Wednesday, May 4, 2011

White Russian Kale: An Elegant Heirloom

White Russian kale was a delightful recent discovery at my favorite produce market. I was immediately drawn to the delicate lacey leaves with their striking green and ivory markings and scooped up a bunch to ferry home for a photo session. Esthetically, I knew that this vegetable would not disappoint!

What I wasn't expecting was the taste test result; the leaves are tender, mild and sweet. Although I'm sure they would be delicious steamed or sauteed, the leaves tasted so good raw that I never got around to cooking them but instead created a series of simple tossed salads, not something I'd normally do with a bunch of hardy winter kale.

A Ruso- Siberian heirloom, B. oleracea var. fimbriata is one of numerous kale varieties, all of which are natives of the Mediterranean region. It was one of the wild ancestors of the large group of cruciferous vegetables which includes cabbage, broccoli, brussel's sprouts and collards. All are densely nutritious, grow well in cool climates and have been widely cultivated for at least two thousand years.

When shopping for kale, select unwilted blemish- free leaves. Remove stem fasteners (which will damage the leaves if left in place) and blot leaves with a clean towel if they are too wet. Store loosely wrapped in fridge for up to several days. If kale becomes a bit wilted from long storage, it will still be fine for use in vegetable soups, stews or sautees. (See recipe categories listed under "labels" at lower right hand column of blog).