We offer multiple types of kale at the Farmers’ Market. There is the dark green Lacinado Kale (also called Dinosaur Kale), the red stemmed and frilly Red Russian Kale, the Portuguese Kale, the thick and ruffly Ripbor Kale, and the flat leafed Siberian kale. Which one is best?
If you want to juice, I would choose the thick stemmed and ruffly Ripbor kale. This is also called “curly kale.” I like this one for juicing because the thick stems and leaves yield a lot of juice. In addition, the flavor is reasonably mild, so it won’t take over your juice too much. I have seen other customers choose the dark green Lacinado kale for their juice. Although this variety doesn’t yield very much juice, the juice it does produce is amazingly dark and beautiful. Maybe it is more nutritious than other varieties? I’m not sure, but it sure does look like a quarter cup of this juice is as potent as a full cup of any other kale juice.
If you want to make a raw salad, I would choose one of the flat leaf varieties. This includes Red Russian, Lacinado, Siberian, White Russian and others. These flat leafed varieties are tenderer, so they are easier to chew up and eat raw in a salad. Nobody wants to feel like a cow, chewing their raw kale. It is also best if you can find smaller young leaves, so they are tenderer. After the first frost, they will be even sweeter and lack the bite that many people dislike in kale. Just to give both sides of the story, have you ever noticed that many restaurants, and even Earthfare, use curly kale in their kale salads? They do this because the curly leaves hold up well to the dressing, and it makes a fluffy salad that looks pretty, even though the leaves might be a little tougher than one of the flat leafed varieties. To each his own.
If you want to cook crispy kale, like kale chips, I would use one of the curly varieties such as Ripbor or Winterbor. Be sure to remove the midrib from the kale before you start, because it contains so much moisture it will never become crispy. When you spread your curly kale out on the baking sheet, you will notice that the curly leaves stand tall. They bake up into crisp chips that don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. The flat leafed varieties tend to lay flat on the pan and stick. The final texture is not nearly as crisp as the curly kales.
If you want to sauté some up, as with this Brown Buttered Kale recipe, you can use any of them! They all taste great. I always remove the midrib when I prepare kale, because I like my kale to be softer and without the “sticks” that the midrib form. I also think much of the bitterness in kale is contained in the midrib, though it is just personal opinion. Many people think Lacinado is the king of kales and that it has the best flavor overall. I think I agree. Maybe you should do a taste test, get a different variety each week, and see for yourself!
Eat your veggies!