There was once a time when kale was a vegetable that people avoided at all costs when they stepped into a grocery store or farmers market. It also wasn’t uncommon to watch children and adults pick each leafy green out of the meal they ordered from restaurants. Today, there are numerous types of kale for us to try, and each one has a slight change in flavor, color, or texture.
These kale types have become one of the most prominent food trends worldwide because of the nutritious benefits they bring to our lives. It isn’t always easy to find a comprehensive list of kale varieties suitable for eating and growing.
We want to ensure that they hold on to those nutrients as a superfood, but we want something that doesn’t require too much maintenance as a crop. Kale leaves are a great addition to a personal garden.
The dark green and deep purple colors give visual interest and make us even more excited to harvest them. These crispy veggies are a wise choice if you’ve been torn between adding green leaves like collards or kale to your beds.
Kale is an important member of the brassica family that includes a handful of other vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.
Kale originated as far back as 2,000 years ago and was a crucial staple to people’s diets because it was easy to grow and withstood colder temperatures without damage.
Kale plants were historically grown and eaten in France until they lost their popularity and stayed in the background throughout World Wars I and II.
Many years later, kale plants made their way into the hearts of vegans, and they quickly became a regular part of the American food diet.
From kale chips to kale salad, experimenting with the different types of kale in the world brought new, flavorful dishes to our kitchens.
Benefits of Eating Kale
Even though it was once forgotten, it doesn’t seem likely that we will let these frilly leaves escape us anytime soon. Aside from the pleasant taste, kale seems to be a magical food that provides us undeniable health benefits. In the kale vs collards debate, they both have excellent health advantages.
Kale is a fibrous, leafy green, and nutritional powerhouse with essential antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
You’ll find it packed full of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Cook it into a stir-fry or use it as a garnish, but whatever you do, don’t forget how your body changes with each bite.
Kale Lowers Cholesterol
One of the most significant benefits of eating kale is that it lowers cholesterol levels in our bodies. These lower levels mean that our risk of heart disease is drastically reduced.
Promoting Eye Health
We’ve all heard at one point in our lives that carrots are the secret to eye health, but kale does an even better job at improving weak vision. Kale contains two carotenoids that protect the eyes from diseases common in older age.
We all fear the C-word, and one of the ways to keep that from happening is to eat an assortment of kale varieties. Different kale types contain compounds that help fight and prevent certain cancers.
The varieties of kale available aren’t that well-known because we usually only see one or two types in local grocery stores.
However, there is a whole world of different types of kale that you’ve never seen or tasted. Even if you’re not a fan, there could be one out there calling your name.
Common Kale Types: Curly Kale
Of all the different types of kale, the one we see most is curly kale. We recognize this plant by its crinkly textured leaves and pale to deep green colors. The leaves are large and tightly ruffled with long stems and frilly edges.
Curly kale has a distinct, peppery flavor that is slightly bitter. Because the leaves are so tightly curled, chopping them into smaller pieces is usually ideal. It is full of vitamins B, K, and has more vitamin C than an orange.
Premier kale is one of the newer kale varieties, and gardeners love it because it produces a hefty yield, matures early, and is hardy against cold weather. It has medium-green colored foliage, and each leaf grows up to one foot long.
Premier kale leaves are smooth with scalloped edges and considered one of the most flavorful. People use them as salad greens or in cold sandwiches.
Common Types of Kale to Grow: Siberian Kale
As if you couldn’t tell by the name, Siberian kale is the most cold-hardy of all the kale types. It is technically considered a different species from the other members of the kale family and is more closely related to turnips.
Because of its capacity to survive in the cold, it is amazingly resistant to pests and frost. Siberian kale has long, thin stems that are grayish-green and ruffled.
The taste is mild, and the leaves are more firm, meaning they are bitter when eaten raw and better when cooked. Sautéing this kale in olive oil and garlic is one of the best ways to eat it.
Heat one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a hot skillet. When you see ripples in the oil, add the chopped kale and stir the leaves until they start to wilt. Mix in some minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste before serving to friends and family.
Red Russian Kale
You may have heard Red Russian kale referred to as Red kale or Scarlet kale. It is an all-time favorite type of kale that originated in Siberia but become popular in North American in the 1800s.
The leaves of Red Russian kale are similar to Curly kale with light green, fringed leaves that have a red tinge.
This kale has a sweet and peppery kick and is delicious when raw or cooked. It also has the highest number of vitamins and minerals compared to the other types of kale.
