Glossary of Foods: Kale

Kale is the food fad that just won't go away! You can now find kale in foods that seemingly have no business being green, such as smoothies or chips. But the kale trend has been around for some time and doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon. If anything, kale is gaining more ground as veggie eaters become more familiar with how to use it. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that these dark, leafy greens are good for you.

Kale is grouped with the family of vegetables that includes broccoli, collard greens, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. Kale plants spread out with large leaves while growing instead of coming to a head like domesticated cabbage, so it is closer in relation to wild cabbage. This healthy veggie has been around for thousands of years and was once the most commonly consumed vegetable in Europe. It was especially popular because it's easy to grow and resistant to frost.

Small bunch of kale on white background

There are many varieties of kale, including curly leaf, flat leaf, and ornamental. Most kale varieties can reach two feet in height and one to three feet in spread. The leaves of kale plants can be harvested at any age. Baby kale is sold in grocery stores as a special variety. Curly or flat leaf kale is commonly sold in large bunches at the grocery. While it is a heartier grown vegetable, some conventional kale may still be grown with the help of some pesticides. To avoid pesticide concern, select organic kale.

According to World’s Healthiest Foods, kale lowers the risk for a wide variety of cancers including bladder, breast, colon, ovarian and prostate. Kale also supports the body’s detox systems, plus it's full of antioxidants. It is low in calories and contains zero fat, but kale has plenty of fiber. Kale is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K as well as iron.

Kale can be so much more than another leaf to add to your salad or a filler to blend into a smoothie. For a food that has its own cookbook, there are so many ways that you can get creative with kale in the kitchen to enjoy its full versatility. From pesto, to soup, to chips, take a look at these 10 delicious ways to use kale.