Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Favorite Nero di Toscana Kale Recipe

This post is for Tyra in response to our exchange of comments about Nero di Toscana kale. Basically I love it and she grows it only because it's pretty! So I promised a post about my favorite way to cook this yummy (in my opinion) kale.

This kale has many (too many) aliases, including Cavolo Nero (what I typically call it), Dino or Dinosaure kale, Tuscan Kale, Palm Tree Cabbage or Kale, Black Cabbage, Lacinato Kale, and mixtures thereof. Confused yet? They are all basically the same vegetable, I say basically because some strains have leaves that are more broad with less of a downward curl to the edges and a less pebbly texture than what I've been growing the past few years.

The photo below was taken on January 3 in my vegetable garden. That plant has since gone into full bloom, fed scores of bees and beneficial insects and hit the compost bin today. The next crop of Cavolo Nero is about an inch tall and just sporting their first true leaves.

Now, about cooking this vegetable. This is one of the few vegetables that I find to be tastiest when well cooked. Normally I am a fan of lightly cooked, crispy, crunchy sweet vegetables. That just doesn't work with this kale. So, here's a favorite recipe, with a variation, for Nero di Toscana kale.

Kale on Garlic Toast

Prepare a pound or more of well washed kale by removing the center ribs and tearing the kale into 2-inch long pieces (more or less).

Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Add the kale to the pot, return to a boil, then turn down to a strong simmer and cook for 25 to 30 minutes (yes, that long!).

While the kale is cooking, toast 4 to 8 slices of country bread (depending on the size of the loaf) into fairly thick slices. Toast the slices of bread and then rub the bread with a peeled clove of garlic.

When the kale is done, drain it well (reserve the cooking water for the recipe variation) and pile the leaves on the pieces of toast. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and then drizzle with a generous amount of your favorite extra virgin olive oil.

Makes a very tasty appetizer or first course!

Variation: Put the garlic rubbed toast into a warmed wide shallow soup bowl. Pile on the kale. Ladle in anywhere from a few tablespoons to a half cup or more of the kale cooking water. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil.

And yet one more take on variation number one. Skip the part about bringing 2 quarts of water to a boil. If you have a pressure cooker, put about a half cup of water in there (or the minimum your cooker needs to come up to pressure). Put the kale into the cooker in a steamer basket. Bring the cooker up to full pressure and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Release the pressure using the appropriate quick release method for your cooker. Proceed with the recipe.

I also like to add chopped Nero di Toscana kale to long simmering soups. It's great with garbanzo beans (chickpeas) also.


  1. Nice Kale varieties, possible I should consider it in my garden. Thanks for the recipes.

  2. Sounds like I could use our bumper crop of collards in the same ways. Thanks.

  3. OK, I will have to try all of these, since my mom is going to give me starts this year. I love all of these greens for their looks, like Tyra, but seldom find myself craving their taste. Anything involving garlic and bread is bound to change my mind, however. :) Thanks! And I never thought of the benefit of leaving bolted greens in the ground for a while, to feed the bees. Duh! Suddenly, yet another one of my lame-seeming lazy gardening practices suddenly has a good side!

  4. Vuejardin, if you like greens give these a try. And if you don't like them, like Tyra says, they are pretty.

    Aunt Debbi, I bet collards would be good used the same way - another veggie that's best long cooked.

    Karen, oh yeah, almost anything is good on top of garlic bread. And leaving bolted veggies around for a while to attract good bugs is a great excuse for being lazy, I do it all the time. Not sure what the benefits of letting the tomato plants sit around past their expiration date is though....

  5. Hi Michelle, I have seed for this kale, so thank you for posting about it. :)

    In your opinion/experience, how different are all the many different kales, in terms of preparation, flavor, etc..?

    Also, do you have any experience with the walking stick kale (Brassica oleracea longata 'Walking Stick')? It seems so gimmicky (!!!), but the blogger Gintoino in Portugal says "everyone" grows it there, and that it's delicious.

    Kales are usually good crops for coastal gardeners like us, but I wonder if 'Walking Stick' needs a hot Mediterranean summer (like Portugal's) to achieve its strong vertical growth.

    (As a small-space gardener, I need the plant to serve both functions: vertical interest, and food.)

  6. Also, when I was in college there was (still is?) a restaurant in Santa Cruz called the Asian Rose (an offshoot of a nearby restaurant called Cafe Malibar) that served a dish, Kale and Coconut--basically shredded kale cooked with shredded coconut. I wish I could remember more about it now--it was my favorite. Fyi.

  7. Sound great! I love kale of all kinds and I'm always looking for a new way to serve it. Finally did the green garlic "pancakes" last week. House was "fragrant" for a bit, but they were sooo tasty!

  8. Hi Chuck, I think you'll like the Nero di Toscana in your garden since it is pretty and it will grow tall. If you start it now it could get to be 3' or 4' by winter. I've had it get to be over 6' tall when in full bloom, but you'll probably want to compost it before that point. I do like starting it at this time of year because it doesn't bolt in summer unless extremely stressed which means I've got plants in full production through the summer and into winter until they bolt around January or February.

    There definitely are differences in taste and tenderness between the varieties of kale. I really can't go into any detail since I've had a rather monogamous relationship with the Toscano kale for a while and don't really remember much about past kale flings.

    About the Walking Stick kale... From what I've read, the true Walking Stick comes from the Channel Islands which have a very mild climate, rather similar to SF I believe. I've read that it is the climate (not too hot and not too cold) that favors the extreme height of that kale. The Portuguese kale (Galega) seems to be very closely related (brought to the Iberian peninsula by ancient Celts). There seems to be a lot of landrace varieties of the Galega kales that are adapted to their particular regions and I would assume that they are more heat tolerant. And I think the correct name for both kales is Brassica oleracea var. acephala.

    Now, it's funny that you should bring up the topic of the Portuguese kale because I'm planning to try a new kale this year. I've got some seeds of a kale variety called Galega de Folhas Lisas (Smooth Leaf Portuguese Kale) that I purchased from Seeds From Italy. Their catalog blurb says their rep in Portugal thinks it's the best kale. We'll see... Oh, and if you're tempted to buy some seeds of Galega kale, don't - the Franchi seed packs have far more seeds than I can use so I'm happy to share with you.

  9. Town Mouse, thanks for letting me know that you tried the "pancakes"! I'm so glad you liked them. :)

  10. Thank you for all the info--you are a fount of knowledge. I got the name Brassica oleracea longata on the seed packet from Thomson Morgan.

    I guess I better go start that Nero seed soon, to keep my bases covered.

    Would you like some seeds of the Walking Stick?


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