We regularly chat about kale on this blog, but have we ever told you about all its nutritional benefits? Acadia nutrition students Amber Fitzgerald, Amy Tillotson, Meghan Todd, Maryke Mody, and Kelsey Chase prepared this blog post, complete with a recipe for kale pesto.
There is a wonderful leafy green vegetable available that many are not aware of; it has a remarkable dark green color, crisp texture and its taste varies during its growing season. Can you guess what it is? It’s Kale!
Basic Information: This nutritious, lettuce-like vegetable is grown mainly in the fall season and is preferably harvested after the first frost, which sweetens the naturally bitter tasting leaves. From August well into the winter months it is harvested and sold in bunches at Farmers’ Markets across Nova Scotia. If you are growing kale at home, the outer leaves can be continuously picked during the fall and this will not inhibit growth of the plant. Stored in a cold, humid environment, in a sealed plastic bag, kale can be kept for up to 10 days or even for a period of months when kept below minus 3° C. A yellow colour around the edges of the leaves is a sign of age and damage and these leaves should be removed before cooking or eating along with its strong and fibrous stock. Kale is commonly used as a garnish in restaurants because of its fresh, bright green appearance, as well as its ability to withstand heat for a longer period than other leafy greens.
Nutritional Value: Canada’s Food Guide recommends that you eat at least one serving (250ml) of a dark green leafy vegetable every day as a part of a balanced diet. Kale contains twice the amount of antioxidants as compared to other vegetables from the Brassica family such as broccoli or spinach. Beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is converted in the body into Vitamin A, may help prevent some forms of degenerative eye disease such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Kale is also an excellent source of Vitamin K and Calcium, which both play an important role in bone health. In addition, kale also contains very high concentrations of Vitamin C, folate, manganese, potassium, and copper, all of which aid in everyday biological functions within the body. It is a nutrient dense vegetable due to its high nutritional value and small amount of calories in one serving. When preparing kale, keep in mind that the cooking process decreases the amount of Vitamin C significantly where as Vitamin A increases.
Food Preparation: Kale has a unique flavor, which makes it great to toss in a salad, or add it to your favorite soups, stews and stir-fries. It has a tougher texture than other leafy greens that allows it to keep its crunch when steamed or blanched, and this quality makes for a great side dish. Rubbing a small amount of salt on the leaves or sprinkling the kale with soya or tamari sauce will aid in the softening of the tough texture before cooking. Kale will turn a bright shade of green when cooking, but if overcooked it will begin to turn back to a deep shade of green.
An easy to make recipe is Kale Pesto.
Makes approx. 500ml Time to prepare: 30 minutes
3 tightly packed cups fresh kale, stalk removed, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil
3/4 cup toasted or raw sunflower seeds
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3-4 cloves of garlic
½ cup fresh oregano, marjoram or basil, lightly packed
Water, as needed
Salt to taste
1 Start by placing a small amount of kale into a food processor. Add the lemon juice.
2 Periodically push the kale down, as it doesn’t mix easily. If it doesn’t mix well, add a small amount of water until the kale begins to break apart.
3 Continue to add the kale, and water as needed, and slowly begin adding the garlic, herbs and seeds. Mix roughly.
4 Keep running the food processor on the lowest speed and slowly add the oil.
5 Blend well, place into a jar with a tight lid.
This pesto can be used on sandwiches, pastas and other favorite dishes. Enjoy!