Prewashed, bite-sized greens are ready to toss into a salad, blend into a smoothie or stir into a pasta sauce.
Of course, I’m a fan of their nutritional benefits, too.
There’s no conclusive evidence that baby greens are better for you than their mature counterparts, but some research does suggest they outperform on certain nutrient scores. Tiny microgreens, however, seem to deliver a bigger nutritional bang.
Baby greens, such as baby spinach and baby kale, are harvested early, typically three to four weeks after planting, when the leaves are small, tender and have a milder taste. Mature greens, on the other hand, come from plants harvested four to six weeks after seeding.
Microgreens, younger than baby greens, are usually picked when they’re one to three inches tall, seven to 14 days after germination. Some, though, may be harvested 21 days after growth begins.
Harvesting time for greens varies depending on the type of plant and the growing conditions (i.e., temperature, sun and rain).
If leafy greens, baby or otherwise, aren’t a regular part of your diet, they should be. Their nutritional profile – and health benefits – are impressive, to say the least.
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All leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamin C, bone-strengthening vitamin K, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium. They also deliver plenty of beneficial phytochemicals including beta-carotene, lutein and flavonoids.
A steady intake of leafy greens has been tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, hip fracture, cataract, macular degeneration and slower cognitive decline.
And thanks to a natural sugar in leafy greens called sulfoquinovose, eating them helps promote the growth of good, health-promoting bacteria in your gut.
Baby versus grown-up greens
Do baby greens, though, pack a stronger nutritional punch than their mature counterparts? This wasn’t an easy question to answer. There are surprisingly few studies that address the question.
One study, published in 2005, found that the earlier baby spinach was harvested, the higher the content of disease-fighting flavonoids, suggesting that baby-leaf spinach delivers more of these compounds than mature spinach leaves.
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Flavonoids, also found in apples, berries, red grapes, broccoli, tea and dark chocolate, act as antioxidants, decrease inflammation, inhibit the formation of blood clots and help keep arteries relaxed.
Other research suggests that baby greens (again, baby spinach was analyzed), have higher levels of vitamins C and K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein, a phytochemical that protect the eye’s retina from free radical damage.
Even so, differences in the nutrient content between baby and mature greens are likely due to growing conditions, when they’re harvested and how they’re stored after harvest, factors that affect the synthesis and breakdown of nutrients and phytochemicals.
Once available only to chefs, teensy microgreens such as arugula, amaranth, cilantro, basil, pea tendrils, crimson chard, mustard and radish are now easier to find at farmer’s markets and grocery stores.
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, these young, tiny greens may have a nutritional edge over their older cousins.
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The researchers tested 25 varieties of microgreens and found that, in general, they had considerably higher levels – about five times greater – of vitamins C, E and K, beta-carotene and lutein than their mature counterparts.
Red-cabbage microgreens, for example, had 40 times more vitamin E than mature red cabbage. Three ounces, about 2.5 to three cups, also supplied 147 mg of vitamin C, more than one day’s worth.
Because microgreens are harvested very soon after germination, it’s thought that the nutrients they need to grow are highly concentrated.
You probably won’t make a salad consisting entirely of microgreens, though. They can be pricey. A 75-gram package (about two cups’ worth) of micro arugula, for instance, cost me $6.99.
I use microgreens to add bright colour, flavour and texture to meals. I toss them into salads (made with baby greens or mature lettuces), add them to sandwiches and uses them as garnishes. And I love to top tacos with micro cilantro and garnish tomato salads with micro basil.
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Eat your dark, leafy greens: arugula, beet greens, collards, kale, rapini, spinach, Swiss chard, Romaine and leaf lettuce and watercress all count.
Whether greens are grown to be mature-leaf, bite-sized or micro-sized, their unique combination – and concentration – of vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals can’t be found in other vegetables.
Kale Yeah! Types of Kale and Their Best Uses
Kale has long been in the midst of a major movement, inspiring vegans, vegetarians and other vegetable lovers the world over. But this green can be a bit of an acquired taste for those who might be wondering what’s wrong with plain old spinach or arugula.
Kale, though, is more versatile than you might think. It can stand up against long cook times and it’s easily transformed into chips in a pinch. Kale also features a ton of essential nutrients, from vitamins to minerals and more. Here’s a look at why we love kale in its many different forms.
So, What Exactly Is Kale?
