Kale and collards are similar in many respects, differing in little more than the forms of their leaves. They are, in effect, primitive cabbages that have been retained through thousands of years.

Although more highly developed forms, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and head cabbage, have been produced in the last two thousand years or so, the kales and collards have persisted, although primitive, because of their merits as garden vegetables.

These leafy non-heading cabbages bear the Latin name Brassica oleracea variety acephala, the last term meaning “without a head.” They have many names in many languages, as a result of their great antiquity and widespread use.

Borecole & Sprouts

Kale is often called “borecole,” and in America collards are sometimes called “sprouts.” “Kale” is a Scottish word derived from coles or caulis, terms used by the Greeks and Romans in referring to the whole cabbage-like group of plants. The German word Kohl has the same origin.

“Collards” is a corruption of coleworts or colewyrts, Anglo-Saxon terms literally meaning “cabbage plants.”

The cabbage-like plants are native to the eastern Mediterranean or to Asia Minor. They have been in cultivation for so long, and have been so shifted about by prehistoric traders and migrating tribes, that it is not certain which of those two regions is the origin of the species.

The original “cabbage” was undoubtedly a nonheading kind with a prominent stalk or stem, and the kales and collards are not far removed from it. Wild forms have become widely distributed from their place of origin and are found on the coasts of northern Europe and Britain.

Apparently none of the several principal forms of kale and collards that we know today are new. All have been known for at least two thousand years.

The Greeks grew kale and collards, although they made no such distinction between them as we make today. Well before the Christian era the Romans grew several kinds, including those with large leaves and stalks and a mild flavor; a crisp-leaved form; some with small stalks and small, sharp-tasting leaves; a broad-leaved form like collards; and others with curled leaves and a fine flavor. “Coles” were described also in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 13th centuries by European writers.

It might appear that the Romans carried the coles to Britain and France, since the plants were so well known to the Romans and the species has been popular in those countries for so long. On the other hand, they may have been taken there somewhat earlier by the Celts.

The first mention of the kales (coleworts) in America was in 1669; but because of their popularity in European gardens it is probable that they were introduced somewhat earlier.

Although many forms of Brassica oleracea are now known in parts of the Orient, they are not nearly so popular as the Far Eastern species of Brassica.

Top Five Kale Varieties

Curly Green. This is the supermarket standby that most people think of when it comes to kale. Curly kale works nicely in everything from soups and salads to stir-fries and pesto. Heating curly kale or massaging a salad dressing into the leaves subdues some of its inherent bitterness.

Tuscan Kale. Also known as lacinato or dinosaur kale, Tucan kale has deep green, narrow leaves with bumps that look vaguely reptilian. Its sturdiness and hint of spiciness work well when it’s raw in slaws and salads or when it’s sauteed with meat.

Redbor. A completely magenta kale. Beautiful, tasty and nutrient-dense. The vibrant color of curly redbor kale is a tip-off that it contains extra high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants. Use it like you would other kale.

Red Russian. With striking red stems and purple veins running through its silver green leaves, Red Russian tends to be more delicate and sweeter tasting than other varieties. Use it raw in salads or gently saute it into scrambled eggs.

Kalettes. What would happen if kale and Brussels sprouts had a love child? You end up with kalettes! One of the newest members of the produce aisle, kalettes look similar to badminton birdies. Roast them in the oven for crispy leaves and tender, sweet stalks and to bring out their subtle nutty flavor.

Kale Aids Detox

Kale contains powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant compounds that help cleanse the body of harmful substances. It is also high in fiber, which helps cleanse the intestinal tract. Like cabbage, kale helps neutralize compounds found in cigarette smoke and contains a substance that jump starts the liver’s production of cleansing enzymes.

Kale is Rich in Minerals and Vitamins

Those who know both kale and collards usually consider the latter to have the better eating quality. Nutrition experts in recent years have sought to popularize both plants because they are unusually rich in the minerals and vitamins provided by green leafy foods.

Before the newer knowledge of nutrition, our experts bemoaned the poor diet of southern farmers, and were amazed to find so many of those people to be apparently well nourished. The ubiquitous collard patch on every farm, and in nearly every dooryard where there is room, is now believed to play a most important part in furnishing the necessary vitamins and minerals.

All varieties of collards appear rather similar, but the kales show interesting diversity: tall and short; highly curled and plain leaved; blue-green, yellow-green, and red; erect and flat-growing; in various combinations and gradations of these characters.

Until the last few years kale and collards were marketed only in the natural state. Now, however, several enterprising American canners are preserving them in tin, especially in a finely chopped or “sieved” form as food for babies or persons requiring a special diet.

Kale and collards are among the easiest of all vegetables to grow. They are biennials, putting up their flower or seed stalks in the spring of their second season of growth.

Did you know?

Kale is an edible energizer! It is a super food that extends to energy. One cup of kale is packed with protein, fiber and crazy levels of antioxidants.

Sweet and Spicy Kale Chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix 1 tablespoon each safflower oil, maple syrup, and Sriacha sauce in bowl. Add 5 cups packed torn kale and toss until coated. Arrange on sheet pan. Bake until crispy, 12 to 15 minutes.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast can give your food a cheesy punch without any cheese or MSG. Nutritional yeast is made from innocent, vitamin-fortified inactive yeast with no dairy, gluten, or salt. It is low in calories and big on B vitamins and protein. Try it on kale chips! Process equal parts nutritional yeast and walnuts with a dash of salt.

Beware the McDonald’s Kale Salad!

With Asiago Caesar dressing, this salad has more calories than their Double Big Mac. That salad tallies up to 730 calories, 53 grams of fat and 1,400mg sodium.

What is the Double Mac? That rings in at 680 calories, 38 grams of fat and 1,340 milligrams of soidum.

You can bring the salad caloric count down by leaving off the dressing. Then it’s less than the Double Big Mac, ringing in at 520 calories, 31 grams of fat and 1,140 milligrams of sodium.

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