Types of Kale
I always buy green curly kale but shook things up a little and brought home some purple kale instead to use in this delicious warm Lentil, Squash and Kale Salad with Thyme, Cranberries and White Balsamic Dressing. The official name of this kind of kale is Redbor, which may explain why it’s sometimes also called red kale. It was a WIN! Redbor kale has a sweeter, nutty taste than curly kale, which balanced perfectly with the balsamic maple syrup dressing on my salad. If you’re using Redbor kale, its beautiful colour is best maintained when prepared for raw dishes.
Lacinato kale is often called dinosaur kale because of its appearance. Lacinato kale is also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage and Italian kale. This variety has large, flat leaves with a scale-like texture, and it has a mild flavour.
The most common variety of kale, and the one I eat most often and have grown in my little raised bed garden plot, is curly kale. It has large, tough leaves and thick stems that are typically removed and not eaten.
Baby kale is quite tender with a much milder flavour compared to its full-sized counterparts, and you can eat the entire leaf, without removing the stems. Baby kale is lovely in summer salads.
How to Use Kale
Kale can be eaten raw, chopped into salads, added to pasta dishes, sautéed with oil, garlic and lemon juice or tamari soy, added to soups, smoothies, used as a burger bun or burrito wrap, or baked and made into kale chips.
Massaging Kale Leaves
Kale loves a good massage. Massaging kale with olive oil or an acid like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar helps to break down the tough outer cell structure, giving the kale a softer texture. If you’re using kale in a raw salad you could always just plan ahead to let the salad sit once its dressed to allow the kale to soften in the dressing. I like to massage my kale when I’m making kale chips to be sure the kale is all nicely oiled, so it’ll crisp up in the oven. If you’re making kale chips, don’t forget the sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a great cheesy taste.
Health Benefits of Kale
- Kale is an excellent source of vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, fibre and calcium.
- Plants with purple pigments, including redbor kale, contain anthocyanins that can help to prevent cancer.
- Kale is high in antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium and zinc, which are important in supporting a healthy immune system and reducing inflammation, helping to reduce blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol.
- Kale contains mood-boosting B-vitamins, including B2 and B6, which support the nervous system by helping the body deal with stress and helping to boost serotonin levels to increase feelings of happiness, energy and concentration
- Kale is a good source of folate and the amino acid tryptophan, both important nutrients in increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin
- Kale is high in indole-3 carbinol to help rid the body of toxins, including xenoestrogens, balance hormone levels, and support immune health. Indole-3 carbinol helps to reduce the risk for several kinds of cancers.
Lentil, Squash and Kale Salad with Thyme, Cranberries and White Balsamic Dressing
- 1 cup French lentils
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 winter squash about 2 lb
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh thyme chopped
- 2 cups de-stemmed purple kale
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Pinch of salt pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 400°. Cut squash into bite size pieces and toss in olive oil. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with thyme. Bake for 25 minutes, tossing once halfway through.
- Rinse lentils and add to a saucepan with bay leaves and enough water to be about 2” above the lentils and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until soft but not mushy. Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Make dressing by mixing the oil, vinegar and maple syrup until the mixture begins to emulsify.
- Wash and chop kale. Add kale, squash, lentils and cranberries to a large bowl. Pour dressing over top and toss to mix in. Enjoy warm or cold.