Kale is a member of the cruciferous family, a group of vegetables best known for their ability to support detoxification, as well as to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Other cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Kale Plant Benefits
Kale is all the rage these days, present in everything from smoothies to soups and even skincare — but what makes it that much better than its other cruciferous counterparts?
Well, for starters, it’s rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium and folate. It also only contains about 36 calories per one-cup serving, no fat and five grams of fiber.
If that’s not enough incentive for you to start throwing kale into all of your favorite recipes, here is a quick look at the many nutrients you can expect to find inside these dark and leafy greens:
- • Iron: On a per-calorie basis, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is an essential part of any healthy diet, assisting with cell growth providing and liver support, as well playing a key role in delivering oxygen to various regions of the body.
- • Vitamin A: Carrots aren’t your only source of vitamin A. Kale is rich in vitamin A, which promotes healthy vision, and it may play a role in cancer prevention, too.
- • Vitamin K: Kale contains over 1,000% of your daily value of vitamin K. Vitamin K is often overlooked, but it’s essential in preventing blood clots, maintaining bone health and providing energy to the body.
- • Vitamin C: Most often associated with citrus fruits, vitamin C can also be found in kale, and it’s an essential vitamin for many of the body’s vital functions. This vitamin helps the body produce collagen, promotes brain and nervous system function and, of course, helps stave off colds and other illnesses.
- • Antioxidants: While antioxidants may sound like a buzzword to make certain foods seem healthy, they’re the real deal. Antioxidants help counteract oxidizing free radicals inside the body, which can cause inflammation, early signs of aging and even cancer. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, as well as quercetin and kaempferol, substances also found in kale. Bottom line — eat your greens to stay healthy.
- • Indole-3-Carbinol: Okay, the name sounds a bit chemical, but this substance can aid in cancer prevention and can be found in high concentrations in all cruciferous vegetables.
Different Types of Kale Greens
While you may only see one or two in the supermarket, there are quite a few kale varieties, each with a unique look and texture. Here’s a quick rundown on the various kinds of kale, as well how to use them in the kitchen:
Curly kale is the type of kale you’ll most often see in the grocery store. Known for its dark green or sometimes purple color and tightly wound curls, curly kale is a bit bitter for some people, featuring pungent notes of pepper.
Curly kale is quite versatile — this is the kale you’ll find most often in unexpected places, as it’s the most common. It’s the kale of green smoothies and kale-dominant salads. This low-cost option fits in easily with flavors both sweet and savory. The taste leans toward bright, but at times, it can seem bitter and a little more pungent than your average greens.
A good way to counteract the bitter taste is to stir fry curly kale with a little garlic and olive oil or include it in a salad alongside strawberries or with a lemon-tahini dressing. Fats and a sweet flavor will help balance out the taste — but keep in mind that these curly leaves are fantastic as chips as well as in soups, salads or anywhere you could use a little dash of health benefits.
2. Lacinato Kale
A kale of many names, lacinato, or dinosaur kale, has long been a staple of Italian cuisine and is considered to be a hearty-cooking green that can stand up to a substantial sauce. Characterized by large, blue-green leaves about two to three inches wide, this type of kale turns crisp with little effort, rather than wilting under pressure.
A mid-winter staple, lacinato kale works well when added to a lentil soup, and it perfectly complements grains and a multitude of legumes. For a fresher take on dino kale, cut it into thin strips, massage with a hint of olive oil and toss it into a beautiful green salad. It also works well with sweet potatoes or when added to a hearty — and healthy — chili.
Larger and far less curly than regular curly kale, the red Russian variety boasts vibrant, reddish purple stems and flat green leaves that more closely resemble oak leaves or a blown up arugula. Once a supermarket rarity, red Russian kale is popping up more often at natural food stores, farmer’s markets and in CSA boxes across the country.
What makes this type uniquely versatile is its ability to be used as a baby leaf, as well as after it’s been left to fully mature. Leaves are best enjoyed when firm, vibrant and fresh.
While sweeter and more peppery than other types of kale, you can prepare red Russian in the same way as you would curly or dinosaur kale. No matter how you do decide to prepare it, though, its tender leaves make it an excellent way to get into the kale game if you’re not already on board. Use the baby greens in a salad, no massaging required. You can also work this peppery leaf into a smoothie for an unexpected twist — its unique flavor works well will antioxidant-rich blueberries, pineapple and coconut water.
4. Ornamental Kale
Though ornamental kale has been relegated to the floral end of the garden rather than with the other types of kale, it is edible. There’s never been anything wrong with eating this decorative green — it’s just tougher, and arguably less tasty than other kale types.
