This dark, leafy green brings so much to the table.

By Kelly Vaughan
Updated January 14, 2021
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kale leaves covered with frost
Overnight, the kale crop becomes more delicious.
| Credit: Ten Mothers Farm

One of the most nutrient-dense foods in the supermarket, kale is rich in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. It is also high in fiber and calcium, like other members of the cabbage family. Autumn frosts give this hearty green a deep sweetness so you'll want to eat it all winter long. Varieties to look for include curly kale and Tuscan kale (also called lacinato, cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale), which has darker, flatter leaves. Ahead, we're sharing what you need to know about this dark, leafy green including how to shop for and store it, plus our favorite ways to cook with it.

Curly Kale

The most common and easy-to-find variety is curly kale, which has bright green long leaves and a bitter, peppery flavor. Curly kale is tougher than other varieties so it is best enjoyed after being massaged with olive oil and lemon juice. The curly edges crisp up beautifully, which is why this variety is popular for roasting for a recipe such as kale chips; simply toss torn leaves with olive oil and salt and bake.

Lacinato Kale

Also known as Tuscan (or Italian) kale, dinosaur kale, or palm tree kale, this variety has flatter, thin leaves than curly kale, which means that it has an even nicer mouthfeel when consumed raw. It's easy to cut into thin strips and sauté, or even puréed into a juice or smoothie. It's also popular in salads, soups, and stews. Tuscan kale, in particular, turns meltingly tender when cooked long and slow. A quick sauté with garlic and red-pepper flakes is great for a weeknight side dish.

Red Russian Kale

This variety can be found in both farmers' market and grocery stores; stock up on this gem once you do encounter it. Its leaves are green, but the stems and center ribs have a red-purple hue. Its texture is similar to that of curly kale so again, we recommend massaging it with a light dressing if you plan to eat it raw.

Buying and Storing Kale

When shopping for kale—whether it be at a farmers' market or in the grocery store—choose deeply colored bunches with springy leaves. Small, tender leaves cook more quickly, but larger ones are great for braising. Store kale in a plastic bag in the coldest spot of your refrigerator for up to three days. If its leaves have wilted or turned brown, discard or compost them.

How to Use Kale

When preparing kale, start by discarding the stems and center ribs before washing, unless kale is young and very tender. Kale is the backbone of classic soups such as minestrone soup; it also pairs well with potatoes, white beans, pasta, or smoked meats. See how lacinato kale shines in this recipe for a Kale-and-Apple Salad or as a hearty, nutritious side in our Pork Tenderloin with Kale Salad. Curly kale floats about in this cozy soup recipe, and we also love it in this flavor-packed recipe for Greens, Coconut Sambal, and Mustard Seed Fried Egg. You can also use any variety for this Kale, Pineapple, and Almond-Milk Smoothie.

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