Yesterday was a bittersweet kale day for me. After finding some ridiculously late cabbage white caterpillars munching my garden kale to death, I was pretty despondent.
However, the morning brought a sharp frost, so the leaves would be nicely sweetened. To cheer myself up I headed to mum’s plot to nab some of her kale, which had been unaffected by the pesky cabbage whites.
So I harvested some lush green leaves and headed home with them for tea. Here are 8 tips for getting the best from your kale, whether you’re harvesting or cooking.
Wait for the first frost to harvest
Now, I’m going to say something that might sound daft: kale picked and eaten before the first frosts take a bit – well, brassicarey. For the best-tasting kale, save your harvesting until after the first frosts. The cold will sweeten the leaves and they’ll taste loads better. Cavolo nero, in particular, really benefits from a frost.
Don’t pick the leaves too big
Don’t let the leaves become too big and old before harvesting, otherwise, they’ll be really tough – I reckon the perfect size for a kale leaf is about 6 inches long. Anything too tough, try cooking in a veggie stew type dish, like ribollita.
Harvest as fresh as possible
Of course, this is a tip that could apply to any vegetable, but the longer you leave kale leaves after harvesting the limper they become. Storing in the fridge will help prolong life though, up to about a week.
Kale is a cut and come again plant, meaning the leaves will need picking so that the new growth can come through. If you can’t keep up and yellow or oversized leaves take hold, whip them off so that energy can be concentrated on the fresh shoots.
Don’t boil too hard
Boiling is the most popular method of cooking kale, but don’t leave the leaves in the water too long. This not only makes the leaves soggy but also lessens the nutritional value. Kale is a superfood; rich in minerals, vitamins A and C, but containing few calories.
Kale doesn’t necessarily need to be cooked, however. Small, tender leaves can be eaten raw and used in salads.
Cut off the stem
This is the horrible hard bit. It’s tough and chewy, so cut it off before cooking.
Try and serve the kale last
Once cooked, kale gets cold quickly, so if they’re sat on the side you’ll have cold leaves with your dinner. Try and serve kale up last if you can.
Add a little something to the leaves
If you get bored of the taste (this can happen after a winter of leafy greens!), try adding some flavours. My favourite is a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out some extra flavour.