Kale: Harvesting, Cooking and Freezing

Kale is one of the most versatile greens to grow, as it can be used in anything from stews to salads, in chips, and even smoothies! Kale is a member of the brassica family, and can have different flavors depending on what time of year it is harvested. The leaves are mild in spring and early summer, then begin to develop a more bitter flavor as the weather warms up. Kale is at its sweetest and most delicious in the spring just after a frost. There are many different varieties of Kale such as Dinosaur, Tuscan, Lacinato which have a distinct oblong shape, Curly Kale which has large broad leaves and curled edges, or Red Russian which are sage colored with reddish purple stems. 

One of Peterson Garden Project's Grow 2 Give beds, planted with Lacinato, Red Russian, and Blue Curled Scotch Kale.

One of Peterson Garden Project’s Grow 2 Give beds, planted with Lacinato, Red Russian, and Blue Curled Scotch Kale.

How do you know when it is ready to harvest? 
Kale can be harvested young if you prefer tender leaves to use in salads, or you can wait until the leaves reach their full size, which can range depending on variety. To harvest small leaves, just use scissors to snip the lower leaves about ¼ inch from the stem. You can harvest larger leaves by pulling down on the leaf, right next to the main stem to snap off. Check out how to harvest large kale leaves.

The plant will keep producing leaves, and you can harvest all season long. You can also plant new rows of seeds in succession a few weeks apart for a longer and more abundant harvest.

How do you store it?
Wash and wrap in a damp paper towel, stored in a loose plastic bag in the refrigerator. Kale will keep about 1 week stored this way. Kale also freezes very well! Blanch the cut leaves in boiling water for 20-30 seconds, then immediately plunge into ice water. Drain with a colander or salad spinner, then dry again with a lint-free towel or paper towel. Drying the leaves thoroughly will help prevent ice crystals from forming. Pack into a freezer storage bag, and press down to remove the air. Seal, label, freeze and enjoy within 8-10 months. To use, simply steam gently, toss into hot soups or stews, or thaw in the refrigerator.

Submerged in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Leave enough space so the leaves can move around freely.

Submerged in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Leave enough space so the leaves can move around freely.

Drain with a colander, then spin dry or towel dry to remove moisture.

Drain with a colander, then spin dry or towel dry to remove moisture.

Label and date.

Label and date.

How do you cook it?
Remove any yellowed leaves, as well as any tough stems. Smaller stems from young leaves can be left in tact, as they are softer and not as fibrous. To remove the stems, fold the leaf in half and run a knife down the stem side to remove. Young tender leaves can be thrown into salads raw, or try tossing some raw kale into your next smoothie to add a healthy antioxidant boost. If you’re making a kale salad, one trick to make it easier to chew is to “massage” it so the fibers in the leaves break down a bit and become more pliable and, well, relaxed.

Unlike other greens, kale retains much of its volume when cooked- 1 pound of raw kale yields roughly 2 cups cooked. Kale can be steamed, sautéed, baked, or added to soups (especially paired with white beans, lentils, or potatoes). Try simply sautéing it in a little bit of olive oil with some garlic and a splash of lemon juice, add a little salt and pepper to taste, and toss into your favorite pasta with some parmesan cheese on top. You can also make kale chips by tossing the leaves with oil and salt, and drying them out in the oven at its lowest setting (no higher than 250 degrees) until crispy. The possibilities with kale are endless!

NUTRITION:

Kale is a hearty, healthful vegetable that can be incorporated in many dishes. It is so popular, it even has its own national day – October 2, 2013 (National Kale Day)! Kale is a great source of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, Calcium, lutein and zeaxanthin. Raw kale makes a nourishing, colorful and intensely flavored salad ingredient. It is also a low calorie vegetable, providing only 33 calories in one cup.

Courtesy of Ariana Ortiz, Swedish Covenant Hospital Dietitian.

RECIPES:

Baked Kale Chips Recipe: (source: www.allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.

3. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Kale’s bold flavor gets tempered, in a good way, when it teams up with eggs and cheese. This will make a nice supper with a green salad or vegetable soup. You can use any variety of kale in this recipe.

Kale and onion quiche
Makes: 6 servings
1 prepared 9-inch pie crust
3 eggs
¾ cup half-and-half
¾ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Freshly ground black pepper
1 TB vegetable oil
1 TB butter
5 green onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped kale leaves
1/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Tear off a piece of foil large enough to fit inside the pie crust; press into the crust.
Fill pan with dried beans; bake 12 minutes. Remove crust from oven, discarding foil and beans; set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, half-and-half, milk, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl; set aside.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook the onions and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the kale; cook, stirring, just until wilted, about 5 minutes.
Spoon the vegetables into the crust; sprinkle with cheese.
Pour the egg mixture over. Bake until set, about 35 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of the Chicago Tribune