8 Best Varieties of Kale to Grow, Harvest, and Eat

8 Best Varieties of Kale to Grow, Harvest, and Eat

Last Updated On: September 15, 2022

Kale is known as the prettier, curlier cousin of the cabbage. Along with collards, mustards, and cauliflowers, kale belongs to the cruciferous Brassicaceae family. Grown not just for its health benefits, kale is also cultivated for its colorful foliage and diverse shapes. It’s also a fairly cold tolerant and hardy vegetable, which makes it fairly easy to grow.

Whether you buy it or grow it for yourself, kale is your ideal culinary companion in salads, sandwiches, and even smoothies. Here are 8 of the best kale varieties for you to discover. We’ll look briefly at the growing characteristics of each one, as well as a simple recipe that you might find useful for each variety.

1. Black Magic

Dark blue-green leaves make this variety popular among gardeners. The elongated leaves are attractively curled and wrinkled. When grouped together, Black Magic kale look like majestic plumes of healthful headdresses.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Very dark green, almost black
  • Length: Grows to around 18 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 65 to 80 days
  • Harvest: From spring through winter
  • Flavor: Mild, earthy, nutty flavors that intensify when exposed to frost
  • Ideal for: Quick-cook stir fry, baby salads, baked or fried chips

Recipe to try:

Try this simple kale recipe using the Black Magic variety.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of fresh kale, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • Some drops of toasted sesame oil

Instructions:

  1. Clean your kale leaves thoroughly. You can either rinse or submerge the leaves in a bowl full of water.
  2. Remove the leafy parts from the stems. If you’re a fan of the stems, you can include them. If not, feel free to discard them. Cut your kale into small, bite-sized pieces, and set it aside.
  3. Get a large pan or skillet and drizzle olive oil over high heat for about a minute.
  4. Add in your garlic, and sauté for 15 to 30 seconds or until the garlic begins to take on its signature fragrance and is slightly brown.
  5. Mix in your sesame seeds and slowly stir in your kale.
  6. Toss in your salt and pepper and continue mixing until your kale softens.
  7. Plate your cooked kale, sprinkle with some drops of sesame oil, and serve.

2. Winterbor

Thick blue-green leaves curling downwards into deep leafy ruffles make the Winterbor highly attractive. This variety makes a lovely addition to salads and sandwiches due to its hearty flavor.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Vibrant emerald blue-green
  • Length: Grows to around 12 to 24 inches tall and 10 to 18 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 55 to 65 days
  • Harvest: Can be harvested any time from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Bitter when consumed raw, so it is best to use Winterbor for cooking
  • Ideal for: Stir fry food, baked or fried chips, soups

Recipe to try:

Winterbor works best for this particularly hearty soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of fresh kale, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee or butter
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup canned beans of your choice, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Make sure your Winterbor kale has been thoroughly cleaned and chopped to your liking.
  2. Take out your pot, and heat your ghee or butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add in and sauté your garlic and onions until tender, which takes around 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. A pinch of salt and pepper will help bring out the flavors. You can also use your favorite spices.
  5. Mix in your tomato, and pour in your broth.
  6. Heat the mixture until it is about to boil, and then submerge all your kale until they soften, which should take around 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Pour your beans into the soup, and cook for around 2 to 3 minutes or until they are heated through, then serve.

3. Dazzling Blue

The puckered blue-green leaves of the Dazzling Blue variety taper into purple midribs and turn even more intense as the temperature lowers. Vigorous and hearty, this variety is ideal for most dishes.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Shades ranging from purple to deep emerald green
  • Length: Grows to around 20 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 14 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 30 to 60 days
  • Harvest: Available from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Slightly sweet, delicate, earthy, mildly bitter
  • Ideal for: Salads, stir fry food, sandwiches, baked or fried chips, soups

Recipe to try:

Use Dazzling Blue for this braised kale with blue cheese recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of kale, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or ghee
  • 1 caramelized onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese
  • 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Heat up your oil, butter, or ghee in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add in your garlic and stir until fragrant, which should take around a minute.
  3. Pour in your broth, salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste.
  4. Set the heat up to high, and bring the whole mixture to a boil.
  5. Slowly add in your kale until the pot is full, and cover your pot with a lid.
  6. Lower the heat to medium low, and stir occasionally until kale softens, which usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Mix in your blue cheese, walnuts, and caramelized onion until creamy.
  8. Serve hot.

