Kale is one of those foods that you either love…or you hate.
For me, it’s a matter of preparation.
When prepared correctly, I absolutely love kale. I’ll add it to anything – pastas, salads, soups, smoothies…you name it.
But when it hasn’t been prepared correctly (or is harvested at the wrong time), I absolutely hate it. It’s woody, dense, and smelly, and there’s really no way to mask its strong, pungent flavor.
Love it or hate it, though, there’s no denying that kale is a nutritional powerhouse. Here are some tips for adding kale to your daily diet – even if you’ve yet to jump on the kale bandwagon.
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Kale has been around since Roman times, common across much of Europe and prized for its cold-hardiness and overall vigor. It is from the cabbage family, closely related to (besides cabbage) collard greens, cauliflower, and broccoli.
It’s easy to grow in the garden. It requires minimal care besides a bit of watering and weeding, and once it gets established, you’ll enjoy a consistent harvest all season long.
It’s also easy to store. I’ve heard of people canning kale, but personally, I find it easiest to freeze it in small shreds. That way, I can pull it out at any time and toss it into a stir-fry or pasta dish.
Most importantly, kale is packed with nutritional benefits. With just 33 calories, kale also offers the following:
- 3 grams of protein
- 2.5 grams of fiber
- Healthy doses of vitamins C, A, and K
- Lutein and zeaxanthin (these give kale its dark color and protect against certain eye disorders)
- Alpha-linolenic acid
Tips for Adding Kale to Your Diet
Try Different Varieties
If you think you don’t like kale, it might be a simple matter of not having experienced the right variety. There are countless varieties that you can grow or purchase at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. You just need to find the right one for your preferences.
Kale can be flat, curly, or even somewhat blue in color. It can be ornamental or designed to be used strictly for culinary purposes.
If you’ve tried kale before and didn’t like it, give it another shot – but try a different variety. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Here are a few seed varieties you can try.
Choose Only the Best
When you’re shopping for kale – or plucking some fresh from your garden – only choose the very best of the best. Try not to use leaves that are yellow or wilted. Ragged leaves should also be discarded.
Fresh is best, too. You don’t want leaves that have been on the plant all season, as they’ll develop a strong flavor and a woody texture. Instead, look for crisp-looking leaves with bright colors.
Depending on the flavors you want to achieve, remember that you should be purchasing or selecting leaves based on those preferences. If you want a tender, more mild experience, go for smaller leaves. If you want a bolder punch, pick larger ones.
Kale should not be washed or de-stemmed before storage. You’ll need to keep it dry and refrigerated, too.
Cook it Effectively
Before you start cooking your kale, take the time to make sure you have removed the stems and ribs from the plant. These are incredibly tough and don’t soften well when they are cooked. They can be used for juicing or smoothies, but otherwise, they’re best left out.
Still finding your kale too bitter? Try adding a pinch of sugar. This will reduce the natural bitterness and enhance its savory flavor.
If you sautee your kale, make sure you cook it long enough – but not so long that it gets crispy. Another hack is to avoid drying it after washing it, as the extra water will allow it to steam up better in the pan.
Harvest at the Optimal Times
Kale grows best in cool weather, ideally when temperatures are lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can even tolerate some freezing temperatures, too.
I’ve always found that kale grows woody and unpalatable the further we get into the season. I think the rising temperatures and overall dryness have a lot to do with it.
For best results (and a continuous harvest), you might want to try planting several crops of kale in succession. That way, you’ll always have fresh, tender leaves on hand – but you won’t have to deal with the end-of-season decline in quality.
Use Home Grown or Organic Kale
Sadly, as much as I love kale, it’s not one of the cleanest vegetables you can buy at the grocery store.
I don’t normally advocate for purchasing organic goods, but kale is one vegetable where I make the exception. Compared to other vegetables, kale has extremely high levels of pesticide residues. If you’re not growing your own kale at home, it might be worth it to spend a little extra for the organic stuff.
Try it Raw
Don’t knock it till you try it! Kale, especially when picked young and tender, tastes great in a salad or eaten raw as a side dish all by itself. You can add some exciting new dressings like these or make your own.
Blend it Up
If your blender has been collecting dust, you might want to whip it out and give smoothie-making a try. Add kale to your favorite smoothie recipe, and you likely won’t even know that it’s in there -meaning you’ll get an extra boost of nutrients without the flavors you dislike.
If you’re in the market for a new blender, consider this one – it’s my tried-and-true favorite. I use it almost every day and I swear, it seems to last forever.
Putting kale in a smoothie is just one way to conceal its flavor if you really, truly don’t like it. You can also mix it into other recipes where you wouldn’t expect to find it! Some examples? How about some kale pesto or chocolate chip kale cookies?
Not only is this a great way to use up that kale, but it’s a phenomenal way to trick your kids (or husband!) into eating more vegetables.
Try One of These 18 Awesome Kale Recipes
Don’t knock ‘em till you try ‘em! Here are some of my favorite kale recipes of all time.
Kale Lasagna by Kalyn’s Kitchen
Tuscan Vegetable Stew by A Couple Cooks
Kale & Pistachio Pizza by A Couple Cooks
Kale Chips by A Spicy Perspective
Kale Caesar Salad by Gimme Some Oven
Mushroom and Kale Risotto by Nonna Box (for best results on this one, use homemade chicken stock!)
Kale Artichoke Frittata by A Couple Cooks (with homegrown, pasture-raised eggs, of course)
Sweet Potato Kale Soup by From My Bowl
Kale, Artichoke, and Ricotta Pie by The Kitchn
Roasted Eggplant and Crispy Kale with Yogurt by Bon Appetit
Pesto Kale Gnocchi by Simple Vegan Blog
Italian Sausage with Grilled Broccolini, Kale, and Lemon by Copy Me That
Kale Pesto by Pinch of Yum
Kale Chocolate Chip Cookies by Chocolate Covered Katie
Phyllo Pie with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Goat Cheese by Taste and Tipple
Pork Tenderloin with Kale and Kimchi by Bon Appetit
Chicken Tortellini with Kale by Eat at Home Cooks
Raspberry, Banana, and Kale Smoothie by Cooking Classy
What do you think? Are you ready to give kale a second chance? Let me know about your favorite recipes in the comments!
Want to learn more about homestead cooking? Be sure to take a look at these other recipe round-ups.
- How to Cut Up A Chicken For the Freezer
- How to Make Your Own Sourdough Bread
- 20 Resourceful Recipes to Use Up Leftover Pickles
- 6 Absolutely Tantalizing Radish Recipes You Need to Try Tonight
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