Sprouting Red Kale
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|Food Buzz: History of Kale|
Sprouting Red kale has deep purple to red stems and petite, deeply toothed leaves. Small clusters of chewy edible yellow flowers top the stems. The stems lack the fibrous texture of the mature plant and are tender and sweet. It is similar in texture to baby broccoli, and offers an earthy kale flavor with a mild nutty finish. Use the sweet crispy leaves raw or lightly sautéed.
The season for Sprouting Red kale can vary, but typically occurs 2-3 weeks after the spring and fall harvests of the main kale crop.
Red kale is an heirloom variety of Brassica oleracea, and a cousin to other decorative cabbages and kales valued for their rich phytonutrients. A cool weather vegetable, it produces more vibrantly colored leaves as the temperature drops. During warmer spring temperatures, the Red kale goes through a process called "bolting." When the plant bolts it produces small clustered yellow flowers. Sprouting Red kale is an underutilized culinary ingredient because it is rarely left to develop.
Like conventional kale, Sprouting Red kale is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
Sprouting Red kale may be used similarly to other kale varieties. In the sprouting form it is quite sturdy and lends itself particularly well to a hard char in cast iron or on the grill. It may be steamed, braised, stewed, fried, sautéed, or left completely raw. It is great in hardy soups which contain smoked meats, potatoes, beans or barley. Other flavor affinities include, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, red pepper flake, nutmeg, shallots, onion, tomato, sweet potatoes, cheddar cheese, Parmesan, cream, roasted meats, chorizo sausage, pancetta and chicken.
Vegetables with purple pigmentation, such as Sprouting Red kale, are rich in anthocyanins and other phyto-chemials that are known to fight cancer and considered a “superfood”.
Sprouting Red kale is new to most culinary markets, but is fast becoming a chef favorite for its decorative appeal and complex flavor. Today it is cultivated world-wide and yields the sweetest of crops after the first frost, and is even sweeter in this sprouting form. Red kale isn't quite as cold hardy as common green kale, but thrives in fertile, well-drained soils. Commercial kale crops are harvested between forty and fifty-five days after planting with new plantings every two weeks in order to provide Spouting Red kale year-round.