4. Redbor

Redbor kale has curly upright leaves with rich purple colorations and an interesting texture. Allow this variety to experience hard frost to sweeten its taste.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Shades ranging from pale lavender to deep purple and burgundy
  • Length: Grows to around 12 to 24 inches tall and 10 to 18 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 50 to 60 days
  • Harvest: Can be harvested from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Delicate, earthy, slightly sweet
  • Ideal for: Salads, sandwiches, fried chips, soups

Recipe to try:

Use Redbor for this roasted kale salad recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 bunches of fresh kale, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large thinly sliced shallot
  • A pinch of crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of toasted slivered almonds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can of drained and rinsed black-eyed peas
  • 8 slices of bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Instructions:

  1. Place a rack set on the middle shelf of your oven, and preheat it to 300 F.
  2. Separate the larger, more mature kale leaves from the smaller, younger ones.
  3. Place the mature leaves in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the bowl full of mature kale leaves.
  5. Massage the kale leaves in the mixture to sweeten them and remove any bitterness. Do this until they slightly soften, which should take around 2 minutes.
  6. Toss the remaining young kale leaves in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake the young kale leaves until crispy, which should take around 12 to 15 minutes. Flip the kale leaves halfway to keep them evenly baked.
  8. While waiting for your kale to crisp, cook your bacon over medium heat until crispy. This also takes around 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Transfer the crispy bacon to paper towels to drain the fat.
  9. In the pan with the bacon fat, strain off the fat until you are left with about 2 tablespoons. Set aside the remaining fat.
  10. Add the crushed dried red pepper flakes and garlic until soft.
  11. Stir in the remaining red wine vinegar and maple syrup, and season with salt. Add in the remaining fat.
  12. Take the baked kale leaves out of the oven and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes to keep them crisp as they cool down.
  13. Assemble the salad by tossing the mature kale leaves, black-eyed peas, bacon, almonds, and shallots with vinaigrette.
  14. Top the salad with your baked crispy kale and serve.

5. Red Russian

Extremely cold-tolerant, the Red Russian tastes even better the colder it gets. This wonderful variety has green-purple leaves, rich purple veins and stems, and flat leaves similar to oak leaves.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Leaf colors range from emerald green to deep amethyst
  • Length: Grows to around 24 to 36 inches tall and 10 to 12 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 50 to 60 days
  • Harvest: Available from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Mildly nutty, sweet, earthy, hearty
  • Ideal for: Salads, soups, fried chips, sandwiches, pasta

Recipe to try:

Use Red Russian for this garlic parmesan kale pasta recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of fresh kale, cleaned and chopped or torn
  • 1/2 pound of angel hair pasta, or any pasta of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic. minced
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A pinch of crushed dried red pepper flakes to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water until al dente, which takes around 7 minutes.
  2. While your pasta is cooking, prepare its sauce by adding olive oil, butter, and minced garlic in a skillet or pot. Stir until garlic turns fragrant and soft.
  3. Add in your kale and sauté until the leaves turn deep green and soft, which usually takes 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the mix to cool down.
  4. By this time, your pasta should be done. Drain the pasta, and mix it in with the kale mixture.
  5. Allow the pasta and kale to cool down slightly before adding salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with some crushed dried red pepper flakes for spice.

