Good morning, folks! :)
This week’s blogpost will centre on the cruciferous vegetable known for its exceptionally high nutritional value, kale! We will take a look at the different types of kale, the health benefits of kale, and how you can grow your own kale right here in tropical Singapore.
Types of Kale
Kale is part of the Brassica oleracea family, which includes wild cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. The different types of kale include:
- Curly Kale
Curly Kale is the most common type of kale. It is usually bright/dark green or purple in color and its leaves have curly edges. Its stalks are fibrous and can be difficult to chop, but if the vegetable is fresh, it should be easy to tear the stalks. Curly Kale has a pungent, peppery and bitter flavor, with younger leaves being less bitter.
- Lacinato Kale (also known as dinosaur Kale, Tuscan Kale, or cavolo nero)
Lacinato Kale has tall and narrow dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled and firm texture. Compared to the Curly Kale, Lacinato Kale has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste with an earthy, nutty quality.
- Red Russian Kale (also known as Ragged Jack)
This variety of kale has flat, fringed leaves that resemble big oak or arugula leaves. Its leaves and stems can have a red tinge and a reddish-purple tinge respectively. Its flavour is described as sweet and mild with a hint of pepperiness. However, as the stems are incredibly tough due to its fibrousness, it is strongly encouraged to remove as much of the stems before consumption.
- Dwarf Siberian Kale (also known as Blue Kale)
The dwarf Siberian kale has frilly leaves that are less curly than the common curly kale and has a bluer shade of green. It is much more tender than other kinds of kale, especially its young leaves and it has a great flavour which is sweetened by frost.
- White Kale
White Kale forms a rosette head with white, frilly leaves within its outer green leaves. It is chewy and tastes similar to cabbage. Once cooked, it becomes more delicate and sweeter. White Kale is also used for ornamental purposes because of its beauty.
- Ornamental Kale (salad Savoy)
Frilly and fluffy, ornamental kale comes in hues of reds, pinks and purples. With such beautiful colours and a rosette shape, ornamental kale looks like an opened-up flower which makes it perfect to be used as displays and to decorate dishes. While its leaves are somewhat coarse, it is edible.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, with all varieties of kale containing loads of vitamins, minerals, and disease fighting antioxidants. Benefits of consuming kale include (but not limited to):
Antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits and cancer-preventive benefits: All varieties of kale are packed with carotenoids and up to 45 different flavonoids, both of which are antioxidants that help protect against various cancers and other health problems stemming from oxidative stress. In addition, kale contains Vitamin K which helps regulate our body's inflammatory process thereby protecting against various cancers. Glucosinolates found in kale can also be converted by the body into cancer preventive compounds when consumed.
Cardiovascular support: Consuming kale is good for the cardiovascular system as kale has cholesterol-lowering ability.
Digestive system support: The high fiber content of kale aids in digestion and intestinal cleansing. Kale is also low in calories and has zero fat content.
Detoxification: Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from kale's glucosinolates have been shown to help regulate detox activities in our cells.
- Other benefits: On top of all of the above, kale is ALSO rich in iron (more than per calorie of beef!) – which is important for proper liver function, vitamin A – good for vision and skin, Vitamin C – helpful for your immune system, metabolism, and for hydration, and offers more calcium than milk (per calorie).
But of course, how much of the benefits you reap depend on the way kale is prepared for consumption. Different varieties of kale may also have slightly different phytochemicals (this gives it a different colour). Therefore, it is best to consume different types of kale in order to reap the benefits of different phytochemicals.
Growing Your Own Kale
In Singapore, kale has only been recently introduced in local supermarkets and stores (November 2013 for Cold Storage and Market Place as reported in http://www.soshiok.com/content/kale-cool). Hence, they can be a bit pricey, especially organically grown ones (a 300g bunch of green kale can cost from $5 to $14). So, why not grow your own? That way, you can also avoid pesticide-associated health risks because YOU can control what goes into your plant.
Now, many of you might be wondering if it is even possible to grow kale locally given the tropical climate and that kale is a cool weather crop. Well, it has been tried and tested; kale DOES grow well in our climate!
Locally Grown Kale
Since kale is a hardy plant and does not have a lot of pest or disease problems, it is highly manageable to grow them on your own. They just need to be fed well (using compost that is mixed into the soil), watered well and get sufficient sunlight. For a more thorough guide on growing kale, watch this video below:
If you do not have a lot of space to grow kale in big planter boxes, refer to this video below for ideas on growing kale in a small space:
Other tips for growing kale well:
- Kale grows best in soil high in nitrogen. If you have soil that was previously used to grow pea plants, you can reuse it to grow your kale as the pea plants have enriched the soil with nitrogen.
- With Singapore’s hot and humid weather, placing a thick layer of mulch around your kale will help to retain moisture in the soil and keep the roots cool.
Since you now have the information and reasons you need to grow kale, try it out today! If you are still unsure of what you can do with your kale after growing it, stay tuned for our next post where we will highlight how you can use kale.
Until then, have a blessed Thursday! :)