Go green this week with kale

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family that includes vegetables such as cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables have recently gained widespread attention due to their health-promoting, sulphur-containing phytonutrients. There are several varieties of kale commonly known as curly kale, ornamental kale and dinosaur kale, all of which differ in taste, texture and appearance.

Curly kale has ruffled leaves and a fibrous stalk and is usually deep green in colour. It has a lively, pungent flavour with delicious bitter peppery qualities.

Ornamental kale is a more recently cultivated species that is often referred to as salad Savoy. Its leaves may either be green, white or purple and its stalks coalesce to form a loosely knit head. Ornamental kale has a more mellow flavour and tender texture.

Dinosaur kale is the common name for the kale variety known as Lacinato. It features dark blue-green leaves that have an embossed texture. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than curly kale.

Look for kale with firm, deeply-coloured leaves and moist hardy stems. Kale should be displayed in a cool environment since warm temperatures will cause it to wilt and will negatively affect its flavour. The leaves should look fresh, and be free from signs of browning, yellowing and small holes. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be tender and have a mild flavour than those with larger leaves. Kale is available throughout the year, although it is more widely available, and at its peak, from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring. Before eating or cooking, wash the kale leaves thoroughly under cool running water to remove any sand or dirt that may remain in the leaves. Both the leaves and the stem of kale can be eaten. After removing any roots that remain, you can just cut it into the desired shape and size. Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and dietary fibre.

Now, for a recipe.

Kale Pesto

Ingredients

Pine nuts: half a cup

Firmly-packed fresh kale: 2 cups

Garlic: 2-3 cloves

Grated Parmesan cheese: quarter cup

Olive oil: 2 tbsp to half a cup

Method: Place pine nuts in a dry skillet, and toast, shaking occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Place kale in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add pine nuts and garlic. Pulse until kale is finely chopped. Add cheese, and pulse until cheese is incorporated. Do not puree or over process. The pesto should still be chunky. Drizzle in olive oil, and continue to pulse until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.

The writer is Chef de Partie, Taj Connemara

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