The leaves have been changing colors and the temperatures are dropping, all signs fall has officially arrived in Maine. Many of the summer crops like strawberries, peas, and beans thrive in the warmer temperatures. Kale is quite different, though, and is a favorite “winter hardy” green in Maine. Did you know that kale can withstand frosts and even snowfall? Maine-grown kale actually thrives in the cooler weather, making it an excellent staple food in the winter months!
Choose small to medium leaves with a crisp appearance when making your selection. There are many types of Maine-grow kale to choose from: Russian kale is soft and delicious raw; dinosaur kale is a rich bluish tint and easy to chop; and rugged curly/ruffled kale holds up well in any dish is particularly easy to find and store. All varieties are a healthy addition to your diet. Kale is rich in nutrients, containing vitamins A, C and K, calcium, and iron, and it is a good source of fiber. In fact, kale has one of the highest amounts of vitamin K out of all vegetables.
- Is rich in B6 and contains significant amounts of potassium and manganese.
- Contains no cholesterol and minimal amounts of calories and sodium!
- Is rich in phytochemicals like other leafy greens.
Where to Find Kale
Because kale is tolerant of cold weather, it grows well in Maine. Farmers often are able to grow and harvest kale straight from the fields in November and even December. In deep winter, many farmers grow kale in unheated “high tunnels” (structures made of metal hoops covered by plastic that provide protection from the wind and other elements). Look for Maine-grown kale at any winter farmers’ market, at farm stores, and at co-ops and locally-owned grocery stores. Typically you’ll be able to find large, crisp leaves bunched together with rubber bands. Sometimes bags of smaller leaves will be available as well. (Baby kale, in particular, is often sold in bags.)
Preparation and Storage Tips
You should keep your kale refrigerated in an open or perforated plastic bag for up to 3-5 days. The flavor may become stronger and more bitter as kale is stored. Wash Maine-grown kale just before using, as storing it wet can speed spoilage. Always pat the leaves dry as needed, and tear out any woody stems. For best quality, blanch the kale before freezing and use within one year. If you find that kale is a bit too bitter for your taste, consider rinsing it after chopping the leaves, as this will help remove the bitter flavor. And if you prefer soft greens, try “massaging” your kale leaves by rubbing them vigorously with your hands to soften them up prior to serving. This makes the leaves soft enough to enjoy in a salad with your other favorite ingredients.
A Family of Nutritional Powerhouses!
Kale is a member of the Brassicaceae family, also known as the cabbage family, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi. Kale is a dark green vegetable that has good savory flavor. It is similar to a mild cabbage and a great compliment for rice, potatoes and other foods. These vegetables are affordable, nutritious, and store well too! You can steam, sauté, roast or boil this leafy green vegetable. Another great way to prepare kale is to bake it, making one of our favorite snack recipes, Crunchy Baked Kale Chips. You can find this recipe and many more on the Maine Senior FarmShare Program webpage.