kale

Kale, which is in season from fall until winter, is a nutritional powerhouse.

Fall is officially here! Homes are being decorated with pumpkins, mums and … kale? Yes, you read that correctly: Colorful varieties of ornamental kale are often incorporated into fall decorations and landscaping, especially because this leafy vegetable is in season from fall until winter.

Kale is a Mediterranean descendant of wild cabbage and was cultivated for food by 2000 B.C., primarily in ancient Greece and Rome. Kale’s popularity, however, spread during World War II, as kale cultivation was encouraged in the United Kingdom because it was easy to grow and provided important nutrients that weren’t present in military

rations.

Kale comes in different varieties, such as plain, curly leaf, Tuscan, red and ornamental. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse that is low in calories (about 33 calories per cup), high in fiber (5 grams per cup), contains zero fat, and high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K. Kale contains 10% of the recommended daily allowance of omega-3 fatty acids, making it a great anti-inflammatory food. Kale contains more iron than beef and contains the cancer-fighting antioxidants flavonoids and carotenoids.

Although high levels of Vitamin K have been shown to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s, individuals on blood thinners should consult with their physicians before adding leafy greens in abundance into their diet as Vitamin K may interfere with medication effectiveness.

Finally, kale contains oxalates that can interfere with calcium absorption, so calcium-rich foods should be consumed separately from meals containing kale.

When shopping for kale, choose dark-colored bunches with small to medium leaves, and avoid brown or yellow leaves. While it’s ideal to grow or purchase kale while it’s in season, it can still be harvested after a frost, and a light frost may even sweeten its taste. Like spinach, kale cooks down drastically when heated, so be sure to purchase extra for recipes. Kale can be stored in a plastic bag for three to five days in the coldest part of a refrigerator.

There are many ways to serve kale: blended into smoothies; baked into kale chips; steamed; sautéed; roasted; topped on a pizza; added to eggs; and even incorporated into baked goods. For those who want to consume kale in its raw form, massaging it helps to remove potential bitterness. Try the massaged kale salad recipe below and enjoy.

Stacy Reed is an educator with Penn State Extension in Lancaster, specializing in food safety and nutrition.