kaleBy Kurt Nolte

• Yuma County is home to roughly 50 acres of kale, both standard and curly leafed varieties. The crop is harvested leaf by leaf and is typically bunched and packed within the field.

• Until the end of the Middle Ages, kale was one of the most common green vegetables in all of Europe. Curly leafed varieties of cabbage already existed along with flat leafed varieties in Greece in the fourth century B.C.

Today one may differentiate between varieties according to length of the stem, with varying leaf types. Leaf colors range from light green through green, dark green and violet-green to violet-brown.

• Kale has a mild cabbage-like taste and delicate texture. Tender kale greens can provide an intense addition to salads, particularly with an Asian-style dressing. The vegetable also can be steamed or boiled.

In Ireland, kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the traditional dish colcannon. In the Netherlands it is used in the winter dish stamppot. In East Africa, it is an essential ingredient in stew. Kale is also eaten throughout southeastern Africa, where it is typically boiled with coconut milk and ground peanuts and is served with rice or boiled cornmeal.

• Kale freezes well and actually tastes sweeter and more flavorful after being exposed to a frost.

• Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium. It is considered to have many health benefits.

• During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign because was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet because of rationing.

• Many varieties of kale are referred to as flowering kales and are grown mainly for their ornamental leaves, which are brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet in the interior. Most plants sold as ornamental cabbage are in fact kales. Ornamental kale is as edible as any other variety.

A whole culture around kale has developed in northwestern Germany with communities holding kale festivals each winter.

Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at
knolte@cals.arizona.edu or 726-3904. For additional information please visit https://extension.Arizona.edu/Yuma.