Kale is one of today’s most popular superfoods. It’s packed with nutrients, has a ton of fiber, is delicious and versatile, and is easy to find in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Kale is also hearty, lasting longer in your refrigerator veggie drawer than more delicate spinach or salad greens.
But don’t let kale’s heartiness fool you. Its nutritional content is highest in the first five days after picking. The longer kale hangs around, the less vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients it contains.
Research has found that kale loses around 89% of its vitamin C when left at 70 F for two days after picking, compared to 5% for kale stored just above freezing for that same period. In other words, farmers can grow the world’s most nutritious produce, only for the nutrients to ebb away before the food reaches your plate.
In the U.S., kale is harvested and may spend up to five days in transit before arriving at a grocery distribution center. At the supermarket, kale may spend another one to three days on display before someone buys it.
So how do you know the kale you’re purchasing is as fresh as possible? Fortunately, there are three easy tips for judging the freshness of that kale in the produce department. Here they are:
1. No yellow or tan allowed! Kale with good, deep color has the highest levels of nutrients. Depending upon the type of kale you’ve purchased, the leaves will be green, burgundy, or a rose-touched blue-green. These are colors you want to see in kale. Yellow or tan, however, are colors you do not want to see. As leaves age, and nutrients begin to disappear, the leaves change color, going from green to yellow or even tan.
2. Springy leaves: Kale leaves are over 90 % water. As leaves age, they dehydrate. As they lose water, they become flabbier, listless, less bouncy. Wilted is the word we use to describe plants that are dehydrated. This is a big deal because as moisture evaporates from kale leaves, it takes nutrients with it. (And of course, completely avoid any kale that has slimy bits, which is a sign of decay.)
3. Moist stalks: One of the easiest ways to check kale’s freshness is to look at the ends of its stalks. This is where it was harvested. What you want to see is slightly dry stalk end that is the same color as the rest of the stalk. Past-its-prime kale will be very dry, perhaps with a tan coloration, where the stalks were cut. This is a sign of dehydration and nutrient loss. You may even see sliminess, which is a sign of decay.
Stephanie Pedersen is a nutritionist and author. Visit her at http://www.StephaniePedersen.com. Her latest book is Kale: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Superfood (Sterling Books). Available now on Amazon and at local booksellers.
Stephanie Pedersen is a nutritionist and author. For more on how to clean up your eating (including how to easily add kale and other delicious superfoods to your diet) visit http://www.StephaniePedersen.com, where you can download a free green drink blueprint that uses kale. Stephanie’s latest book is Kale: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Superfood (Sterling Books). Available now on Amazon and at local booksellers.
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