Monday, March 23, 2015

Kale: Garden To Table Recipes for Spring, Fall and Winter

The U.S. is in the midst of a kale craze. In fact, kale is so popular, it's almost a cliche. Before we toss kale into the celebrity gossip category, let's take a moment to appreciate its truly miraculous qualities, from a gardener-chef's perspective.

First, kale is one of the easiest crops to grow. It tolerates cold temperatures and survives all winter in my zone 7 garden. Despite record cold and snowfall this winter, kale stood strong. In fact, frost sweetens kale's wrinkly leaves. As I raked the straw mulch off the raised beds yesterday, I found baby kale leaves hiding sheepishly in the soil, begging to be plucked and put to good use.
Kale survives winter frost, especially
when protected with a layer of straw mulch.

If you didn't plant kale last fall, you can plant some now, before temperatures warm up. Kale grows well in early spring, but bolts as soon as temperatures consistently reach the upper 70's to low 80's. Try several varieties for a colorful and tasty array. I planted "Red Russian," "Dwarf Blue Curled," and "Lacinato," all from Seed Savers Exchange.

Kale also grows indoors. Remember the microgreens I started last month? Well, they're now baby greens. I snipped a few to add to the outdoor harvest, rounding out our first spring salad with fresh indoor/outdoor greens.
Microgreens become baby greens, when left to grow for several weeks.
Unlike store-bought kale, which loses nutritional value, as well as texture, the longer it sits on the shelf,  home-grown kale retains its substantial levels  of vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron as long as its growing in the ground. Pick it just before using to ensure the freshest, healthiest flavor. Of course, kale can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. When grown at home, you don't need to tack on the time the kale spent traveling from to the grocery store and sitting on the shelf, nor do you have to worry about any pesticides. Kale is relatively disease and pest free.

Kale Recipes

Once kale is harvested, it's easy to find delicious recipes that last all week long:
  • toss it into soups and stews (lentil soup with kale is my favorite!);
  • make chips by rubbing baby kale leaves with olive oil and roasting them in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes; 
  • spruce up salad; or 
  • make a kale strata.
Here are two of my favorite recipes:

Kale Salad with Blueberries and Pine Nuts


1 lb kale (use baby leaves from Lacinato or Tuscan kale, or chop up full-grown leaves)
4 Scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. orange juice
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 teaspoons Honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup Athenos Fat Free feta
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted


Prepare the Salad:
  1. Wash and dry kale leaves. If using full-size leaves, strip leaves from stems. Finely shred leaves and place in a large bowl. 
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl.
  3. Chop the green onions and add them to the bowl.
  4. Mix the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, and honey. Add pepper to taste.
  5. Mix vigorously to combine.
  6. Add the crumbled feta cheese to the salad.
  7. Add dressing to kale and toss to combine.
  8. Mix in the pine nuts and blueberries.

Kale Strata

Kale Strata combines leftover kale salad and whole-grain bread.
This is one of my favorite weekend breakfast recipes, because it uses both leftover kale salad from earlier in the week, and leftover bread. I usually make fresh bread on Sunday. By Friday evening, it's too stale for sandwiches, but it pairs beautifully with eggs for Saturday morning breakfast. 


4 large, Eggs
2 large, Eggs - White only
¼ cup skim milk
½ loaf wholegrain bread, or 3 cups cubed 
1/2 prepared Kale Salad with Blueberries and Pine Nuts


  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and eggwhites with the milk.
  2. Chop the bread into ½ inch cubes.
  3. Using an 8-inch square glass baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bread cubes evenly on the bottom. 
  4. Add a layer of the kale salad.
  5. Pour ½ of the egg mixture over the kale and bread cubes.
  6. Add another layer of bread cubes, feta, and kale salad.
  7. Pour ½ of the remaining egg mixture over the greens.
  8. Add any remaining bread cubes, salad, and feta cheese, and pour the remaining eggs on top. 
  9. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate over night, or for 6-12 hours, to allow the egg to soak into the bread cubes. 

Baking Instructions

Remove the dish from the refrigerator. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes in the center rack of the oven, until Kale is crisp, eggs are solid, and bread cubes are browned around the edges. The dish should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. 

Here is some nutritional information for Kale Strata, culled from the USDA Super Tracker Data Base.

Nutrient Amount % of Daily Target or Limit
Total Calories 227 11% limit
Protein 10 g 22% target
Carbohydrate 22 g 17% target
Dietary Fiber 6 g 22% target
Total Sugars 5 g No daily target or limit
Added Sugars 2 g No daily target or limit
Total Fat 13 g No daily target or limit
Saturated Fat 2 g 10% limit
Monounsaturated Fat 7 g No daily target or limit
Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g No daily target or limit
Linoleic Acid 2 g 20% target
α-Linolenic Acid 0.3 g 24% target
Omega 3 - EPA 1 mg No daily target or limit
Omega 3 - DHA 12 mg No daily target or limit
Cholesterol 141 mg 47% limit
Calcium 134 mg 13% target
Potassium 439 mg 9% target
Sodium‡ 160 mg 7% limit
Copper 569 µg 63% target
Iron 3 mg 15% target
Magnesium 88 mg 28% target
Phosphorus 230 mg 33% target
Selenium 24 µg 43% target
Zinc 2 mg 20% target
Vitamin A 178 µg RAE 25% target
Vitamin B6 0.3 mg 21% target
Vitamin B12 0.5 µg 20% target
Vitamin C 35 mg 46% target
Vitamin D 1 µg 4% target
Vitamin E 2 mg AT 14% target
Vitamin K 179 µg 199% target
Folate 66 µg DFE 17% target
Thiamin 0.2 mg 21% target
Riboflavin 0.4 mg 34% target
Niacin 2 mg 17% target
Choline 99 mg 23% target


  1. I love this post! I am trying kale in the garden this year. The Dino kale. I am recent eater of this green..only started last spring and now is time to grow my own. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Thank you! There are so many wonderful things you can do with kale. We especially like making kale chips!