Kale, and collard, its close relative, are the oldest known members of the cabbage family. Wild cabbage, which strongly resembles kale in its appearance, is still found growing along the European coasts and in North Africa. Kale is native either to the eastern Mediterranean region or to Asia Minor. It is known that man has been eating this vegetable for more than 4000 years.
The word “kale” was first used in Scotland, and is derived from the Greek and Latin words “coles” and “caulis”. These words refer to the whole group of cabbage-like plants. In America, kale was first mentioned in 1669, although it was probably introduced to this continent at an earlier date.
The sulfur compounds that are found in the cabbage family are, of course, also found in kale. These compounds break up easily, and decomposition occurs when kale is cooked too long or at too low a temperature. Overcooking also destroys the flavor.
Kale is on the market all year, but is most abundant through the late fall and winter. The peak months are December through February. Kale comes principally from Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and the Middle Atlantic states.
There are now many varieties of kale, but the crinkly-leaved and the smooth-leaved are the two most popular commercial types. The smooth type is usually referred to as spring kale, and the curly as green Scotch kale, or Siberian blue kale. Scotch kale are usually crinkled and curled, have a finely divided leaf, and are bright green to yellowish-green in color. The leaves of the Siberian kale are flattened and smooth in the center, with curled and ruffled edges, and are of a deep, bluish-green color. Wilted and yellowed leaves should be avoided.
Kale is very high in calcium, vitamin A, and iron. It is good for building up the calcium content of the body, and builds strong teeth. Kale is beneficial to the digestive and nervous systems.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND
Protein: 11.3 g
Fat: 1.7 g
Carbohydrates: 21.0 g
Calcium: 655 mg
Phosphorus: 180 mg
Iron: 6.4 mg
Vitamin A: 21,950 I.U.
Thiamine: 0.3 mg
Riboflavin: 0.76 mg
Niacin: 5.8 mg
Ascorbic acid: 335 mg