While ornamental kale looks just as pretty in the garden as it does playing the role of a garnish for your meal — it’s a step up from parsley, too, if you ask us — it also can be used in soups or stews. Because of its inherent toughness, it’s best to use ornamental kale both sparingly and in meals that require a longer cooking time. It’s definitely not a salad green, but a braised chicken stew or slow-cooked pot roast may be the perfect time for this green to shine.
5. Chinese Kale
Chinese kale looks considerably different than its crinkly brethren. It somehow manages to look as though broccoli and spinach came together and made a hybrid veggie, with large, flat, glossy leaves and thick stalks that can easily be chopped and cooked up exactly like broccoli stems.
As with many Chinese staples, the best way to go is stir-fry. Start with some sautéed garlic, then add the kale to the pan. Pour some boiling water over the top and cook until the leaves have become wilted. From there, add some sesame or olive oil and remove from heat. Serve with meat or additional veggies, or work the cooked kale into a whole other dish. The flavor, like the stems, most closely resembles broccoli, so you can easily use this in place of those little cruciferous trees — with rice and chicken, baked into a quiche or as a steamed accompaniment to a baked salmon.
6. Redbor Kale
Redbor kale is an attractive kale variety with red, ruffled leaves. It can be used both on the plate and in the garden as an ornament. With shades ranging from red to deep purple with hints of green, it’s easy to see why.
Now, don’t go thinking redbor kale is just another pretty plant. When used right, it can be roasted and toasted with the best of them. Like curly and lacinato, redbor kale fits in comfortably in any bean soup, or it can join any green salad after a gentle massage with olive oil. Another idea is to try bitter against sweet, and serve it with roasted butternut squash.
Tips for Adding More Kale into Your Diet
If you’re a veggie aficionado, kale is relatively easy to get the hang of. You can easily add it to a soup or your favorite salad recipe. But, since it is somewhat of an acquired taste for many, there are some things you can do to make it, well, more palatable:
1. Basic Kale Prep
All kale features a center stalk. It is edible, but it can be relatively fibrous and hard to chew. For best results in your kale-centric pursuits, we’d recommend removing this and cutting the kale leaves into strips or smaller pieces.
If you’d like to use the hearty stalk, it can be utilized much in the same way you might use celery. Chop it up, add it to sauces or let it sauté with some aromatics like onion and garlic.
2. Choosing the Right Kale
Selecting the right bundle of kale at the supermarket is relatively easy. Look for heads that are the most vibrant in the pile, and if possible, stick with those that fall on the smaller end of the spectrum. They’ll typically be the freshest and most flavorful.
3. Kale Chips
Kale chips are super easy to make, and they’re one of the fastest ways to recruit more family members to team kale. Coat them with various toppings like tahini, cashew cheese, nutritional yeast or good old sea salt.
Here’s a quick recipe to make basic chips in your oven. Insider tip: You can even make them in the toaster oven in about 10 minutes if you’re short on time.
- 1 bunch of kale
- 1 ½ teaspoons of olive oil
- Sea salt, to taste
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Meanwhile, remove the center stems from the kale. Cut the leaves into small pieces and arrange on a large baking tray.
Drizzle the olive oil over the kale and mix with together with your hands until all the leaves have been coated.
Top with sea salt — or additional toppings, if desired — and pop the baking tray into the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven when the leaves are looking browned around the edges — brown, not burnt. This is important.
Let the chips cool and serve.
With salads, you can actually use kale anywhere you see fit. We think kale works nicely when it’s paired with fruits or sweeter dressings due to its strong, peppery flavor, but anything goes. If the idea of using kale in a salad seems like a bit much for either the taste buds or the jaw, try giving your kale a massage first. As silly as it sounds, massaging the kale, much like tenderizing meat, is a way to break down cellulose found in the leaves. It makes them more tender and palatable for use in any salad you can dream up.
The process is relatively easy. Work the leaves, much in the way you would if you were to be kneading bread, as you remove them. You’ll know it’s working when you see the shade of green changing from dark to a much more vibrant green. Add some oil if desired, but it’s not necessary. As an added bonus, your relaxed greens will be much softer than before, yet they won’t wither away if you try to cook them like other greens — ahem, spinach.
Tender, yet substantial — one of the many reasons we love kale.