6. White Russian

The White Russian is similar to the Red Russian in shape, except for its color. The slightly ruffled edges and white stems become sweeter when the plant experiences light frost.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Vibrant jade green to pale chartreuse
  • Length: Grows to around 24 to 36 inches tall and 10 to 12 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 50 to 60 days
  • Harvest: Can be harvested from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Mildly nutty, earthy, hearty, with a sweetness that only improves when cooked
  • Ideal for: Salads, soups, sandwiches

Recipe to try:

Use White Russian for this garlic parmesan kale pasta recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 bunches of fresh kale, cleaned and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, divided into two piles
  • 1 can of crushed herbed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 4 cups of cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, divided into two piles
  • 2 and 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, divided into two piles
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles or lasagna noodles cooked according to the package instructions

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  2. While your oven is heating, boil a pot of salted water and drop in your kale leaves for about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse your kale leaves under cold water.
  3. Blot out the water from the kale leaves with a towel, place in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine your olive oil, minced garlic, crushed dried red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a cold saucepan. Heat to medium-high and sauté the mix for about half a minute.
  5. Add in your crushed tomatoes. Allow this to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until thick.
  6. Turn off the heat and add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
  7. For the filling, strain the cottage cheese to remove all the liquid. Add in your half cup of Parmesan cheese, one and a half cup of mozzarella cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of ground pepper.
  8. Get a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Assemble your lasagna by ladling a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom. Add in a layer of your lasagna noodles, then half of your cheese mixture, half of your kale, and then half of your sauce.
  9. Repeat the layer to finish your remaining ingredients and top off with the remaining Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  10. Pop your lasagna in the oven and bake for 45 minutes until bubbling and brown.
  11. Turn off the oven, take out the dish, and let stand for 10 minutes before you serve.

7. Prizm

The Prizm hybrid is ideal for multiple dishes and drinks due to its delightful nutty and delicate sweet flavors. The rich deep green leaves are nearly stemless, making culinary preparations even easier to finish.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Pale green to rich deep jade green
  • Length: Grows to around 10 to 24 inches tall and 10 to 12 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 50 to 60 days
  • Harvest: Available from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Nutty, sweet, earthy
  • Ideal for: Stir fry, salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies

Recipe to try:

Use Prizm for this garlic parmesan kale pasta recipe.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh baby kale leaves, cleaned 1 small sliced banana 2 teaspoons of honey 5 to 6 ice cubes 1 cup of reduced-fat milk or your choice of nondairy milk

Instructions:

  1. In a blender, add all ingredients together.
  2. Cap on the lid and blend all your ingredients at medium-low speed.
  3. Wait until well-blended and increase to medium-high until smooth.
  4. Pour and enjoy.

Tip: You can add other fruits such as pineapples, peaches, strawberries, apples, citrus, berries, and even matcha green tea. If you want to sweeten your smoothie without honey, use dried dates or more ripe bananas.

8. Dwarf Siberian

Dwarf Siberian is a winter-hardy heirloom variety that has a distinct cabbage taste to its slightly ruffled leaves. This kale is ideal for compact gardens and container pots.

Useful facts:

  • USDA zone: From 3 to 8
  • Color: Rich emerald green
  • Length: Grows to around 14 to 16 inches tall and 8 to 12 inches wide
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Maturity: From 50 to 65 days
  • Harvest: Can be harvested any time from spring through winter
  • Flavor: Baby leaves have mild cabbage taste while mature ones have more intense flavor
  • Ideal for: Stir fry, salads, sandwiches

Recipe to try:

Use Dwarf Siberian for this kale and caramelized onion sandwich recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces of medium-sized cleaned kale leaves with the stems removed
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium red onions cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of salt
  • 8 slices of your choice of bread
  • 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 7/8 cup of shredded raclette cheese, or any cheese of your choice
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 300 F.
  2. While waiting for your oven to heat, boil your kale in a pot of water for 2 to 4 minutes or until the kale leaves turn bright green.
  3. Once this happens, remove from boiling water, drain, place in cold water, and pat the leaves dry with a towel.
  4. Place oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add your onion, salt, and pepper. Stir for 10 minutes or until the onion is caramelized.
  5. Remove from the heat and toss in your red wine vinegar with the onion.
  6. Heat 2 slices of bread in a large non-stick skillet that has been placed over medium heat.
  7. Coat each side of the bread lightly with cooking spray until the slices turn golden brown.
  8. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on one side. Top this with one-fourth of the raclette cheese, one-fourth of the caramelized onion, and 1 kale leaf. Top with the other slice of bread.
  9. Do this until all of your bread slices are ready.
  10. Place all your sandwiches in a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
  11. Take out of the oven, slice diagonally, serve, and enjoy.

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