What is kale?

A member of the cabbage family, kale comes in two forms: kale, which has smooth leaves, and curly kale, which has crinkly leaves. Curly kale is the most common of the two.

Instead of forming a head, the leaves grow in a loose rosette at the top of a stem. The leaves are green, sometimes tinged with blue or purple, and their flavour is strong and distinct.

Discover more about kale.

How to prepare kale

Break the leaves from the stalk, and trim away the tough centre. Hold the base of the stalk, with the kale stems upside down, then using a sharp knife follow the stalk down either side, to strip the leaves. Wash, then shred or chop. Discard the woody stalks or keep for stocks and stews.

How to cook kale

Kale is most commonly boiled or steamed. For whole leaves, rinse, then put them in a pan without shaking the water off, cover, then cook for up to 2 minutes, until wilted. Drain thoroughly.

For chopped or shredded leaves, put in a pan of water 1cm deep with a pinch of salt, then bring to the boil and simmer for up to 5 minutes, until wilted. Drain thoroughly.

You can stir-fry kale, too. Try frying shredded kale in olive oil, with garlic, and chilli flakes for a few minutes in a frying pan until wilted and tender and a simple side, or finely chop and add to soups, stews and risottos.

Kale can also be eaten raw, and the leaves 'massaged' between your fingers with oil or lemon juice to break down some of the fibres, and make it a bit more palatable.

Rubbed with oil, and then roasted, you get fantastic 'crisps', reminiscent of crispy seaweed that can carry other flavours such as chilli, nutritional yeast, or parmesan.

Recipe suggestions:

Kale is a great vegetable to add to soups as it's robust enough to take a bit more cooking than leafier greens. A kale and chorizo broth makes a speedy and warming midweek meal. Stir-fried kale with Chinese flavours makes a great side dish for noodle or rice dishes. Bake until crunchy in this kale crisps recipe or try kale blended in pesto or smoothie.

How to store kale

In a perforated bag in the fridge. Kale becomes increasingly bitter the longer it's kept, so eat within two or three days.

When is kale in season?

Kale is available all year round, but best from mid September to late February.

Learn how to grow your own kale from the experts at Gardeners’ World.

Choose the best kale

Go for heads of kale on the smaller side, as they will be more tender. The leaves should be crisp, with a bright colour.

Alternatives to kale

Try cabbage or cavolo nero.