Along with the sunshine and balmy weather, this week saw the arrival of many of our local farmer’s markets! Until our own grocery cooperative opens, farmer’s markets are a great way to find natural and organic foods and to support the local economy. One of the first leafy greens you might spot on those market tables in the next few weeks is the wildly popular leafy vegetable kale. Let’s talk about what to do with that kale once you’ve got it home!
This locally-grown green starts to make its appearance at farmer’s markets and CSA boxes in June through to October in Wisconsin. The kale crop is cold-hardy and thrives in climates with cool nights and warm days, so Wisconsin is one of the major kale producers in the United States.
Kale has become wildly popular for a reason—it is packed with vitamins A and C and is a good source of calcium and potassium. Gram-for-gram, it has more calcium than milk and more than twice the vitamin C of an orange. It also has brain-powering omega-3 alpha-linoleic fatty acid.
How to Select:
There are quite a few varieties of kale. Curly (or green) kale is the most common, and its frilly ruffled leaves are peppery and slightly bitter but become nutty when cooked. Dinosaur kale (also called lacinato or Tuscan kale) has long, slender, very dark green leaves that are sweeter and more tender than other varieties. No matter the variety, kale should have firm and deeply-colored leaves without browning, yellowing, or wilting. Smaller leaves are typically more tender than large ones.
How to Store:
Wrap in paper towels in an open plastic produce bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. It is best used within a few days—the longer you keep it, the more bitter its flavor can become.
How to Prepare:
Kale. Is. So. Versatile. If you don’t particularly like it one way, try it another! I am not a fan of kale chips (sorry, not sorry), but I love it sautéed in a bit of olive oil with salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes. It can be eaten raw, braised, roasted, and added to salads or soups. If you plan to use it raw in a salad, try massaging the leaves for about a minute until they are uniformly darker and slightly wilted—it makes the leaves softer and silkier. Kale becomes even more tender and gains sweeter, nuttier flavors when cooked; though, keep in mind overcooking kale can make it bitter.
Recipe: Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup
Total Time: 30 minutes; 20 minutes active
Italian sausage infuses this simple soup with flavor, and you can choose hot or sweet sausage, depending on your taste for heat. It all comes together in under 30 minutes, and is even better after a day or two in the refrigerator.
- 1/2 pound sweet or hot Italian bulk sausage
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 large potatoes, cubed to make 3 cups
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 14.5-ounce can chicken broth
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1/2 bunch kale, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and crumble the sausage into the pan. Stir as the sausage starts to sizzle, then add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, until sausage is browned and cooked through. Add the potatoes, carrot, garlic, chicken broth, tomatoes, kale, oregano, marjoram and salt. If desired, add red pepper flakes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. When the potatoes are tender, serve.
270 calories, 12 g. fat, 30 mg. cholesterol, 750 mg. sodium, 31 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. fiber, 10 g. protein
The book Vegetables Illustrated by Cook’s Illustrated has a whole section of hardy-greens recipes, including a recipe for whole-wheat pizza with kale and sunflower seed pesto. If you’re a kale chip fan, the book includes ranch-style and spicy sesame-ginger variations on a basic kale chip, too. It is available through the Hudson Public Library system.
What about you?
Have you found you prefer kale raw or cooked? Braised or baked? In soups or salads? Share your thoughts by joining in the conversation over on our Facebook page!
Want to see more local, fresh produce in your fridge? Consider becoming an owner of the Hudson Grocery Cooperative—which will be a locally-owned, full-service grocery store that offers diverse food and product choices including organic, sustainable and regionally sourced options for our community.
Image and recipe credit: Welcome to the Table.