Vege Profile: Cavolo Nero


Time to tell the tale of the other kale. Kales tall, dark Italian counterpart. If you can say cavolo nero without putting a little accent into it or using your hands to punctuate each syllable, you’re a stronger than I. Now, I’m not saying cavolo nero is the sexier of two, but one is a Maserati and the other is the Fiat bambino. Technically from the same family, but. There is an aesthetic advantage found in one and not the other.  

Originally hailing from Tuscany, black kale or black cabbage (A literal translation of cavolo nero in Italian) is packed full of vitamins and iron. Plenty of other names, but my new go-to for cavolo nero henceforth shall be dinosaur kale! Who came up with that nomenclature? They need a raise. Cavolo nero closely resembles the early ancestors of the brassica family. They were wild growing, loose leave cabbage like plants. Like these O.G cabbages, kale and cavolo nero do not form a head, growing its leaves loosely from a central stem. These early varieties were cultivated across the Mediterranean as early as 2000 BCE.   

Cavolo nero has a pleasantly tangy, bitter flavour, with a sweet aftertaste. It is renowned for being able to withstand autumn frosts. Not only does it survive, it adapts and improves. Kale crops sweeten after the first frost, as this starts to turn the starches into sugars. 

Cavolo Nero, like kale is most probably your local nutritionist’s fave! Each portion carries almost double your daily requirement of Vitamin K, around 30% of Vitamin C and smaller but significant amounts of Vitamin A, Folate and Manganese. It contains lutein and antioxidants, fibre for digestion, calcium for bone density and iron for energy and recovery. It also contains a small range of phytonutrients including flavonoids and carotenoids. 

To store: Place cavolo nero unwashed, wrapped in a sealed bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Best used very fresh, but may last for a week.  

To prep: Wash leaves in basin of lukewarm water to remove grit. If your greens have thick stems, its best to remove them. The stem can be used separately but needs to be cooked for longer.  

To use: Thinly shred and massage with a little oil and lemon and use in a salad. for Kale chips, break into bite size pieces and rub with oil, salt and pepper, place on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees for 7 minutes, turning halfway through. Keep a good eye on it near the end as it burns quickly. Eat straight away when cool.  

To freeze: Blanch washed greens for 2-3 minutes. Rinse in cold ice water to stop the cooking process, drain, and pack into airtight containers. 

Cavolo Nero recipes 

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