Redbor kale walks a fine line between being a food crop and ornamental kale. This kale plant has a beautiful, dark red shade with purple undertones and super curly leaves.
Its breathtaking appearance is famous in cool-weather gardens because the colors stand out even more when temperatures drop. You might consider eating more Redbor kale if you have diabetes.
Redbor kale contains specific antioxidants that help lower blood sugar levels and boost heart health. Stir a few leaves into hot soups until they soften, or cook them over high heat with some olive oil and seasonings.
Other than Curly kale, Lacinato kale is probably the second most popular kale variety that you are likely to spot in a grocery store. This kale has some other nicknames, like Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale, due to its bumpy leaves that resemble the skin of a dinosaur.
Lacinato kale has an earthy, bitter flavor and gorgeous leaves. The greens are dark gray with a blue and green tint. They are also thinner and chewier than other kale leaves.
This kale retains its flavor nicely even after cooked and produces a sweet, nutty flavor. Because of its Italian origin, people use it for pesto and soups.
Bring a pot of regular water to a boil and blanch the leaves for two minutes before putting them in ice water. Strain the kale and squeeze out the excess water. Put the garlic, nuts, zest, and chili flakes into a food processor and grind them into a paste.
Blend in the kale and Parmesan until everything is smooth. Keep the motor on the processor running and slowly drizzle in the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste until you reach the desired consistency.
Eat the pesto right away, or store it in a glass jar in your fridge for up to four days before discarding. To keep it fresher longer, drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top to prevent oxidation and help it hold onto its vibrant green coloring.
Chinese kale, also called Chinese broccoli, is a leafy green, mainly a part of the cabbage family, but still related to kale. This kale variety produced extra-thick, fat leaves that have a glossy bluish-green color.
Its flower heads look eerily similar to broccoli but smaller. The flavor is representative of broccoli but slightly more bitter and more pungent. Because of the strong taste, most people mix it into sweeter sauces.
Everything you need to know about this kale is in the name. Baby kale leaves come from a younger kale plant.
Harvesting the leaves at an immature stage means they are more tender with a milder flavor than mature plants. This is one of the best types to eat raw and is another easy find at your grocery store.
Baby kale has leaves similar to Curly kale, only smaller. Despite the small size, it is a powerful source of nutrition and can withstand cold weather and less-than-ideal soil conditions.
Tronchuda kale is one of the least common kale varieties in the United States. It is distinguishable from other family members because of its unique appearance, showcasing blue-green leaves softer and more circular than other kale leaves.
This kale grows on slender stems that are usually almost white or light green. The thick yet soft leaves are great if you love fresh juice in the morning. It has a cabbage-like flavor, is easy to grow, and looks absolutely stunning in a garden.
Turn your juicer on and add each ingredient. Drain into a large pitcher. Taste the juice and add more of whatever ingredients you’d like if the flavor needs adjusting. Dump the juice into individual glasses and stir them before taking your first sip.
Now that you’ve read about all the different kale types, we bet you can’t wait to start growing some in your own garden. Here are some quick tips to growing kale successfully on your own.
If you’d like to harvest in the early summer, sow the seed directly outdoors as soon as the soil becomes easily workable in the early to mid-spring. To harvest in the fall or winter, sow seeds outside three months before the first frost.
Give kale full sun if possible or partial shade if there is no other option. Keep the pH levels between 6.5 to 6.8 to discourage diseases. Amend your soil with organic matter to make it fertile and well-draining.
Sow kale seeds a half-inch deep in your chosen location and water them right away. If working with transplants, space each one 18 to 24 inches apart.
Learn how to get rid of kale aphids and other pests to keep your kale safe until you are ready to pick it. Be careful what plants you grow beside kale, too. Never grow broccoli next to kale as the same diseases and insects affect both plants.
Kale is ready to reap when the leaves are about the size of a hand. Pick one fistful of leaves per plant every few days.
Store harvested kale in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge for up to a week. Do not wash the leaves until right before you are ready to eat them or cook with them.
For more extended storage times, wash and dry the kale leaves and keep them in your freezer for up to one year.
Kale is a superfood that we once took for granted but now appreciate on a much deeper level. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know of all the wonderful kale types there are in the world, and learning about the ones we can grow ourselves is the perfect place to start.
If this list of different types of kale has opened your eyes to a whole new world of leafy greens, share this article about the benefits of kale varieties on Facebook and Pinterest.