Packed with nutrients and delicious to eat, kale has been one of my favorite vegetables for over 10 years now. A few years ago my husband and I got some kale plants for our backyard, and we found ourselves with an abundance of kale flowers. In case this ever happens to you, I decided to write up a recipe to use up those kale flowers. Join me as I show you how to cook kale flowers and I share our sautéed kale florets pasta recipe. It is the perfect healthy and delicious vegetarian dish for those warm summer nights.
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Nothin’ Better than Summertime Kale
In the spring and summer time kale grows abundantly here in the PNW. It was one of the first vegetables I ever planted in our garden, and also one of my most successful plants. I wouldn’t call myself an expert gardener, but for whatever reason my kale plants have done so well. They were so high this year that I could see them from the kitchen window!
Kale plants are hardy, last through the cold winter, and in my experience, they are weather and pest-proof. Have you ever planted something in your garden with no idea how to take care of it and somehow it just flourishes? That was kale for me. Seeing it come back year after year with me doing almost nothing to it is so exciting!
So the other day I was at our local farm stand picking up produce, and I saw these little yellow flowers with green stems. I asked if they were kale flowers, and the check out employee wasn’t sure. Then she looked them up and said yes they are! And they were selling little bundles for maybe $2 or $3. I thought to myself, I have probably $100 worth of kale flowers in my yard right now. Do you think John would be up for opening up a farm stand? Just kidding 🙂 but really – that’s a lot of money!
Health Benefits of Kale
I was amazed when I started researching the proven health benefits of kale.
According to Healthline, kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
A single cup of kale contains over 12 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, K, C, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium. It is low in calorie and high in nutrients. Not like that matters.. I would gladly take the calories in exchange for the vitamins!
It is also very high in antioxidants, making it a leading food to help prevent healthy problems and diseases like cancer.
Kale also helps boost the immune system, as a single serving contains more vitamin C than an orange. (source)
Not only that, but it also has some other side effects. I notice that my hair, skin, and nails all look and feel healthier when I eat kale. I also notice that, after eating kale for over 10 years almost once per day, my body relies on it as a source of nutrients. For example, one time I had to travel for work and was away for a week. We had to eat the food that was given to us, and they didn’t have kale. When I got home I noticed a serious craving for kale, which indicates that my body really missed it. So it’s one food that I swear by. I will forever eat kale for dinner, lol 🙂
Sautéed Kale Florets Ingredients
4 cups chopped kale florets (it’s also delicious to include kale leaves)
1/2 stick (4 TBSP) butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used sage because that’s what I had on hand)
1/2 tsp salt
quarter teaspoon pepper
juice from half a lemon
pinch of red pepper flakes
organic pasta (if making pasta with your sautéed kale)
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional: for topping)
How to Cook Kale Flowers
Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium heat.
Meanwhile, get a pot of water boiling if you’re making the pasta. Add salt to the boiling water.
Add the butter to the skillet and let melt.
Next add the garlic and herbs and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is almost cooked.
Add the chopped kale flowers. Season with salt, pepper, lemon, and chili flakes and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Note: you can also eat kale raw, so how much you cook it in the skillet is up to your preference.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until el dente.
Once the pasta is cooked, strain it and add olive oil and salt to taste. Serve up the pasta and add the sautéed kale on top. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Now I am not an expert on this topic by any means, but we do grow a few kinds of kale at our homestead. Partly by accident.. I think at some point I just picked up some kale seeds at the store and didn’t even know what I was buying! So I want to share what my favorite kinds of kale are and why.
There are more than 3 varieties of kale, but these are the ones we’ve grown and enjoyed:
Curly Kale is a light green, curly kale leaf that is delicious raw or cooked. It has a kind of firm exterior, so that when you put salad dressing on it it doesn’t become soggy or weighted down. This is a great summer salad kale and is easy to grow outdoors.
Lacinato Kale (also known as Dino Kale)
This is my favorite kind of kale, hands down! This kale has darker leaves and a softer exterior, depending on how long the leaf has been picked off the stem. I love buying or picking these leaves when they are super crisp, and then keeping them in the fridge all week. They gradually get softer but don’t loose their rich taste. My other favorite part about these leaves is they seem to absorb salad dressing better, as opposed to the curly kale that does not.
This is a flatter kale leaf that is less curly than the other two. Sometimes the leaves or stems can feel prickly to the touch, but they still make a great leaf for salad or sautéing. This is my least favorite to eat raw simply because it just doesn’t have the same flavor or texture as the other two. But it is still packed with vitamins and nutrients, so we will mix it up with the others when we have it. It is very easy to grow and is also a good kale to cook with. Add it to a sausage bone broth soup or a homemade chicken pot pie.
Here is a good article I found on 10 different kale varieties if you are still looking for more 🙂
Homemade Salad Dressing Recipe for Kale Salad
Remember all those kale salads we eat every night? Well this is the dressing we use on top of it. Been making this for almost a decade now.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard, depending on your taste
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
Process: Combine all the ingredients in a small mason jar. Whisk together with a fork until combined and serve!
Our kale plants got so high this year, that we could see them from the kitchen window!
Kale flowers are also excellent food for the bees. We have dozens of bees stop by every day to pollenate the flowers.
What to do with Kale When it Flowers
There are a few things you can do with your kale florets. My favorite thing to do is cook the kale flowers. They cook down really well with some butter and garlic and add it on top of pasta with parmesan cheese for a delicious summer meal.
Another thing you can do with your kale flowers is save the seeds. Pull the little seed pods off of the stem (they are found just below the flowers) and save them for next year. Or if you’re lucky and you get seeds in the spring time, you can still plant them in the summer for some fall kale.
You can eat kale flowers that are raw or good. You could also add the flowers to some hot tea!
Lastly you can always pick the flowers and put them in a vase 🙂 you know me, I will always take fresh flowers on our farmhouse table when I get the chance!
Can you Eat Kale that has Flowered?
Once kale has flowered, you want to grab the leaves off as soon as possible. This is because the kale will continue to put its energy into the flowers and seeds, instead of its leaves. So the leaves will start to become wilt-y and frail.
If it’s too late, don’t worry! You can also harvest and eat the kale flowers. Kale flowers also known as kale “florets” can be eaten raw or cooked. Try my sautéed kale flowers with butter garlic pasta recipe for a delicious and healthy summer dinner.
- 4 cups chopped kale florets (it's also delicious to include kale leaves)
- 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) butter
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used sage because that's what I had on hand)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- juice from half a lemon
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- organic pasta (if making pasta with your sautéed kale)
- freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional: for topping)
- Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium heat.
- Meanwhile, get a pot of water boiling if you're making the pasta. Add salt to the boiling water.
- Add the butter to the skillet and let melt.
- Next add the garlic and herbs and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is almost cooked.
- Add the chopped kale flowers. Season with salt, pepper, lemon, and chili flakes and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Note: you can also eat kale raw, so how much you cook it in the skillet is up to your preference.
- Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until el dente.
- Once the pasta is cooked, strain it and add olive oil and salt to taste. Serve up the pasta and add the sautéed kale on top. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Curly kale and Lacinato (Dino) kale are our favorites for this recipe. It's best if you use both kale flowers and leaves, but either one will also be delicious on its own. Enjoy!
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