5. Juice and Smoothies
Juices and smoothies are one of the more ubiquitous kale uses, but for a good reason. Since kale is loaded with tons of great stuff — antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and more — it’s the perfect companion to some in-season fruits or more mellow greens.
Plus, if you’re kale-averse, you can try adding some sweetness to the mix. Kale works great in a smoothie with blueberries and almond butter, or up against frozen mango, pineapple, banana and almond milk in a tropical, slightly green smoothie. Play with different fruits that suit your tastes, along with some protein for a balanced meal.
If you have a juicer on hand, add some lemon and ginger along with a hefty portion of kale for a green detoxifying juice. Or, if you’re looking to disguise kale’s bitterness, add some apple to make things go down a bit more smoothly. Not into apple juice? Throw some beets in with kale and lemon for an earthy, tart start to your morning.
Inspiration for vitamin-rich kale recipes in all their iterations? Then it’s the perfect time to stop by Ceramcor the makers of Xtrema ceramic cookware for some new supplies. From kitchen utensils and large rectangular baking pans that are made for kale chips to saucepans and Dutch ovens designed for a great stew and a night in, we have everything you need to transform your kitchen in a way that’ll make you want to cook a little healthier.
What used to be one of those vegetables to avoid at the grocery store or farmer’s market has become one of the biggest food trends. That’s right, kale has grown tremendously in the culinary world and there’s a lot of reasons why. First off, kale is super nutritious. Those dark, leafy greens are packed with protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Second, kale has some interesting flavor it. It’s kind of spicy and slightly bitter and the leaves are extremely hearty and hold up well to a number of cooking methods like sautéing, frying, or even baking.
Lastly, kale doesn’t just come in one variety. There are a ton of kale varieties to explore and try out- Tuscan kale, red kale, baby kale, or the most common type, curly kale. You’ll love adding a boost of healthy greens to your next dish or you can even try throwing some into your next morning smoothie. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the types of this nutritious leafy green.
1. Curly Kale
One of the most common varieties of kale you can find at the grocery store is curly kale. It’s pale to dark green in color with a woody stem and soft leaves. The green leaves taste slightly bitter but are pretty mild in flavor. Curly kale can be used in so many ways like kale salad, kale chips, smoothies, etc. I like to think of it as the new and improved spinach.
2. Lacinato Kale
Another common kale variety is lacinato kale, also called Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale. The bluish, dark green wrinkly leaves of this Italian variety are mild and earthy and can be eaten raw in a kale salad or wilted into a soup.
3. Red Russian Kale
Red Russian kale has beautiful red-purple stems that are sweet, tender, and just downright pretty. Eat them raw in your favorite kale salad recipe or sauté them with some garlic and olive oil.
4. Siberian Kale
One of the most cold-hardy kale varieties available, Siberian kale has big, green leaves that can keep up with cold weather and pests.
Siberian kale should be cooked, so try sautéing it in a pan with a little olive oil, garlic, pancetta, or bacon for a delicious side dish.
5. Redbor Kale
Redbor kale is a variety that can easily be recognized due to its deep-red frilly leaves. It has a mild, cabbage-like flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. Keep in mind that when you do cook redbor kale, it does lose some of its beautiful color.
6. Chinese Kale
Chinese kale or Chinese broccoli is a leafy green that’s part of the cabbage family and can easily be substituted for regular broccoli in many recipes. Toss it into stir-fries or steam it for a healthy side dish.
7. Baby Kale
Baby kale leaves come from a young kale plant and have a very mild and delicate flavor. They’re delicious eaten raw in a salad and you’ll often find baby kale leaves mixed in a salad green mix. If you don’t want to eat the leaves raw, they’re just as tasty sautéed.
Watch: Wild Edible Weeds in Your Backyard.
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A Guide to Kale Varieties and How to Cook With Them
CURLY KALE: If you’ve enjoyed your fair share of kale chips, you’ll recognize the crimped frilly light green leaves of curly kale, also occasionally known as Scot’s kale and one of the most common varieties out there.
LACINATO KALE: Also referred to as cavolo nero, Tuscan kale, or dinosaur kale, Italian lacinato kale has the narrow, stubbly dark blue-green leaves you’ll see stacked up at farmers’ markets with fantastically grassy, fresh flavor.
ORNAMENTAL KALE: Usually seen in decorative landscaping designs, ornamental kale features white or purple leaves in a rosette pattern. While ornamental kale varieties like peacock kale, coral prince, kamone coral queen, color up kale, and chidori kale are edible, they don’t have as clear a flavor as some of the conventional varieties. Pretty much all kale was decorative until the 1990s, when it went mainstream with the health food set.
