Kale is considered the most primitive member of the cabbage family. According to NorthernGardening.com, kale has been grown as a food crop since 2000 B.C., originating in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Today, the United States grows more than 65,000 acres of kale each year.
More than a garnish. Many restaurants display kale alongside various entrees. However, the leafy, green vegetable is much more than a garnish. Kale is a member of the Brassica family of vegetables, which includes broccoli, cabbage and collard greens. Kale is a tasty, nutritious vegetable that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked into soups and other dishes. Kale leaves even can be baked and eaten as veggie chips for a low-calorie, healthy snack.
Kale's health benefits. Kale contains several important vitamins and minerals. The United States Department of Agriculture's nutrient database lists one cup of raw kale as containing significant protein and dietary fiber, plus a whopping 90 milligrams of calcium, which is essential for the body's bone health. A one-cup serving of raw kale also has potassium, beta carotene, and vitamins C, A and K. Its high levels of vitamin K may help reduce the risks of certain cancers. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reports that a deficiency of vitamin K can result in impaired blood clotting.
Cooked kale. Cooked kale has similar nutrient values when compared to raw kale. One cup of cooked kale, prepared boiled and without salt has almost the same amount of protein, dietary fiber, calcium and potassium. It does have a slightly lower vitamin C content, but actually has higher amounts of beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin K.
Choosing and storing kale. Look for kale leaves that are a dark green color. The leaves should not be limp or rubbery. Avoid kale leaves that have brown spots or other discolorations. Kale has a stronger flavor than cabbage or spinach, and that flavor will deepen the longer it's stored. Plan to eat the kale within one or two days after purchase. Store it in the vegetable crisper section of your refrigerator, unwashed and wrapped in a paper towel, which will help keep it fresh.