Kale is a member of the Brassica oleracea species, a group of vegetables which includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Interestingly enough, all the vegetables listed were originally a single plant; 2500 years of cultivation and breeding have given us the variety we know today. Kale's roots lie in Europe; it was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans over two thousand years ago. It is now consumed all over the world, yet is perhaps somewhat less popular than blander vegetables (such as plain cabbage and lettuce) because of its rather strong flavor. Kale is a beautiful plant: its leaves are open rather than compressed into a "head", and they burst forth from their stalks like curls of wild emerald flame.

There are actually three types of kale commonly found in modern gardens. Curly kale is perhaps the most widely grown; it is a very deep green, and its leaves are extremely ruffled. Curly kale is crunchy, with tough stalks and a somewhat spicy flavor. Ornamental kale comes in several colors: green, white, and violet. It is neither as tough or as flavorful as curly kale. Dinosaur kale boasts blue-green leaves and a sweet, mild taste. Some individuals find kale to be somewhat bitter; however, these are probably the same people who turn their noses up at broccoli. For the right palate, kale is a lovely addition to unique salads, soups, and stews. Kale, unlike many other leafy vegetables, retains its crunch and deep green color even when cooked in a soup.

Kale is quite hardy. It can grow in fairly poor-quality soil, withstand frost, and resist many diseases. Cabbages are by nature susceptible to insect pests, but of course you should refrain from using pesticides on anything that is going to eventually be eaten by humans! Some gardeners find a screen placed over the growing plants to be an effective deterrent, whereas others swear by natural pest-control agents such as garlic spray. Kale can be planted indoors or outdoors; if you choose to start indoors, you will need to wait four to six weeks before moving your plants outdoors.

Kale is an amazingly healthful food. It contains the following vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients:

vitamin A
Vitamin C
vitamin B6
dietary fiber
vitamin B2
vitamin E
vitamin B1
vitamin B3
omega 3 fatty acids

Of the substances listed above, kale is richest in the antioxidants vitamin A and vitamin C. This makes it a potent ally in the prevention of cancer. Kale also contains compounds called glucosinolates and cysteine sulfoxides that are thought to help activate various enzymes in the liver that help to detoxify the body.