RED RUSSIAN KALE: Featuring wide dark green fronds with brilliant magenta veins and deep purple stems, Red Russian kale is one of the few kale varieties with a sweet edible stem and soft leaves. It was first introduced to Canada by Russian traders in the 19th century.
CHINESE KALE: Those plates of gai lan, the bright steamed Chinese broccoli that you get with a side of oyster sauce at dim sum, are also known as Chinese kale, though their thick stems have more in common with conventional broccoli.
SIBERIAN KALE: As its name might suggest, Siberian kale is the most cold-hardy of the varieties of kale out there, and its delicately flavored leaves make it a popular choice for kale salads.
REDBOR KALE: The stunner of the bunch, Redbor kale has dramatic purple tightly frilled leaves and a mild, crisp flavor.
BABY KALE: Harvested while the kale plant is still young, baby kale is delicate enough to be eaten raw. It’s usually found in mixes of salad greens at the grocery store.
Have you ever found yourself staring down the greens section of your market, shopping list clutched in hand, trying to determine which variety of kale is best suited to a recipe that simply specifies “kale”? Fret not! While any variety you might choose will likely do the trick, keep reading for a breakdown of the three most common varieties of this leafy green, and when it’s best to use each.
Curly and Red Kale
Hearty, ridged, and almost frilly in appearance, curly and red kale can be used interchangeably; the main difference between the two is merely aesthetic. Use either in cooked dishes where the priority is helping sauce stick to the leaves, like vegan “cheesy” kale chips. Sauce will nestle into the leaves’ nooks and crannies, much like the way chunkier pasta sauce clings to ridged pasta. Avoid curly and red kale in dishes where the green is served raw, as their heartier texture can be unpleasantly toothsome, even after ribboning or massaging.
Dinosaur kale, also know as lacinato or Tuscan kale, is more tender than curly and red kale, making it a good candidate for raw and shortly cooked dishes. We turn to this variety for dishes like Napa Valley Grille’s chopped kale salad, a shredded kale, brussels sprouts, and citrus salad, or chicken and kale salad with lemon-cumin dressing. Just keep in mind that it’s still a bit too toothsome if it’s not sliced into thin ribbons or massaged to help break down some of its fibrous texture. It’s also a better candidate for weeknight cooking, as its flatter leaf structure makes it slightly easier to remove the tough, inedible center ribs in a flash.
You know kale. Hell, everyone knows kale at this point. Those four letters are printed on sweatshirts and tote bags galore. But do you know the difference between all the types of kale? Well, you should, because they’re all different, each with its own particular strengths.
They’re all nutritious, hearty, and flavorful (with a grassy, peppery bite that we love), but they cook differently. You should be familiar with the most commonly available types of kale, so the next time you’re shopping for the stuff you’ll know exactly which kind you should pick up for a given recipe. Here’s what you’ll come across at the grocery store most often:
Curly kale gets nice and crispy on a white pizza.
Photo by Alex Lau
This stuff is everywhere. It’s kale’s most common variety, and like the name advertises, has wavy, curly edges on each leaf. Being the most common, it’s earned the reputation as overplayed, but we think it’s actually a bit underrated. After stripping the leaves from those tough, fibrous stems, it’s great sautéed with a bit of garlic or slow-simmered in oil, and even roasted alongside proteins or other vegetables. The curly edges crisp up beautifully when exposed to the oven’s dry heat, and they taste great when cooked in an almost-dry skillet. It’s a little bit tough compared to other varieties, so if you’re going to eat it raw, it needs to be gently massaged with a bit of salt and acid like lemon juice or vinegar; that said, when treated properly, it lends a delicate, feathery texture to salads, and those crinkly edges make for a dramatic presentation.
Kale BLT salad. Yes.
Tuscan Kale aka Lacinato Kale aka Dinosaur Kale
It goes by a lot of different names, but whatever you want to call it, this is our rock. This is our favorite child. This is the kale we love to cook—and not cook—the most. It has a deeper color and is slightly thinner and more tender than curly kale, making it more versatile—it cooks more quickly and requires less massaging for use in raw preparations. Slow cook it. Remove the stems and use it in a salad or slice it into strips to make a slaw. We also love it stirred into soup or pasta right when it’s being finished in the pan. Tuscan kale has a pleasant, chewy texture that disappears when overcooked, so be sure to keep an eye on it.