A Love Letter to Lacinato Kale
Lacinato kale plants: Lacinato kale has beautiful, long, crinkled leaves that look as handsome in the garden as they do on your plate. Here, they’re used ornamentally, paired with castor bean plant for a lovely color palette of bluish-greens and purples.
Some vegetables I don’t feel that strongly about. Like cucumbers, for instance: I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. But kale’s another story. I love kale, especially Lacinato, the heirloom black kale variety that’s stolen hearts, including mine, for generations. (The name even sounds like an Italian heart-breaker, which, in fact, it is.) It seems everyone from gardeners to chefs to Paleo dieters have recently rediscovered Lacinato, and that’s a great thing. It means there’s more Lacinato for everyone, and I don’t mind sharing.
There are three main types of kale and — as with many plants — each goes by several names. Here’s a bit of a cheat-sheet on the main kale types.
• Curly kale has bright green leaves that are very curly; it’s also known as Scotch or green kale and is probably familiar to most eaters as a garnish, though it’s much more than that.
• Black kale has elongated, flat, bluish-green leaves with a crinkled texture; it’s also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale, and Lacinato is a specific Italian heirloom variety of this type.
• Red kale has frilly leaves with red or purple stems; it’s also called Red Russian kale.
I’ve tried them all and settled on Lacinato as my main squeeze for favorite dishes like chopped kale salad and kale chips. Look for all the different types and varieties in your garden center, grocery store or farmers’ market, and try them all to see which one you love the most. You’ll also no doubt see more than a few plants labeled ornamental kale. Often of the red category, these kale plants are grown specifically for their ornamental value, such a pretty pink or purple centers, though they’re just as edible as any others. It seems I’m not the only one around here who loves kale. See these additional articles for more insights on growing, cooking and decorating with this nutritious, delicious veggie.