(Brassica oleracea convar. acephala var. sabellica – Family Cruciferae [Brassicaceae])
Kale, curly kale, green cabbage, cole/colewort (England)
Kale is a different species from Chinese kale
and from collards,
but the plants have several features in common.
All have rather coarse and strongly flavoured leaves, and the stems are usually too tough to use unless they are very young.
Kale and cabbage are varieties of the same species and descended from the same wild ancestor, but kale is the more primitive of the two.
Kale was the greens used by country folk in parts of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages when “headed” cabbages were bred. Kale grows in colder climates where other cabbages cannot tolerate, and remain a popular green in northern regions.
Kale is often mistaken for an ornamental garden plant that look like open-leaf cabbages. It has frilly, dark green, sturdy leaves, and is usually sold tied together as a big bunch of leaves. It is the most widely available type and has the highest carbohydrate and protein content of all the cabbage varieties.
The colour may vary, ranging from dark green with a blue, purple, or crimson tinge. Its strong cabbagey flavour is tempered when cooked.
There are conspicuous differences in stalk heights, which can be low, semi-high, and high, as well as in shape, colour, and curliness of the leaves; but there is very little difference in the flavour, which improves after the first frost. Kales are more abundant, flavourful, and tender during the coldest months.
Kale varies in height from dwarf types of about twelve to sixteen inches to tall varieties reaching three feet and spreading to two feet in width. The novelty, Jersey Kale or Walking Stick Cabbage,
is grown for its straight stems that can be seven feet long. When these are dried, they are made into walking sticks!
Although it keeps a long time in the coldest part of the refrigerator, its sweetness disappears with each passing day and becomes stronger over time.
Unlike other greens that reduce in size up to eight times during cooking, kale only shrinks by half or a quarter. The older the leaf, the longer it will require cooking.
Kale can be chopped and used raw in salads and smoothies, dried to make kale chips, cooked and added to rice or barley dishes, or served on its own as a side dish. The stalk and the leaf should be separated as each varies in its cooking times, with the stalks taking much longer than the leaf.
Kale is super rich in vitamins A and C, as well as that of iron, which is easily absorbed because of the high vitamin C content. It is also a good source of vitamins E and B complex, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Although greens are high in calcium, much of it is not absorbed. However, kale still ranks higher in bioavailable calcium than other greens. It takes 15.5 servings of spinach or 5.2 servings of broccoli to equal the same amount of available calcium found in 3.5 servings of kale.
Kale is grouped according to true kale, Siberian kale, and Collards (popular in North America):
True Kale, Scotch Kale, Curly-leaved Kale, or Borecole
usually has dark green or glaucous leaves with heavily frilled margins. It is fairly common in western markets and in Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scotland.
Varieties include: Darkibor, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch (Dwarf Blue Curled Vates), Dwarf Green Curled, Fribor, Pentland Brig, Showbor (a mini), Spurt, Tall Green Curled (Tall Scotch Curled), and Thousand Head.
Tuscan kale, black kale, cavolo nero, lacinato kale, Tuscan black palm kale
is just one of many names for this osterich-plumed dark, tightly curled beauty. The plant was developed in Tuscany, probably during the 18th century. However, it is not as delectable as it looks. It does have a full flavour that is not bitter, but not nearly as bold as its looks might indicate.
Siberian Kale, Rape, Kale, or Curled Kitched Kale (Pabularia Group)
is a closer relative of the rutabaga, but grown for its leaves rather than roots. The leaves are variable in form and colour, having broader leaves than kale, but can be curled or frilly. It does not transplant well and crops when true kale has finished.
True Siberian has blue-green frilly leaves that grow through the winter and resemble a cross between an oak leaf and a turnip top. In cultivars with “Red” in their name, the stalks and veins turn magenta to ruby in cold weather, but exhibit little of this colouring when grown in warmer climates.
turn a glossy evergreen, with traces of purple, when cooked.
Varieties include: Hungry Gap, Laciniato (an Italian variety with deeply cut flat leaves), Ragged Kack (having pink-tinged leaves and midribs), Red Russian (having green-red frilly leaves), and includes similar cultivars Siberian, Ragged Jack, White Russian, Red Ursa, and Winter Red.
Collards, collard greens
(Brassica oleracea var. acephala – Family Cruciferae [Brassicaceae])
Collard greens are a form of kale. Collards arrived in the US with the slave trade, but it is not known if they came from Africa or Haiti. Popular in the southern US states, it is also cooked in other countries around the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Collards is the ancient plant of Eurasian origin and represents the oldest form of cabbage. It remains much the same as it did centuries ago. The botanical classification is confusing as it shares the same grouping as kale.
Acephala means headless, and is the designation that separates most kale and collards from other cabbages (except the Black Cabbage) because the two grow in loose bouquet forms and not a tight head.
The terms, Collards and Kale, are often used interchangeably. The English words of cole, kale, and collards all come from “colewort”, which means cabbage plant.
Collards have smooth, thinner leaves than true kale, taste milder, and are more heat tolerant. Both the stalk and the leaf are the same shade of green. The flavour is like cabbage, but has a smoky element. Unless young collards are used, the stalk becomes too tough to be a palatable addition to any dish.
They do require longer periods of steaming or stir frying than other greens. In certain dishes, collards have an affinity for oranges and can withstand the heat of added hot peppers. They should be served with a milder flavoured dish as potatoes or polenta to offset their strong taste.
Collards are a feature of Portuguese potato soup. In the tropics, they are marketed as collard greens. Few greens can match the nutritive power of collards as they are an excellent source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, potassium, iron, riboflavin, and sodium.
Some varieties are: Champion, Georgia, and Hicrop Hybrid.